We tend to be humble when we are new at something or striving to master a new skill or ability. We tend to be humble when we decide to make a move and seek a better station in life for ourselves. As we gain new skills, we naturally gain confidence in ourselves and that confidence fuels further growth. This is also natural and good.
However, I have noticed another pattern within this broader pattern of behavior. It seems that our confidence eventually grows too large and it crowds out the humility that was the genesis of the learning that led to the newly found confidence in the first place. As the confidence replaces the humility, the growth also slows or stops completely.
While this may not seem like a bad thing when observed from a distance, I believe this is the exact moment and place where so many of us tend to plateau or settle. Perhaps we think we have ‘topped out’ or reached our full potential. We think we have arrived at our natural place in the world. We look around and we see that most others who started where we started are doing about as well as we are doing and we conclude-erroneously- that we are where we belong, where we were destined to arrive.
What I think really happens is that when we allow confidence to crowd out humility, our personal growth is hindered, and our professional growth is prematurely stunted as well. Our path to prosperity hits a wall. Our newfound confidence tells us that we are doing great and we get comfortable. To me, this is tragic. Humility is the single biggest factor in human development. Humility opens our minds to receiving new information and new ideas. It also allows old ideas and mindsets to be examined, questioned and discarded. While the door of humility is open, we grow, both personally and in terms of our prosperity. As confidence moves in, it slowly closes the door of humility and the growth is stifled.
I think it would be wise for all of us to take another look at where we are in our lives. Is this really where we thought we would end up? Is this the prosperous and free life we always envisioned for ourselves? Are we living our dreams or enduring our nightmares instead? Have we stopped making progress and settled for far less than we thought we would?
If your life is not going as well as you had hoped it would, my advice to you is to try something else. Dig deep and find that humility again. Dust it off and open that door. Decide where your dreams live and start learning about that path. Get some books, take some classes, attend some seminars.
If your job, your career, or your business is not providing you with the money, the freedom, and the lifestyle, you had hoped it would by this point in your life, my advice to you is to try something else. I don’t mean to suggest that you abandon your confidence. I simply suggest that you set it aside and give it a break for a little while so that you can absorb some new information and perhaps toss out some old stuff that is no longer working in your best interest.
The truth is that the skill and confidence levels that got you to where you are now will not serve you as well at the next level. Every level of personal development and prosperity require new types of thinking and new mindsets. Each level has different rules and protocols to master. If you have stalled, it is because you are trying to apply low-level thinking to a higher level and it will never work.
In financial terms, the abilities it takes to earn an income of around $50,000 are woefully insufficient to earn over $100,000. The abilities needed to earn $100,000 will not take you to $250,000 and so on. At every level, the rules change. The thinking has got to evolve. The knowledge required is deeper and more nuanced. To reach the next level, we need to embrace our humility and find out what the rules are for the next level and learn them and then implement them. It is the only way to grow continually, and that is how we are designed. When we stop growing, we start dying.
Art Merrill is an entrepreneur and business owner who has spent forty plus years reading and digesting self-help and personal finance books. He lives just outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has a wonderful wife, three amazing kids and a large extended 'tribe' that keeps both his house and his heart full at all times. He writes to share his experiences and knowledge with others and endeavors to help as many folks as he can because he wants others to enjoy the quality of life that he enjoys as life is too short for anything less.