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7 Reasons Why Humility is the Beginning of Wisdom

7 Reasons Why Humility is the Beginning of Wisdom
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Humility is a hard word to define, but even harder to put into practice.

For me, even writing about humility takes a bit of humility. It’s something that has been practiced by humanity’s greatest teachers and thinkers for thousands of years.

The Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, even Albert Einstein – they, and many more, have lived and breathed the practice of humility. But, if you are a seeker of wisdom, you probably are already practicing this important virtue.

So, what is it, exactly?

Some say it’s thinking of others as better than yourself. Some, like C.S. Lewis, say that it’s thinking of yourself less. Some say it’s simple modesty.

So which of them is it? The answer is – yes. All of the above. But, it starts when you empty yourself. It starts when we realize that we are not entitled to anything, we are nothing of ourselves, and there is something bigger than ourselves at every turn.

This self-emptying makes you super honest with yourself and your environment. In fact, honesty might be the key sign that you possess humility. Through humility, you know exactly who are, what you are good at, and what you may not be totally awesome at.

And that is the beginning of wisdom.

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Without getting too much into it too quickly, I’ll dive into the 7 Reasons…

1. The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing

Albert Einstein posited that the more you know, the more humble you become. Socrates was quoted to say, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

There’s a pattern there. From humility, we realize that we don’t know everything. Then we become curious. We ask questions. We learn.

Then, the more we learn and the more we apply what we learn, the better we get at life. That is wisdom – knowing what to do to create the life we want for ourselves, our family and our world.

Eventually we start to form a habit of learning. We purposely empty ourselves, so that we can learn more and do better.

I love nothing more than receiving a powerful insight during study or in life. It’s exhilarating. It becomes a thirst. It makes me realize that I, in fact, know very little and must learn more.

Try it out. Start asking questions, if you don’t already. Hard questions. Make it a habit. You will see stellar results in all areas of your life.

2. Humility helps you care less about who is right or wrong

When you desire wisdom, you don’t care where it comes from. You are okay with being proven wrong, because that’s an opportunity to learn. There are lessons in failure.

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Sometimes you will be the one with the key piece of wisdom to guide a situation. Sometimes you won’t. Humility teaches you not to care about who wins.

3. Humility helps you understand that you, and everything around you, can always improve

Sometimes it takes a hard life lesson – reaching rock-bottom – to learn humility. That’s how it was for me. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I wanted to find my own way, do my own thing, because I was “destined for greatness”.

Bad move! I was almost homeless, having been evicted from my apartment… I lost everything. My decisions also alienated a lot of people in the process.

It was hard. But eventually I learned. I learned that I didn’t really know anything. And up to that point, I didn’t want to learn anything that would actually change me.

Humility is the pride-killer. It shows you that you don’t know much. But, then you become open to learn. More teachable. You want your character to improve.

Even if you don’t hit rock-bottom, humility still helps you be honest with yourself enough to say, “I don’t know as much as I thought. I need to do some digging to get better at this.”

4. Humility stops you from taking things for granted

Humility makes you grateful. We are not entitled to anything and everything has a price. Nothing is permanent. Realizing this makes you grateful – and that takes humility.

How is that wisdom? I’ll answer that with a rhetorical question:

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Is it better to lose something that you didn’t even see the value of,

or gain something because you took the time to appreciate and cultivate it?

When you are grateful for something, you are more likely to keep that thing (and other things like it!), in your life.

Gratitude attracts more of what you’re grateful for. I would rather have good things grow in my life. That’s not to say that if you are grateful, you will never lose the things you value. You probably will, at some point in your life.

But, you will feel good that you were grateful for that thing you lost. How many times have we beat ourselves up for not appreciating a loved one enough that passed away? Also, you will stay positive in situations where you’ve lost something, so that you are better able to move forward.

5. Humility helps you treat people the way they should be treated

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s hard to put others first, but the future of humanity depends on how much we value each other. Sounds dramatic, but I think it’s true.

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When you humble yourself, you are better able to see the true value of others. This creates trust, and trust is the foundation for a cohesive, peaceful, and happy society. That’s a great responsibility. However you treat people influences how they treat others. What you give, is given.

So, every time we treat people with love and respect, we are literally re-creating our world for the better. And that is awesome.

6. Humility gives you your best weapon to achieve success

We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility. – Rabindranath Tagore

There are so many ways that this is true:

  • Humility shows you that your way may not be the best way to succeed.
  • Humility creates confidence, because you are honest with yourself about what you can actually do well. And confidence will take you far.
  • Humility helps you gain influence with others. You become the kind of person that people want to listen to and follow.

7. “Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” – Confucius

When you’re honest about yourself and your environment, you see how they both can improve. You’ll see opportunities.

You’ll see parts of your character that need the most work – whether it be patience, compassion or something else.

Even in your career, you’ll be better able to say, “Wow, I could do this and this and this better”. Or, “Our company isn’t that great at ________. But if I help fix it, that would help the company out a lot!”

Featured photo credit: albumarium.com via albumarium.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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