In broadest terms, greatness is a vague concept that is almost completely dependent on a person’s perspective and biases. Without an understanding of what greatness looks like for each of us, we can be assured never to reach it, much less catalyze someone else’s.
I know that when I’m in my greatness I “ring true.” Like a tuning fork, I vibrate with my own unique tonality. In those moments, I am on purpose, in total alignment with my bio-rhythms, in touch with all that is and able to access my deepest knowing. It may present itself as I magnetize a team of senior executives to perform beyond all expectations, or when I touch someone so deeply when they most need to be inspired to bold action and to live their truth in the face of unnerving odds.
Personal greatness is reached when we are living our truest sense of purpose, fulfilling our core values with passion, and attaining a heightened sense of satisfaction and joy when we come into our own actualization. This greatness is only to be exceeded by that exhibited by those in whom we engender the same. To borrow from author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, when we are in our “flow,” we are guaranteed we are living our greatness!
As history teaches us, extraordinary greatness arises when we are faced with daunting challenges. In those harrowing moments, we are called to take emboldened stands for what matters most to us. This kind of greatness may come as if out of nowhere, brought to the forefront by unexpected momentous events.
Stories abound from the heroic efforts of complete strangers, from those who made sacrifices to help victims of 9/11, to the elderly women who protested against pollution from nearby factories in Huaxi, a village in southeastern China. Or the young people in Oakland, California, who wanted to talk about real solutions to the poverty, racism, and powerlessness they grew up with. Frustrated by the violence and mind-numbing entertainment fare offered by all the city’s hip-hop radio stations, a feisty collaboration of young people confronted a major radio conglomerate—and won.
For others, it is a conscious choice to live and lead from their greatness. These are the visionaries we all recognize, the very great among us. These enlightened leaders speak their truth and act in ways that support a greater future for us all. They bring their Visionary Greatness into the public forum as leaders in business, the arts, politics, the sciences, spirituality, and social services. These leaders lead from a deeper sense of purpose and vision, in ways that positively transform the many and the world around them.
Getting from good to great to greatness is a moment-by-moment endeavor. It takes fortitude, focus, great passion, and a total commitment to what is at hand. It also demands courage and enormous “humanility” – a pure state of utter humbleness and awe of our shared unveiled humanity. Perhaps most of all, it demands that we accept that getting to greatness is a process of continuous improvement, a lifelong endeavor.
The goal of striving for greatness is not perfection, but rather to be all you can be in every moment, to be the change you want to see. Most of the truly great are so focused on their vision for the future that they don’t stop to define what it is they exhibit—they simply live and lead with greatness as a matter of course.
What kinds of greatness do you most admire in others? Your answer to this question could spark the journey to cultivate it in yourself!