The Pursuit of Greatness
“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” —William Faulkner
The pursuit of greatness is one which occupies a large room, the same as improving/improvement, my high school teacher once referred to it in the same way-improvement as being the largest room in the world.
I think about greatness. I believe most of us do; wanting to change the world, make a difference in the community, beat personal records, etc.
Greatness encapsulates a couple of things; purpose, meaning, being extraordinary and even embracing our passions in order to avoid mediocrity.
Think of greatness stories in history, Nelson Mandela, for example, he was the first South African president elected in fully democratic elections. Mandela was also the main player in the anti-apartheid movements in the country and served a lengthy prison sentence because of the same. This did not stop him and in fact motivated him to devote his life to uniting his country and he successfully managed to do so after his release from an almost 30-year prison sentence. His main characteristics were his determination, persistence, focus and will.
How about the story of 21-year-old, Malala Yousafzai, who fights for better education for women. She learned early on about the importance of education from her father, a teacher at a girls’ school. When the Taliban took control of her town in 2008, they prohibited girls from going to school. Yousafzai publicly spoke out against it and was shot on the left side of her head for standing up for what she believed in. After months of recovery and moving to the United Kingdom with her family, she refused to hide in fear, instead using her voice to start the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to ensuring every girl has the opportunity to go to school. At 17, she became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Despite it being seen as a good quality or achievement in society, the pursuit of greatness has sometimes been referred to as the judgement of the outcome rather than the process, that in the achievement of greatness we tend to feel more satisfied in the big things we create over time if we’re not focusing on the whole, but rather the enjoyable parts of it.
Contrarily, I believe that achieving greatness means entering in a lifelong commitment with yourself for growth. Some people think that the pursuit of greatness means convincing the world you are up to something important with perfectly hashtagged productivity posts.
True greatness is a holistic thing. It involves having the resilience and the willingness to grow from pain, it is something you commit to every day or don’t. It’s not somewhere you arrive, so they say, but the way in which you get there.
Greatness is not the problem. The pursuit of greatness is not the problem either. The wrong definition of greatness is a problem. The wrong motivation for pursuing greatness, is an even greater problem.