humility: not arrogant or proud; showing that you do not think of yourself as better than other people
For almost 40 years in business, I trained myself to project confidence and strength. Privately I was a shy, introverted guy who enjoyed solitude and a quiet life with my wonderful shy, introverted wife. We were a good match – still are.
But outwardly, leading an organization, competing for clients, negotiating with suppliers and fighting for media attention did not reward humility. Earning the respect of staff, clients, suppliers and media required consistently projecting something that I was not. And it always felt uncomfortable.
Success has consequences
Succeeding in commerce, or in life, in the 21st century breeds a certain arrogance of competency – an attitude that I must think of myself as better than other people to survive and thrive amidst so much competition.
”Never let them see you sweat” is an axiom of unfortunate truth in today’s competitive world. And, as with anything done habitually for a long time, it becomes a part of you – like it or not.
Then I began to age physically and mentally... brain and body parts didn’t work like they used to... saw up close the frailties and challenges of caring for three elderly parents brought into our home for six eventful years... experienced the financial shock of the economic meltdown in 2008... then cancer and related issues...
As I’ve said many times in my writings... aging is not for sissies. Humility is often forced upon us as the realities of aging take their toll. But aging is so much about attitude... a state of mind... how we CHOOSE to address the challenges of aging.
I contend that the growing humility that aging engenders is a gift
Stuff that seemed important in younger years now seems self-centered, foolish and strikingly irrelevant. Success, praise, fame, wealth, house size, social status that I perceived as measuring sticks were, in fact, transitory distractions from building the inner strength and character that, in the end, is what really matters.
Humility is the stripping away of the pride and arrogance of focusing on how we are perceived by others to focusing on how we perceive ourselves. The first, and most profound, of my 6 Steps To An Ageless Life is to Look Inward... to find our true self as the foundation on which to build an ageless life – not defined by or confined by age or by anything else.
We must not be fooled or confused by the perceptions of others – or, as I put it in the intro to my book, how I look, how I dress and speak, how others perceive my intelligence, wit, passion, caring, curiosity, talent, faith... and, of course, my age. Looking inward to clarify and understand my core values and truths that make me “me...” that is the only way to build sustainable positive growth and fulfillment in my life.
And that can’t be accomplished without a deep and honest humility
Here are some of the skills we must acquire and nurture to find the humility that can truly enrich our life as we age...
1. Be grateful
My #1 tip in my “Optimism Project” is to start every day grateful... to be grateful for everything we have... to “count our blessings.” We must learn how to re-focus from what we’re missing to an appreciation of what we have. Stop comparing ourselves with others. There will always be others who have more. Sincere, authentic gratitude truly is the starting point in finding the level of humility we need to live an ageless life.
2. Listen to others
A caring, empathetic concern about what others think and feel... not about me... but about their lives... their feelings, hopes and dreams... the more we shift our focus away from “me” and listen to others... the stronger our humility can grow.
3. Accept our faults and shortcomings
I’ve learned that I cannot beat myself up over my faults and shortcomings – in any part of my life. I try hard at everything. It’s just my core personality. And when I come up short, or fail miserably, I grieve and feel disappointment for a moment.
But I try to talk quickly and forcefully to myself to get my inner self to accept that not everything works out. Stuff happens. I refuse to dwell on negative feelings that create barriers on my path to an ageless life. Accept what we can’t control and accept that we are fallible. We make mistakes. Keep moving forward.
Genuine humility is a powerful life force
We must ground ourselves in humility. It will enrich our ageless life. An ever-aspiring, ever-ageless life of purpose, meaning and fulfillment can only be achieved if we focus on the success and well-being, not of ourselves, but on the success and well-being of others.
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