By the time February rolls around, many people have already thrown out or ‘adjusted’ their New Year resolutions. While the core of resolutions is to find a solution to an issue or set a course of action, our failure to do may get us wondering about our abilities, our willpower and our worth. If we can’t do what we set out to do, a mere month ago, are we really any good (let alone great)?
Adding to this internal dialogue, there are messages that float around us, suggesting that our lives have decayed or that some of us are less than others – that we could be great again… but aren’t now. How does the mind deal with all this? What does the subconscious do with these suggestions? How can you uncover your possible greatness?
What IS great?
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.
Whether it’s ability, extent, quality, quantity, eminence or intensity, greatness seems to be defined as doing it all ‘considerably above the normal or average’. Great is not officially a comparative if we follow grammatical rules, but based on the definition it seems to be relative. So ‘great’ asks us to compare ourselves to others, to see if we are better or above average.
Unfortunately, we are often influenced in our definition of the various elements of greatness by our families, our cultures, the media or even the latest fad. It’s not our fault as the subconscious mind is so GREAT at picking up signals around us, especially when they are sent to us through people we respect, those in authority, when we are emotional or via covert means. Our deeper part of mind interprets these promptings – suggesting our bodies should be curvy or skinny, athletic or voluptuous; that we should strive to be part of an ‘in’ profession (for stability, excitement, prestige, coolness); how we should rank being talented at sports, music, science or humanities; or that we need to know better or earlier than everyone else… Often these messages come in many waves on different levels, implying that we should to do it ALL (and better).
These ‘standards’ may fit some people, but don’t necessarily fit the goals or strengths of all. Unless we are aware of these often subliminal inputs, we may, mistakenly, believe that we are falling short on all fronts.
“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” Lily Tomlin
Why couldn’t I be more like Steve Jobs, or Serena Williams, or Mother Theresa? Maybe I could ask “Why weren’t they more like me?” When you turn it around that way it may seem ridiculous, but each of us has strengths and values that make us ‘alchemistically’ great in our own way. If we were all the same, with the same attributes and greatness, there would be no comparisons (sure) but there would also not be any variety, striving, new perspectives, or change…
As Ashleigh Brilliant is quoted as saying “I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent.” Personally, I fall very short on high jump and ironing, but I seem to have a talent for helping people work through challenges with speed and authenticity.
There truly is greatness in you – whether it is your kindness, your determination, your sense of humour, your love of parrots… these may not be highly prized on a Forbes list, or receive awards in the public eye, but they are great nonetheless.
When you look at newborns or kids who don’t “know any better”, they are completely self-possessed and expecting the reflection of love that they feel for themselves inside. Will some of them become professional __(fill in the blank)__ while others will not? Yes. But it takes all kinds to move the world.
Our fundamentals are different yet similar. We are all loveable (whether someone else can love us or not), we are all valuable (in our own unique way) and we are all worthy (an internal worth that defies cultural bias or mass media). Our shortfalls or failures, with a loving and compassionate hand, can show us how to grow and learn (even though it doesn’t seem to happen that way). Many of my clients, with hypnosis, actually make ‘great’ strides in their lives by remembering their underlying and basic greatness they had when they started.
Misty water-colored memories…
“Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are such are the times.” Saint Augustine
I had some good times in high school. I hung out with some wonderful people, I had a few dynamic teachers, I got involved in a number of different groups and events, and I had a lot of experiences that would prepare me for the future. However, when people wistfully suggest that ‘high school years were the best years of life’ I am absolutely perplexed. As much as I can reminisce about the parties and hijinks, I can also recall the emotional uncertainly of the teen years, the politics of cliques within classes, and hassles of dealing with pimples, grades and teenage boys!
Nostalgia can be a lovely reverie but can be dangerously misleading too. Our memories are not set in stone, but can be altered by suggestions and shifted by experience and time.
If you kept hearing about a childhood memory that you didn’t recall but family members kept ‘painting’ for you, there’s a good chance that your imaginative subconscious could create a ‘reality’ that may have never happened. There are many studies on this (which is also why good therapist don’t use ‘leading’ questions, because our subconscious tends to gloss over inconsistencies to create a new coherence to a story – even if it isn’t the ‘real deal’)
Sometimes people paint a great past to influence our discontent with the present moment – we are witness to it often in the media and in politics. If we aren’t happy with the way things are going now, we may be more vulnerable to promises of a different future. But will that vacuum cleaner, party leader, or luxury car REALLY make your life complete and fulfilled?
I love looking at writings from the past that malign the busyness of the time (one from 1903 was especially fun), the hopelessness of the next generation (a lot in the 18th & 19th century but I suspect from the beginning of the creation of teenagers), or even about the game that “is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body.” Yup, it’s chess (Scientific America, 1859). We can complain about things in the present that may later be looked at with misguided fondness or deference.
When we aim to become ‘great again’ we need to be clearer on whether or not it was so great in the past. Our life experiences tend to be our lessons, and many of them are hard to learn when we’re learning them, but seem so much simpler when we reflect on them with the distance of time and experience.
I appreciate Saint Augustine’s idea that our living well (based on your own personal criteria) tends to make times good. And instead of dissipating my ‘now’ with wishes for a return of the past, I like the idea of using my learning from the past with the strengths and skills I possess now, to make today ‘great’.
What’s it worth? or A Line in the Sand…
“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” Lily Tomlin
So how can we be great when we’ve got so much going on in our lives? Do we have to be great at everything?
Actually, there are a lot of simple things that can help us realize our greatness and make it easier to do.
It might start at exploring what the definition of ‘great’ means to you – taking into account all the influences from past and present, and then only listening to the most important voices (or single voice – yours). Understand that you have specific gifts and can focus yourself in certain ways to share them. Use them to explore and excel at areas that inspire you (your mind is much more apt to keep at something if you are emotionally connected to it!)
When we understand on a deeper level what we truly want and need, it is easier to choose, rather than be a victim of others choices. As “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” author Greg McKeown suggests –everything isn’t important (when we think they all are, he calls them the ‘trivial many’), yet there may be a few things that really do matter (the vital few). Working on these refined and meaningful few rather than busying ourselves with the many, releases some additional resources so we can direct and aim for great rather than good.
Looking after ourselves, listening to our own internal and supportive voices, getting space or help to get clear, help to uncover or refill ourselves with greatness, are all small steps/wins that lead us towards our greatest good.
There is a story about Da Vinci being asked about how he carved his masterpiece David, to which he replied something like, “I just chipped away the stone that wasn’t David”. When I work with clients, their greatness is already there – together we just tend to chip away at anything that may be covering or stifling what is within. There really isn’t any great AGAIN. It’s just realizing your great was always there.
Have a ‘great’ month,