"What do you do when you have no dreams?" That question arose in the middle of a dialogue about greatness during a recent leadership session in New York City. Probing deeper I discovered that this manager and others believed they hadn't quite found their personal greatness because they thought that once they did find it, they would be happy and their life complete. Since all of them struggled in some way they figured it was because they had not found their true greatness.
Myriad books, TV shows, magazines and speakers regale us with stories of individuals who have given up everything to follow their passion and now are completely happy. They foist the idea that if we choose correctly in our life, work, relationships, food, etc. we too can be completely happy. That is not true; we are human and this is earth, not heaven.
The pursuit of personal greatness, while fulfilling, is work. Long days and nights are required and there are intense times of struggle. Though the pursuit is for something you love, it is still work. The challenge is that we have developed expectations (because of media hype) that we can choose correctly and be happy.
So last week I contacted Dr. Barry Schwartz author of "The Paradox of Choice." He reminded me of two key findings in his research. The first is that in America today we have tremendous choice of who we can be, what we can do and what we can buy. However contrary to making us happier, we are paralyzed by too many choices. Second he found that because we have so much choice, we have the expectation that the "right" choice will make us happy and be perfect. Our expectations far outweigh the reality. His suggestion is that we have to narrow our number of choices and lower our expectations.
In our study, individuals who achieve personal greatness still dream big, but they focus their attention on one or two areas; they don't try to achieve greatness in everything. Also, they hold a realistic outlook knowing that personal greatness is hard work and something that has to be worked at everyday. People often ask me if I'm disappointed when I don't achieve a goal I'm shooting for, but I find that I love shooting for the stars because at least that way I get off the ground.
So, dream big, but lower your expectations. You will find that pursuing your personal greatness is still a struggle, but you will enjoy it more.