“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” (Epictetus)
Being humble and having an open mind are two of the most important characteristics and skills that one can develop as a human being. The two are basically coupled — without humility, you don’t have an open mind and without an open mind, you don’t have humility.
There’s an interesting paradox when it comes to developing the skill of humility:
The more humble you become, the more that you know. The more that you think you know it all and lack humility, the less that you know.
How could this be?
This occurs because as you become more humble and approach every situation and person with humility, you allow the environment and other people to open up to you and reveal key insights, pieces of wisdom and pieces of information that have the potential to transform your life.
To the degree that you lack humility, the environment and others around you will be closed off because you’re approaching every life situation with an attitude of knowing it all or intellectual arrogance. This will not only destroy your chances of getting what you want but it will also destroy your relationship with the environment and others around you.
What does it mean to be humble?
To be humble is first and foremost to be a learner. It’s the mindset of a student who craves to understand more and therefore improve.
To be humble is also to display curiosity. Curiosity is the gateway drug that allows a person to become a learner in their life.
To be humble is to have an open mind as well. Open-mindedness is to be completely open to any ideas as well as to lack dogma with your own ways of thinking and actions.
How can we develop the skill of humility?
Firstly, understanding that humility is a skill. It can be taught, developed and improved upon.
- Become a learner — This is something that can be developed. I used to lack curiosity when I was in middle school but towards the later years of high school, I became obsessed with the process of understanding through reading books and listening to podcasts. Now, a love of learning and curiosity are my top signature strengths.
- Be the dumbest person in the room — If you really want to grasp what it means to be humble, surround yourself with people who are 5, 10, 20, 30 years ahead of you in every domain of life. You’ll develop humility in no time with just this principle.
“The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas.” (Laozi)