As humans, we each have the potential to act in our own self-interest at times, especially during our teens and early twenties. But there comes a point in adulthood when all of us must shed this behavior and look outside ourselves to care for the welfare of those around us—and humanity as a whole. This is what it means to grow and mature.
A study in the Nature Communications Journal found that people who show humility, kindness, compassion and generosity toward others experience more fulfillment in their own lives too. These traits create neural pathways in the brain that associate selfless acts with an anticipation of reward. We are all responsible for helping to make our corner of this earth a place where everyone can flourish and thrive. But first, our egos need to step aside.
Have you reached that crossroads in life, where your priorities are shifting away from self-absorption and toward altruism for others? If so, welcome to this new chapter of adulthood—it will expand your heart, broaden your horizons and deepen your sense of purpose. On that note, here are some actionable ways to become the kinder, humbler person you are capable of being. It takes effort and intention, but the journey is worthwhile.
Celebrate Your Success but Not at Another Person’s Expense.
To use an analogy from the poker table, “just because you’ve won a hand doesn’t give you the right to laugh at the losing player.” Of course, it’s understandable to excited for your triumphs and achievements, but don’t allow this pleasure to turn into pride. A sore winner gloats about their victories and, in the process, berates and criticizes those who might not be as outwardly accomplished. This behavior can cause others to feel like expendable causalities on your path to success. However, you can be a gracious winner who responds with humility, then uses your own privilege to benefit, uplift and invest in the people around you.
Be Curious and Seek to Understand Someone Else’s Viewpoint.
When was the last time you listened to someone with the goal to empathize with, or at least understand, their vantage point—even if it differs from yours? If you enter each interaction with a posture of curiosity, this will keep your focus rooted on what the other person is trying to communicate, rather than planning your rebuttal and dominating the conversation with your own opinions. You can learn so much from someone else’s unique background, life experience or worldview, but it requires setting personal biases aside to listen attentively, whether or not you agree. This simple act can make others feel heard, safe and valued.
Assume Responsibility and Accept Feedback for Your Actions.
It’s often tempting to shift the blame and turn defensive when you cause harm—or are complicit in harmful activities. But a humble person takes ownership of any failed actions, receives the consequences, then holds themselves accountable to feedback. This is difficult since human instinct leans toward self-preservation, but when you admit the times you’ve fallen short and allow other voices to point out your blind spots, this will help you make compassionate decisions in the future. Growth happens when you’re aware of the impact your behavior has on those you come in contact with, and you resolve to do it differently next time.
Use What You’ve Learned to Give Others Hope in their Journey.
Each person has a story to tell which, if shared for altruistic reasons, can help someone else find hope and encouragement in the midst of their own life challenges. No matter what circumstances you coped with and overcame, you will cross paths with other people who need to hear the wisdom and insights that you’ve learned. According to a recent study from 2019, individuals with mental health conditions feel a sense of empowerment, connection, validation, and hope when they hear stories of healing from those who suffered in the past. So just think how many lives could benefit from your willingness to be vulnerable.
If You Want to Make a Positive Impact, Lead with Humility and Kindness.
The older you are and the more life experience you gain, the more important it becomes to trade in self-interest for a social conscience and love of humanity. This is a lifelong process—none of us are perfect, after all—but it’s leads to so much fulfillment. Your relationships will strengthen. Your self-awareness and empathy for others will increase. And your life will have new meaning. So be kind, be humble, and set your ego to the side.