One of the most toxic ingredients to personal progress and growth is pride. Why? Because often times, we allow it to impact our ability to admit when change is needed in our lives or when we need help. As humans, we are proud beings and that’s a great thing, if used correctly! If we are living life right, we take pride in who we are, what we do and how we live our lives and that’s not a bad thing, unless we make it one. Being proud can help us build confidence in ourselves or it can make us arrogant. Being proud can help us recognize progress or it can hinder our ability to make adjustments. I have come to realize that admitting when it’s time to make changes in life can be hard, and most of the time that is because we are too proud to admit it. We as people, avoid admitting when we are wrong. We typically don’t like acknowledging that what we are doing just isn’t working anymore and for the people who are like me, we don’t like asking for help which quickly leads us down a rabbit hole.
This is why bad relationships last longer than they should or why toxic people remain in our lives. Pride is often why we struggle to let go when our current lifestyle isn’t suitable for the future. Worst of all, and this one is from personal experience, we are embarrassed to ask for help which can easily prevents us from overcoming the difficult obstacles put in our way. We are too proud to admit it’s time for change or that someone else holds the answers we are looking for. It’s easier to try something 100 times and fail than to admit we were wrong and ask for help.
Like many other lessons in my life, I learned this lesson the hard way as a kid. Have you ever played the claw machine at a bowling alley, movie theatre or arcade? If you are like me, you suck at them – but play anyway. This is a perfect example of personal pride impeding our ability to ask for help. When I set my sights on one of those crappy prizes, I can’t let it go. I not only waste countless quarters on these games but also, valuable time. To this very day I have never won one of these games, but my father is a master with the claw – a claw whisperer, if you will. When I was growing up, he could take one quarter, with one try and get anything my brothers or I wanted with the claw and that is why it’s so hard for me to walk away from that damn game; I compare myself to him. If dad was able to win that game, then I must be able to also, right? Wrong.
God didn’t make us all with the same strengths and skills, in fact, I believe the opposite. We weren’t all created with the same talents, ways of thinking, and mindset. We are all valuably unique, but pride often prevents us from realizing that and it often impacts our willingness to admit other people have the strengths we may be looking for. Like most kids, I hated admitting that my father could do things that I couldn’t do but eventually, I had to. I had one of the most powerful realizations of my life on the day that I graduated basic training when my father came up to me and said “Son, I am proud of you. I don’t know how you did it because I could never be a soldier”.
That day I realized that I didn’t need to be able to do everything my father could. I would hate being an attorney the same way he would being a soldier. God puts people in our lives to challenge us to grow, to teach us new things, to guide us, but most importantly, to be everything that we are not but we most be humble enough to learn from them and recognize their strengths. Pride turns to arrogance when we believe that we have all of the answers. A good team is full of people with different strengths that complement each other not duplicate them and a good leader is humble enough to recognize when their subordinates have strengths, skills and knowledge that they don’t possess themselves and is willing to ask for their help.
The moment you begin seeing the ability to ask for help as a strength and not a weakness, your life will be changed forever. According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” My guess would be that most of you have heard this explanation at some point in your life, but many of us refuse to accept its truth. Most of us find it easier to be stubborn and insane then to admit something isn’t working and ask for help. I hate that I could try that damn claw machine 100 times and never win but I could give my father a quarter and he would win in an instant but eventually I have to be humble enough to ask myself; would I rather waste $100 failing at something I suck at or 25 cents to allow someone else to help me obtain my desired result?
I myself am stubborn beyond measure so this especially hits home for me. I can admit that in my past, I often dug my feet in and struggled to accept that my current way of doing things just wasn’t working. I struggled with admitting that I had invested significant time and energy into something, and it still wasn’t going the way I thought it would. Instead of putting my pride aside enough to try something new or ask for help, I dug in my feet and refused to admit that change was needed.
Honestly, I attribute a significant portion of the difficulties I faced in my past to a combination of personal pride and a competitive nature. I saw it as myself against the world and it took my years to recognize the flaw in that mindset.
One of the hardest parts of growing up is recognizing that our parents were right most of the time with the lessons the taught us. As we grow older, the same is true with teammates, co-workers, bosses, friends, etc. To this very day I struggle admitting that other people can do something that I can’t do but I’ve realized that there are two ways to look at that:
1) I’m too proud to admit I’m imperfect. I can do anything this person can do. I will keep trying until I figure it out regardless of how much time or valuable resources I waste.
2) Maybe there is another way to approach this or maybe I need help. If someone has a skill or possesses knowledge that I don’t have that’s valuable to me, maybe it’s time to take a back seat and learn.
I have come to appreciate the value in option #2 but most of our instincts still lead us to the first. I call this False Commitment, where we stick with our actions despite bountiful evidence that we are wrong or incapable. This is due to the desire to save face and protect our pride. We would rather lose in the long run to save face in the short term than admit fault or the need for help.
The way to overcome False Commitment is to ask yourself questions like; What aspects of your life are you unwilling to let go of? What do you continue to do over and over again, while expecting a different result? Do you continue to let negative people into your life despite them repeatedly showing you they don’t want to change? Why do the same people keep screwing you over?
If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. That was my father’s way of saying the same thing as Einstein. If what you are doing isn’t working after you have invested sufficient effort, thought and time, something needs to change. Wishing change won’t make it happen. Wishing you made more money or were in better shape doesn’t make it true.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Admit that others may hold the key to overcoming the obstacles you face. Be proud of yourself and the life you live but don’t let that impede your ability to learn from the world around you. Surround yourself with people are better than you and challenge yourself to become better. Always put yourself in situations where there is an opportunity to learn and share your strengths with the world!
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