“To achieve greatness one should live as if they will never die.” — Francois de La Rochefoucauld
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them,” declared William Shakespeare.
Helen Keller contracted what was believed to be scarlet fever at the age of 19 months and was left permanently deaf and blind. Her parents knew their chances of finding a teacher to work with her were slim, given their remote location in Alabama. Yet this did not deter her mother, Kate Keller from finding a teacher by the name of Anne Sullivan.
Anne had overcome her own physical problems to include vision complications which required repeated surgery to correct. Over the coming years Sullivan taught the ten-year-old Keller to read Braille to aid her learning capabilities.
It later became evident Keller was eager to gain knowledge and soon after, graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe College. Keller became a life-long advocate for the disabled and wrote twelve books, travelling to over 40 countries as a renowned speaker and author.
Of the many honours she received for her accomplishments, Keller obtained the Presidential Medal of Freedom, known as the highest civilian medal awarded by the President of the United States.
In light of Helen Keller’s story, I’d like you to consider your own definition of greatness.
In their book, The Winner’s Brain Dr Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske write: “In 1954, psychologist Julian Rotter coined the term locus of control to refer to people’s belief about what causes good and bad things to happen in their lives. An internal locus of control reflects the belief you are master of your own destiny; an external locus of control reflects just the opposite.”
Helen Keller maintained a strong locus of control given her accomplishments and in light of her disabilities.
It begs the question: are we born into greatness or does it develop it over time?
I affirm that greatness is formed as a result of a nurturing environment. For some, hardship means to recoil in resignation. For others like Keller, it presents the opportunity to overcome restrictions to win through.
“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” — Seneca
You are never presented with an experience to the sum of your conditioning. You must venture beyond your harbour of contentment to discover your genius.
Recognise your limitations but don’t let them define you. Similarly, don’t be deceived by a limited consciousness — expand, expand, expand your mind. In stating the obvious, being unaware of your potential means you’re less inclined to unearth your greatness. Those who know of their potential have an unyielding self-belief to be exposed to the unknown.
Just as a tightrope walker knows death is imminent if he loses balance, he continues to push past the precipice of fear into the unknown. It is there he develops a deep respect for his pursuit, knowing his life can be taken away from him at any moment.
Don’t place limitations on what you perceive is possible. Far too many people discount what they’re capable of, given self-imposed ceilings of limitations. Those same people set lofty goals, yet wonder why there is little passion in their lives.
Take charge of your life by accepting responsibility for your actions, irrespective whether circumstances play out in your favour. Greatness summons you to venture into the unknown, often without a clear vision.
There are no assurances when one yields to greatness. Talent, genius and your impending gifts serve you when you stand in your own power. Greatness is attained when you pursue your passions and build on your successes. As you pursue your dreams and goals, you invest in your greatness.
“The greatest men and women are not competing against you; they are competing against themselves each and every day. You are your greatest competition,” affirms Dr Stan Beecham in Elite Minds.
Greatness demands overcoming your inherent shortcomings as you are exposed to that which scares you. Author David Potter states: “We might gain perspective by considering how the Ancient Greeks determined greatness in athletes. Then and now, true greatness is as defined not by a single moment, but by the ability to build a record of extraordinary achievement.”
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” — Michelangelo
Greatness is reached when you dare to play big and for this reason it is commensurate with humility. The great are humble, knowing their talents, gifts and genius are expressed through them as infinite intelligence.
Equally, others suggest greatness extends from the soul. When an individual cultivates their soul’s gifts, greatness results to express this faculty. The likes of: Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and others understood to have an emotional impact on people, they had to align with their soul’s calling. It is written into their words and actions.
Pursue integrity by aligning with your deepest values. Honour these values and invest in your greatness. Just as connecting with your deepest nature reflects your soul’s quality, integrity is the glue which binds actions to greatness.
You are the sum of your actions and in the same way actions express your thoughts, they also reflect your self-worth. You strengthen your self-esteem by enriching your internal locus of control everytime you honour your integrity.
Shakespeare proposed three conditions for greatness in the opening quote while the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca suggested adversity commands the path to greatness. Either way, greatness is the journey towards overcoming your limitations.
It was Michelangelo who affirmed: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
I urge you to unearth your greatness, thus exposing the façade obscuring it.
In time, your doubts and fears will recede to reveal your resilient self which shall be known to all.
Originally published at medium.com