Do you think you’ve achieved personal greatness? Can you recall moments when you realized your personal greatness and utilized your resources and capabilities? The chances are good that you can’t. However most of us can easily point to others in our lives who have struggled through difficulty, helped someone in the face of adversity, or achieved personal milestones. We crown them as great individuals all the while demurring if someone returns the favor. Why, because we have a difficult time seeing personal greatness in ourselves.
I’ll admit that I came to this awareness while reading an interview of an author of a new book about courage. Robert Biswas-Diener just published The Courage Quotient and was interviewed by Lisa Samson. The interview is here if you wish to read it. http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/lisa-sansom/2012041621815 However in the course of the interview Diener referred to “courage blindness.” He stated that “We tend to write off our own history of bravery by saying, ‘Oh I just did what anyone would have done,’ or ‘If I were really brave, I would have…’ But these comparisons belittle valid acts of bravery.” I realized that Diener is right about courage and he is also right about personal greatness.
When most people think of personal greatness they think of heroic or famous people who have, against all odds, been tremendously successful. So personal greatness gets confiscated by those individuals history and the media have anointed. However the real definition of personal greatness is utilizing our resources and capabilities the best we can in the moment. That is how it is differentiated from historical greatness or fame. Each of us has different capabilities and talents and we have our own limitations. Yet we can choose to realize our full capabilities in different moments and transform those moments and possibly transform the lives of those who experience them. Our challenge is that we don’t think we are doing anything special.
This is greatness blindness. We don’t see nobility is our acts of compassion, courage in our assuming risks, or love in our assistance of others. We just assume “that’s what we do” or “that’s what anyone would do.” That’s not true. We bring our own talents and gifts to this world and have the opportunity to utilize them in every encounter. By not acknowledging them, we undermine the possibility of developing them.
That is the real tragedy of greatness blindness. By not seeing our own personal greatness we leave untapped the rich resources of unique talent we bring to life. We will forge ahead, perhaps emulating others, yet never fully optimizing our own personal gifts. Our contribution to everyone around us is less because we never fully mature in our own possibilities.
Perhaps there is a balance. Many of us worry about arrogance or pride, so we don't want to examine our gifts. Maybe if we see them clearly; see how underdeveloped they are and how much more we could do, maybe then we would work at developing them.
Seeing your personal greatness is not about crowing aloud what you can do. It is intentionally acknowledging your capabilities to yourself and then working to develop your unique gifts.