While listening to the section “Awaken the Greatness Within” of Secrets of Being Unstoppable, Guy mentions some interesting theories on greatness, which got me wondering what it truly means to be great, and more precisely; how to be great.
…it’s not about finding someone to imitate. That has nothing to do with awakening true greatness. You spend your life trying to imitate someone that you think is great and you’ll spend your life in fear and resentment. Fear that if you are even able to achieve some modicum of what they appear to do that you will always know that it wasn’t your own. And resentful for the fact that most of us can’t do that…. what would you think of a pigeon that wants to be a humming bird? Can it do anything but resent other humming birds?
– Guy Finley
This is assuming that we see something great other then character. And in some ways I don’t necessarily agree.
“We don’t ever actually see greatness. We see the expression of greatness in certain individuals.”
– Guy Finley
The concept of not actually seeing greatness is interesting to me. Of course I can see the logic in resenting something I’ll never become due to the laws of nature. But my journey into happiness and freedom began with the idea that I could be great like someone else.
I believe I am great, and I got that way by imitating someone that had qualities I admired, at least that’s how it started. Initially, I just chose someone who I believed had a great life. Maybe you’ve heard the saying “fake it till you make it” or “act as if.” Hey, that stuff works when you don’t know any better.
A psychiatrist once suggested that if I was struggling in a certain area, to find someone I admired and try to emulate them. My initial thought was she was crazy… funny, me thinking the person with a PhD behind their name was crazy. After many years, pain, and finally surrendering, I realized she was right. At least it worked for me initially… that is, witnessing someone that had something I wanted (inner-peace, happiness, emotional maturity, self-love) and asking them to help me get there. OK, maybe that wasn’t imitating so much as seeking guidance, but there were times I would imitate actions—introducing myself to strangers (getting outside myself), praying, reading, journaling, etc. I was acting as if I had those qualities while taking actions that were suggested by the person I was imitating.
Looking back, I realize the first step towards greatness was surrender; when the seed of willingness sprouted. The willingness to abandon the relationship I had with myself and the world as I currently experienced it. I become open to the journey of true self-knowledge.
Before I discuss how to be great, I’d like to share what I think it means to be great. Usually this is where I post a definition of the word and link to someplace like Wikipedia or something, but I realized every-time I do that, I just search through the different definitions until I find one that supports my position. So I figured I’d just explain what I think being great is.
Being Great to me is when actions, thoughts, and desires are as closely aligned to true self as possible. All the potential of greatness that is inherent within us has been allowed to manifest itself in our thoughts, actions, and relationships. It’s peace of mind, happiness, self-love and humility. If you’re into buzz words, this would be living true to your authentic self. The key to greatness is discovering your true self and then living as close to that ideal self as possible. The hard part is discovering what your true character and self is.
Most often we avoid the laborious journey of self-discovery in fear of what we’ll find. But just like a successful business, we must take stock in our inventory. We must find the salable goods that add value to our life and those around us—we must keep those as they add value to our bottom line (character, spirit, self-worth). Conversely, we need to discard the parts of our character and self that is rotting on the shelves, slowly draining our business of value while causing misery to ourselves and those around us. We realize these items are breaking the bank by depleting our spiritual and moral account balance. Yet they have defined us for so long, we’re not sure who we would be without them. We feel unworthy of greatness and conveniently have these negative items in our inventory to validate our unworthiness.
I often cringe when I hear parents talk about their children having so much potential. I hear it a lot on the A&E show Intervention as parents or loved ones are discussing the addict or alcoholic. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much. I think it has something to do with expectations and resentment… which can be counterproductive in many ways to personal growth. Potential in this context seems to convey a sense of conditional love or acceptance. If only they would act the way I expect them to, then I could truly love and support them. I do not doubt the love in these cases, maybe I just wish they would chose a different way to express it… I like to stay firm in the belief that at any given moment, everyone is doing the best they know how.
In remembering the lowest moments in my life, regardless of how it appeared to others, being made aware that I was not meeting someone’s expectation did little for my recovery. The only thing that really mattered in the end, and probably saved my life, was to know that someone loved me unconditionally. They let me know that if and when I was ready, they would be there no matter what. They expressed no expectations, judgment, or pity. They simply loved me at a time when I was unable to love myself. At least that was my experience.
In the context of being great, the term potential is more like a rock sitting on the side of a hill. The rock possesses the potential energy to be released and roll; all it needs is a little help. As too is the potential of a tree from an acorn. Like the acorn, rock, or much of the universe, you have the potential to be great. Actually, you are great already. You have qualities, a character, and a soul that makes up the part of you that is truly unique and great. And when allowed to shine and live freely, you can be nothing but great.
Greatness is in your genes, already given to you by your creator. Just as the tomato seed has the potential to be a ripe, beautiful, and great tomato, you have the potential of greatness already in you. It was given to you at conception. Just as you had everything you needed in your mother’s womb, you already have everything you need to be great. It’s in the root of you just waiting to be unbound and allowed to soar.
Finding the root of ourselves, awakening to our real authentic self is scary. What if we’re not great? Do you realize that if you find and live true to your authentic self, that in itself is greatness?
Living in-line with your ideal authentic self is greatness. By loving self and being true to self, you can be nothing but great.
Which brings me back to what Guy says is truly at the root of awakening this greatness within ourselves, it is two words: Know Thyself
True self-knowledge must be gained the old fashioned way, it must be earned. True self-knowledge does not come from reading a book, it does not come from listening to a speaker. True self-knowledge comes from an individual’s wish and willingness, to begin the process of becoming conscience of these elements, this raw stuff of ourselves… and in that awareness of it, beginning to allow a certain process to take place that so far has been prohibited by our unwillingness to see ourselves as we are.
- Guy Finely
Here is how I resisted true-self knowledge for so many years. My thinking was: OK… so what happens if I “straighten up and fly right” (live up to who I think I can be and know deep inside I am) and I’m still miserable? What then? What happens if I do that and I’m still not great? Or worse yet, I’m still miserable!
Living with the hope or dream of being great was all I had. The hope of being great someday was more secure than the fear of trying and falling short.
Until it wasn’t any more.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
- Buddhist Proverb
Gaining true self-knowledge is more than daily meditation and reading some self-help books. True self-knowledge is a complete change in your nature; an entirely different view of the world and your relationship with the universe. It takes effort, sacrifice, commitment, time, and humility. And in most cases, due to the self-preservation instincts of ego, it cannot be done alone.
Go Forth and Be Great
Achieving greatness is finding out who you truly are and living up to it. Not feeling great today? Then listen to what your conscience is telling you; it knows who you are and are not. The gentle nudge of your conscience is suggesting you’re not living true to your authentic self. What did you do last night? What are you thinking of doing later that goes against your values and is already eating at your conscience? Talk to someone about it; trust someone with your secrets. Afraid to share your secrets with someone? That’s the self-perseveration of ego keeping you from greatness.
So you see, greatness is already in you, it just takes some effort to get all that other crap out of the way.