Humility is essential to becoming a teachable person; we cannot be teachable if we lack humility. Another appropriate term is coachable. In fact, since humility is a necessary quality of a person who is teachable, pride and arrogance are adversarial characteristics. In other words, a prideful or arrogant person is by default unteachable and uncoachable. It is not a stretch of reason to consider the unwillingness to be taught by others with aspects of narcissistic personality disorder. One distinguishing feature of narcissistic people is that they prioritize their own worth over the worth of others.
People are born with an innate desire to learn. If you’ve seen small children in action, you know they are very inquisitive. You can witness their authentic interest in exploring the world; their desire to learn is both intrinsic and natural. The novelty of seemingly simple things in life entertains children. Unfortunately, for many adults, negative life experiences have tainted child-like intrinsic motivation to learn, resulting in attitudinal dysfunctions such as pride and arrogance. Individual self-esteem is also an important consideration for those who have unteachable characteristics.
Given this, how does an unteachable person become more teachable? How can we all embody the characteristics of small children, displaying a genuine desire to learn from one another? I believe we can address two aspects of our human nature: cognition and volition. Human cognition refers to our rational abilities, intellect, and our ability to think. Human volition relates to our will, ability to care, and willingness to put things into action.
Teachability begins with an understanding (cognition) that other people have intrinsic worth. With this in mind, we can truly value other people’s perspectives. Additionally, we must be diligent in introspection, acknowledging that we are imperfect, biased, and prone to error; we do not know everything. This also includes an honest assessment of our own teachability issues. Following that, we can work on volitional issues by putting ourselves in situations where we can practice humility. Volunteering to serve and assist the less fortunate is an excellent way to cultivate humility. We can look for opportunities in our communities where we can roll up our sleeves and serve.
Next, we must commit to practicing and realize that progress doesn’t happen overnight. We can find family, friends, and mentors to hold us accountable and point out instances of our stubbornness. When we fall back into old, unteachable patterns, we must quickly acknowledge them and get back on track. We should all aspire to be outstanding leaders. A prominent leader understands that growth is contagious and has a strong desire to see others grow.
We can learn some lessons from gardening. Every summer as kids, my grandmother made my brother and me work in her garden in the scorching sun with snakes, bugs, and chickens — we absolutely hated it. But my grandmother produced fruits and vegetables in abundance. We loved reaping the rewards during meals, but we hated the work. Today, as an adult, I understand that no one has ever built anything of value without hard work. Perhaps you have grown your portfolio, investments, or business? Or other things? And you can relate to the rewards of reaping and return on investment. Consider this: people have the greatest intrinsic worth. Nothing has greater intrinsic value than a human being. Based on this fact, when we invest in ourselves and others, we will yield infinitely greater returns than the fruits of our gardens, investment portfolios, or any business venture imaginable. If something has the highest value, it has the greatest potential for reward.
We must be growth-oriented, which is associated with goal-oriented behavior. My grandmother would set goals every season to ensure that the soil was suitable to produce the best harvest. My grandmother established regimens to nurture and care for her garden as it blossomed. Similarly, a growth-oriented person is someone who sets goals in order to be intentional about their personal development, and the growth of others. Growth activities might include reading, attending seminars, listening to podcasts, or mentorship. Being growth-oriented entails surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who can hold you accountable. It means setting SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
When you’re just starting your growth journey, it’s critical to keep track of your progress. Ask yourself, “How am I growing?” or “How far have I progressed in the last six months or year?” It’s also a good idea to ask those who care about you, “Do you see any growth in me?” Similar to a garden, the right environment is crucial for growth. It’s important to analyze your environment to ensure that you’re free from limitations and distractions. Try to become more aware of the environments you learn best in. Likewise, give serious thought to the kinds of things that interest you and focus on those areas. Why not be an expert in a field rather than a jack of all trades? Although your interests may change over time, growth starts with one act of intentionality. To sum up, teachability is the sustenance of personal growth. We cannot be growth-oriented without being goal-oriented. Let’s remain students who are always learning every chance we get.