How can we rise to greatness without scaling mountains?

Is your life full? If so, full of what? Anxiety, fear, and worry? If that’s the case, your life may be full, but it’s not fulfilled. A life full of negativity is an empty life. Empty of peace, joy, and excitement. It’s like a vacuum waiting to be filled. And until it is, it’s painful. The pain is trying to tell us something. It’s screaming, “It’s time to stretch yourself, unleash your potential, and grow into greatness.” The reason our inner voice is screaming is because so few are listening. Busy with trying to cope with the complexities of life, we have forgotten our true nature.

Whether we’re in prison or in a hospital bed, employed or unemployed, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, we carry within us the seeds of greatness. Plant seeds are nothing more than potential, unless they are fed by soil and nurtured by the sun. So it is with our seeds of greatness. It is only after they are brought into the light of awareness and nurtured by positive thoughts and actions that they bloom. Can I become good when I think I’m bad? Great when I think I’m small? Worthy when I think I’m worthless? No, I cannot because it is a law of life that action is preceded by thought. So, if I think I’m bad, I act that way, and vice versa.

Insignificant people have insignificant thoughts while the minds of great people are occupied by great thoughts. The irony is no one is insignificant unless they think they are. The message is clear. If we’re leading unfulfilled lives, it’s time to awaken to our seeds of greatness. When we realize that deep within is greatness aching to be expressed, we become inspired. When inspired, we act with greatness. Finally, when we act with greatness, we become great.

Greatness is not power, wealth, fame, beauty, or talent. William Arthur Ward describes it, “Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character.”

In other words, it is becoming someone you admire. Not because of egoism, but because of the innate desire to be and do one’s best. Why not add greatness of character to our lives? For when we do so, we add value to them. And when we have value, our life has meaning.

We need great people. We need you to become great. We need you to encourage, point the way, and show what is possible. In 1839, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow explained why we need great lives:

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”

If you find it difficult to remember the seeds of greatness that live within you, read the biographies of great people. Their stories will stir your heart and launch action. But be careful because we tend to read, watch, and listen without digesting the information we’re exposed to. To unlock the power of knowledge, we must apply what we learn. Here’s a good habit to get into, which will help you to focus on applying what you learn. Mainly, whenever you learn something of value, immediately ask yourself, “How can I apply this to my life? When should I apply it? Where should I use this? Why should I use it?” Use the power of questions to ignite the potential locked in the knowledge you gain.

The opportunity for greatness is often missed. Even when it is staring us in the face. What happens if we lose our job, have a serious accident, or get gravely ill? If we view these events as disasters, we grow anxious, stressful, and fearful. Yet, those who see the same events as opportunities to rise to the greatness thrust upon them, manage to call up courage, faith, and perseverance. Isn’t the “catastrophe” we’re facing really a mountain waiting to be scaled? How can we rise to greatness without scaling mountains? This explain why William Cullen Bryant (1794~1878) wrote, “Difficulty is the nurse of greatness.”

For the same reason, Cavett Robert wrote, “If we study the lives of great men and women carefully and unemotionally we find that, invariably, greatness was developed, tested and revealed through the darker periods of their lives. One of the largest tributaries of the River of Greatness is always the Stream of Adversity.”

Still not convinced? Perhaps William M. Thackeray (1811-1863) can persuade you, “To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it; to go through intrigue spotless; to forego even ambition when the end is gained — who can say this is not greatness?” Isn’t it clear, then, that when we flee from “disaster,” we run from greatness?

When we do more, we become more; we become greater. This is why William Arthur Ward calls us to do more: “Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.” What shall we work toward? Gil Bailie explains, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Shortly before my 90-year-old dad passed away, he asked me, “What is the meaning of life?” I told him that in my opinion it was to make the world more hospitable, to improve it. Shouldn’t our legacy of greatness be a trail of good works? American business leader Edward Gardner explained it this way, “It’s not what you take but what you leave behind that defines greatness.”

Don’t underestimate the potency of your actions. Although few of us have the power to change the course of history; nevertheless, our small acts accumulate and help weave the period of history we live in. We can and should make a difference, for as Henry Van Dyke wrote, “There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.”

Sh! Be still for a moment and listen. Can you hear it? It is the call to greatness. How will you respond?