What is greatness and how do you achieve it?
Living is not just about doing and having, it is first and foremost about thinking and being. The doing has to follow...
There must be as many definitions of greatness as there are people with aspirations and dreams. I am a great admirer of Dr Stephen Covey and I believe in his definition of greatness. He said that there are two ways to live: a life of primary greatness or a life of secondary greatness. Not complicated or theoretical at all, but you could say that he put labels on what and who we can be in our lives.
Simply put, primary greatness is who we really are – our character, our integrity, our deepest motives and desires. It comes with its own intrinsic or unseen rewards such as peace of mind, contribution and rich, rewarding relationships. Secondary greatness, on the other hand, is wholly external – title, position, fame, fortune and honours and its rewards are extrinsic and visible such as money, popularity, public image and the “self-absorbed, pleasure-ridden life” that we too often consider as “success”.
It isn’t difficult to conclude that if we don’t worry about the extrinsic goals and instead focus on the intrinsic goals of what and who we can be, we will achieve primary greatness and often – though not always – secondary greatness will follow. And I’m sure you will agree, that the reverse is not necessarily true. Primary greatness will hardly ever follow secondary greatness. If we look around us, we will certainly find examples among some of the people we know whether they are celebrities, CEOs, actors or other famous people.
The rewards from being of good character and integrity far outweigh the money, popularity and the self-absorbed life that come with title, position, fame and fortune. What good is all that if we don’t have peace of mind? If we have not made a contribution? If we look successful on the outside but are empty inside? It is character that communicates most eloquently who and what we are. Going for secondary greatness without primary greatness doesn’t work. People of good character tend to win in life because people trust them. They enjoy a kind of peace and satisfaction that doesn’t come to those who strive for fame, title and wealth when there is nothing substantial inside like principles and morality
Success cannot be confused with secondary greatness.
At our core, we should realise that outward success is failure if it isn’t rooted in inner success. And I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Covey that we want it for our children and grandchildren, and so too we should want it for ourselves.
Living is not just about doing and having, it is first and foremost about thinking and being. The doing has to follow and then we will have whatever it is we want and then we can call that success.