A lot of people think humility is a good characteristic to have both in and out of the workplace. But why? You might say it’s because people who lack humility are arrogant, and arrogant people aren’t any fun to be around. But while that’s true, I think there’s much more to it.
Let’s just say for a moment that I had a complete and utter lack of humility. You probably wouldn’t want to be around me. You wouldn’t like talking to me because I’d probably be a poor listener. Our conversations would likely often return to my thoughts and my feelings. You would have a hard time sharing ideas with me because I would reject them, just on the grounds that they weren’t my own.
All of those are reasons why my lack of humility would be bad for you. But that’s not saying much about the impact on me. And after all, it’s me that matters the most in this scenario!
While arrogance and self-centeredness are damaging to people who encounter them from the outside, I believe that they are equally damaging to the person who exhibits them.
A Day in the Life
Let’s look at what a typical day might be like for an arrogant person. I walk into the office, pour a cup of coffee, sit down at my desk, and focus all of my attention on enjoying that first hot sip. Except, sadly, I don’t enjoy it at all. Someone didn’t put enough grounds in, and it’s much too weak for my taste. Yuck, I guess I’ll have to suffer through this until someone makes another pot.
Next, I start making some changes to the program I’m working on. I hit Compile, and (of course) my build environment requires me to install updates before proceeding. So I spend the next 20 minutes installing the updates and dealing with some dependency that broke in the process before I am able to run my code.
I’m finally starting to feel productive after about an hour of stimulating work when a coworker swings by my desk and asks if we can go for a walk around the block. That may sound nice, but a walk around the block really means, “I have something I want to talk to you about in private.”
He spends the next 10 minutes telling me how much it bothers him when I tap my pen on the desk when I’m deep in thought. Like I can control that! I think I’m ready for this day to be done, and it’s not even ten o’clock.
The Burden of Being the Center of the Universe
Do you ever feel like you can relate to this story? I know I often catch myself feeling frustrated by:
- The tools I have to work with
- Some aspect of my work environment
- A task that someone has requested me to do
- Some feedback that I have been given
- Coffee that is too weak, etc.
It may be obvious, but I think it’s worth pointing out that, at the core of all these things, it’s about me. I feel like my time is being wasted. I feel like my priorities aren’t being taken into consideration. I don’t want to change my routine. I like stronger coffee…
But when life hits us with these moments, if we take a step back and remind ourselves that we are not the center of the universe, we just might be able to prevent them from turning into points of frustration.
Humility is being able to look at a situation and say, “I know that whoever may have been the cause of this, they weren’t actually trying to offend me or ruin my day. So I won’t let it bother me.”
Without humility, all of those situations result in negativity. They consume you and become your focus. They suck the joy out of your life, prevent you from seeing the good around you, and make it very difficult for you to have positive relationships.
One definition that I read described humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” I find it so fitting that they used the word freedom there. Humility is important, because without it, we become imprisoned by our own negativity.