A Gentler Approach to Greatness

Your gentleness has made me great. – Psalms

What makes someone great?

How do we become great?

How do we empower others to become great?

These are questions that run through my mind daily – if not hourly. I’m obsessed with this concept.

Maybe it’s because I have some deep-seated perfectionist complex or insecurity that I always need to be better.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve witnessed greatness in others and tasted it for myself a few times, and I know that it’s both fulfilling and possible.

It’s probably a little bit of both.

At any rate, achieving greatness by launching a life that matters, is what this site is about. It’s also what I’ve made my life’s work about.

It’s weird though because I’m not a hard-charging, power player. And we normally associate greatness with very strong, driving personalities and people. People who get sh*t done. People who kick ass and take names.

That’s not me.

I’m just, well, a little more gentle.

Feels weird to say, but it’s true. I can be disciplined, and I can have a frank conversation, and I suppose I am emotionally strong. Still, I’m just not that tough.

And I tend to respond miserably to the hard charging types – the grumpy coach who’s tactic is always “work harder” or the surly teacher who is rarely satisfied.

I like to be challenged, but I love to be enjoyed.

Take pleasure in me, give interest to what I am doing, and I’ll challenge myself. I won’t stop pushing myself for someone who is gentle with me.

I suppose I simply enjoy a more gentle approach to greatness.

Maybe you’ve had similar feelings, but haven’t been able to put them into words. Or perhaps you’ve been afraid to.

Take a deep breath. You’re not alone.

And you know what? You can still be great. Gentleness does not have to mean weakness. In fact, it can yield powerful results. (I’ve seen it first hand.)

Here’s a gentler approach to greatness:

1. Be gentle with yourself. Start by giving yourself a break. Instead of punishing yourself for what you haven’t done or how you’ve failed, spend a few quiet minutes focusing your attention on one thing you have done well or you do like about yourself. Smile, then go on your way.

2. Be gentle with others. They are just trying to get through life the same as you are. You have no idea what’s really going on in their head or heart. Very likely, they just need a little encouragement. Before getting frustrated or disappointed, let your first instinct be to understand and encourage. Then, go from there.

3. Be gentle with your work. In many ways, the work we produce at our jobs or in our lives is an extension of ourselves. Too often we are harsh on the work we produce. (I’ve been acutely aware of this as I’ve done more writing.) Instead, like with others, start by trying to understand and encourage the work you’re doing.

A gentle approach to the pursuit of greatness does not mean that we are self-satisfied or unmotivated. It is simply a more pleasant (and powerful) disposition to hold along the way.

Question: Do you normally think of gentleness and greatness as being at odds with one another? Do you think the two can coexist?

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14 thoughts on “A Gentler Approach to Greatness

  1. I believe in fighting fire with fire. Depending on what I’m doing and who I’m dealing with, I’ll approach with gentleness or “ruthlessness”.

  2. Interesting post, Ryguy. Any thoughts on how this works in an employer/employee or mentor/mentee type relationship? Or how this gets built as a discipline into our lives?

    • Thx Josh. As far as making this a discipline: take a breath before deciding to judge something. Then actively seek a positive in the situation, even if it’s an overwhelmingly negative situation.

      As far as work or mentor/mentee, stay tuned. I’m working on an eBook that will have answers to those questions and more ;)

  3. I hear you. It’s a day by day challenge and this is a good reminder for the work I do. Reminds me to be gentle with myself first and foremost and then with my clients. Empowering.

  4. Ryan,

    I’m different like you. I’m not ‘gentle’ but I am a thinker, which feels like the opposite of the Seth Godin ‘Ship It’ attitude(which I am attracted to). I feel like I get pushed into action while all I want to do is sit and contemplate what is happening.

    -Nate