What does it mean to be great, and what does it really take to live a life of greatness?
Most of us have been trained to think about greatness in terms of comparison to someone else. For example, we look at Steve Jobs and think, “Wow, he was a great innovator.”
Sometimes, when we look at those who are great at their sport, their profession, or their hobbies, we experience something I call comparison despair.
“I’ll never be as great as they are. Why should I even try?”
As a result, we fail to tap into our unique greatness, which was – and still is – waiting inside us all along.
What is the definition of greatness, and where does it come from?
To start with, I’d like to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with noticing greatness.
It’s wonderful to be inspired by a brilliant inventor, a skilled leader, a graceful dancer, or a talented writer, and to be able to appreciate greatness in all kinds of endeavors.
But the kind of greatness I’m inviting you to awaken isn’t simply being great at some kind of task, profession or performance.
I’m talking about something else – YOUR unique kind of greatness, that no one else can imitate or surpass.
There’s a seed of greatness in every human being
We did not create ourselves, nor do we have to create our own greatness from scratch.
Instead, we were called into being by a Life that’s bigger than any of us, and that Life imbued us with greatness at the moment of our birth.
But that doesn’t mean our greatness will shine all by itself. We have to choose to awaken and express it in our daily lives.
How do we awaken and express our greatness?
Winston Churchill once said,
“Responsibility is the price we pay for greatness.”
That first word is the key: responsibility.
Every one of us has the ability to choose our response to each situation, rather than reacting to it immediately. We are blessed with the ability to control our own thinking.
It’s through our thoughts and responses that we cultivate and display greatness; one moment and one situation at a time.
Here’s an example of greatness at work
I was speaking in Canada one time, and I happened to be there during the Olympics.
When the Olympics are happening, there’s pretty much one thing the announcers in the United States talk about: medals.
We’re focused on the gold, silver and bronze, and we’re comparing and comparing, wondering which medal our athletes are going to get.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting that kind of achievement, but I was struck by the completely different way the Canadian broadcasters handled announcements.
Every time an athlete got up, instead of talking about medals and comparisons, they would say,
“Today can be the day for their personal best.”
Then they’d talk about how fast the athlete went, and what kind of score they got last time.
The goal was not to beat somebody else, but rather it was to be their best on that day and in that event.
I took that to heart, because I’d experienced a lot of comparison despair in the early stages of my professional life. I’d been comparing my own success to other people whose careers seemed more successful than mine, and it had been eating at me.
That day, I decided,
“I’m going to take this example and use it, and I’m going to practice being the best version of myself today.”
So I set some goals on a daily basis, and focused on being just a little more of who I wanted to be each day than I was the day before.
You have opportunities for greatness every day
Just like we get to choose happiness for ourselves, instead of thinking about what other people are accomplishing, think about how you can be better today than you’ve been, and notice the big and small opportunities for greatness in your life.
Greatness is something that’s in you right now, in a way as unique as your fingerprint and soulprint.
Great moments can happen spontaneously at any time, like a moment when you see a flower and you don’t just walk by; you take a moment to appreciate it, and to see the whole universe alive in that opening bloom, beautifully illustrated in this scene from John Adams.
Or maybe you saw a mom and her child, and were inspired by the exchange of love between them, and chose to radiate love through every interaction you encountered that day. That’s a way to choose your greatness.
If ever you have a moment of forgetfulness and react in a way that’s less than great, all you have do is hit the “refresh button” and start anew, because that greatness is always inside you.
It called you into being, it knows you by name, and it empowered you by giving you the name, “I AM.”
The name “I AM” is incredibly powerful
Every time we say the words “I am,” we activate the power to choose who we are and how we experience life.
If we say “I am unlucky in love,” we make that a part of who we are, and bring it into being.
But if we say “I am loved,” and believe it, our hidden power gets to work to turn that into our factual reality.
You have the ability to shape your life from the inside out, and you can tap into that power today.