Possible Ways To Achieve Greatness


Possible ways to be great

Achieving greatness is something that is hard to define. What makes a person great is often highly personal, and one person’s idea of greatness may not be someone else’s. There are, however, concrete ways for you to get started on achieving your dreams and goals. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Part 1
Part 1 of 2:
Laying the Groundwork for Greatness
Decide on your greatness goal. “Being great” is such an undefinable thing that you have to choose something concrete to work with. Think about your strengths and your areas for improvement, and decide on a goal that makes sense for your personality. Research shows that you’re most likely to achieve a goal if it’s something you want and something you’re willing to work hard to achieve.[2]
You could decide that you want to be become a great author writing beautiful works of literature, or an investigative journalist exposing the darkest aspects of the human psyche. Or you could decide you want to help make change and get involved in politics or become an activist.
Try writing down your dream goals first. Don’t worry yet about making them specific and achievable; that will come soon! As famous philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau once said, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
In a commencemet speech in the one of the Universities, inventor and entrepreneur Steve Jobs said that he asked himself the following question every morning: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer was “No,” he changed things. This could be a good question to ask yourself, too.

Frame the problem properly. Now that you have your list of the great things you want to accomplish, you need to frame the problem of achieving them so that you don’t get overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel like you can’t achieve your goals, especially when you’re just starting out. Frame your goals so that your goal is something you’re working toward, rather than something you’re trying to move away from. You’re more likely to achieve your goals when they’re positive!

Viktor Frankl, who survived a Nazi concentration camp, said that his survival came through the freedom “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Because he refused to allow the Nazis to take away his freedom of choice, Frankl was able to reframe a seemingly impossible situation into one where he had control over himself — something that he believed allowed him to survive.

Stephen Hawking, the eminent theoretical physicist and cosmologist, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a type of motor neuron disease, just after he turned 21. He was given little more than two years to live. Instead of giving in to the problem, Hawking says that two things inspired him to work even harder: realizing that others were going through even worse things, and recognizing that he might only have a limited time to achieve his goals.

Make your goal specific. Once you’ve framed your goals in a positive way, make sure you can achieve them. The best way to do this is to make your goals as specific as possible. Setting a specific goal makes you more likely to not only achieve what you want, but to achieve more happiness in general!
For example: Imagine that one of the goals you have written down is “be Batman.” Instead of saying to yourself, “Batman isn’t a real person, therefore I can’t be him,” ask yourself what can you do to be like Batman. Determine what, specifically, about Batman you’d like to emulate, and set your goals to follow through on those values.
Some options: Dress up as Batman and work in a children’s cancer ward. Help people who are poverty-stricken by donating money and/or time to a local soup kitchen. Become a police officer (you get to wear a costume and, hopefully, you get to help keep the streets free of crime).

Use positive thinking. Visualization techniques can help you achieve greatness. Studies have shown that visualization can effective in improving athletic and academic performance. Many athletes (such as Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods) have used visualization to help them win boxing matches, races, even golf tournaments. There are two basic types of visualization, outcome visualization and process visualization, and you should use them together for best results:
Outcome visualization is the process of imagining yourself achieving your desired goal. This visualization should be as detailed as possible and should use all of your senses: imagine who is there with you as you achieve your goal, what it smells and sounds like, what you’re wearing, where you are. You could even draw a picture or create a detailed “vision board” to help you create this mental visualization.

Process visualization involves imagining all the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal. Think about each action you will take leading up to accomplishing your goal of greatness. For example, if your goal is “be Batman (for a children’s hospital),” you could think about what you need to do at each step: find a costume, contact hospitals in the area, practice your Batman voice, etc.

Use positive action. While positive visualization is very effective, it must be coupled with positive action. You have to actively work towards the goals you have set, rather than simply enjoy the thought of achieving them. This is where process visualization pays off: once you have envisioned each step you need to take to achieve a goal, it will be easier to actually take those steps.
If you’re looking to be a writer, for instance, write every single day, even if only for a paragraph. Join a local writers’ group, take some writing classes at a community center, enter contests and get your writing out there for other people to see. Ask all of your friends for feedback. And, as world-famous writer Stephen King reminds us, stay positive even when it’s hard: “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea.”
If you want to be a great philanthropist, start small. If you don’t have much money, donate your time to a food bank or local charitable organization. Teach language classes or tutor under-privileged children. It doesn’t have to be a grand sweeping gesture of eliminating hunger worldwide. Making a difference in just one person’s life tends to start a positive domino effect.

Examine others’ success stories. You’ll need to look and see what made other people, especially people who are doing the things you’re aiming to do, succeed in their chosen path. There are often threads of similarities that run through these stories.

For example, athlete Jesse Owens, who won 4 gold medals in the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin, was one of 10 children. He early on discovered a passion for running and practiced before school, since he often worked after school. Owens had to suffer through horrible racism to compete in the races both in the U.S. and in Germany, but managed to completely destroy the propaganda of “Aryan racial superiority” in the 1936 Olympics.
Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to fly into space, was originally a textile factory worker. She had pursued an interest in sky-diving and it was this interest that helped her get chosen from 400 applicants. Tereshkova had the tenacity to go through all the intensive training that was required, and after her flight she earned a doctorate in engineering.

Part 2 of 2:
Achieving Your Long-Term Greatness Goals

Stay in it for yourself. If you want to achieve greatness to impress others, your undertaking may be doomed before it even starts. This is because many of the people who achieve greatness aren’t seen as great at first. Stephen King, for example, was told that his first novel, Carrie, would never sell. It went on to sell 1 million copies in its first year, but as he says in On Writing, he was only able to continue writing because he was in it for his own passion: “I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”
For example, the list of now-famous authors who were rejected at first, even many times, is incredibly long. Jane Austen’s first several novels were rejected by multiple publishers, even though she’s been considered one of the greatest writers in the English language for close to 200 years now. Frank Herbert, author of the world’s best-selling science-fiction novel of all time, Dune, was rejected 23 times before someone agreed to publish his novel — and even then, they weren’t sure they were making the right choice.
The history of scientific achievement is also a history of people who were considered wrong or even insane before time and study proved them right. Astronomer Galileo publicly supported the Copernican idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun in 1610 and — despite the fact that his findings were correct — was persecuted by the Catholic Church for heresy. He wasn’t officially pardoned by the Vatican until 1992.

Learn from your mistakes. It may seem trite, but learning from your mistakes is a hallmark of the great. People who continue to make the same mistakes over and over again tend not to get very far.According to best-selling author and inventor Scott Berkun, understanding four basic types of mistakes can help you understand them and prevent them:[19]
“Stupid” mistakes are things that just happen: you order the wrong coffee, you leave your keys at home, you stub your toe coming up the front steps. Being human pretty much guarantees that these things will happen occasionally, and there isn’t a whole lot you can do to avoid these.
“Simple” mistakes are mistakes that can be avoided, but that weren’t avoided because of a series of decisions you’ve made: for example, paying late fees on movies you rented because you didn’t take your car in for maintenance and it went out on you and you couldn’t get to the video store on time. These take a little effort to address, but they can be fixed fairly simply once you recognize what went wrong.
“Involved” mistakes involve more effort to keep you from making them, even though you probably already know what the mistake is: eating bacon at every meal, always arriving late when you go to the movies with friends, wanting to finish writing a novel but not making time to write. These mistakes require a significant amount of commitment and thought to prevent, because they often tend to be the result of bad habits.
“Complex” mistakes are, well, complex. They often have significant consequences and no clear way to keep from making them again: failed relationships or business ventures, actions that had unexpectedly negative consequences.
Ask yourself questions about your mistakes. It can be really uncomfortable to examine your own mistakes in detail, but it’s crucial for you to learn. Questions such as “What assumptions did I make in this situation?” and “What were my goals here?” will help you figure out what to change.
J.K. Rowling openly talks about her initial failure — living after college as a single mother with next to no income and multiple rejections from publishers — as what motivated her to keep trying with her writing. Failure “meant a stripping away of the inessential,” a way for her to see that even though her greatest fears had been realized, she could make it[20] .
People who ask for advice and support from other people, such as asking for help when you keep making the same mistake and don’t seem able to change, or asking for honest critique of your work, are more likely to succeed in the long run. Just make sure you reach out to people who love and support you so that the feedback is useful and not simply brutal.

Don’t give up. Tenacity and perseverance are signs of greatness. People like Jesse Owens could have given up when they encountered horrific racism, but Owens did not and went on to win 4 gold medals and break a variety of records.
Perseverance should be coupled with learning from your mistakes. If the things you try don’t work out the first time, keep trying, but also learn from your mistakes and change the outcome for the better. For example, if your goal is to achieve literary greatness but no literary agents are picking up your novel, you have to consider a few things: maybe you need to re-write it (have a trusted friend or family member look it over and give you some ideas), maybe you should try to go the route of self-publishing, maybe you need to keep trying. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected 12 times and she was told “not to quit her day job.”
Walt Disney was fired from the newspaper at which he worked because he was considered to have no imagination or good ideas. He had to dissolve the first film company that he formed because he couldn’t pay rent and when he tried to have MGM distribute Mickey Mouse, he was informed that the idea of a cartoon mouse would never sell.
Oprah Winfrey, who had already had a rough and abusive childhood, was told that she was unfit for TV when fired from her job as a TV reporter. Like Rowling and Disney, she did not let that stop her, and she is now one of the world’s most iconic and influential women.

Break out of your comfort zone. To achieve greatness you have to leave your comfort zone. Research has shown that individuals need a space just outside their comfort zone, called the “optimal anxiety” zone, to push themselves to higher performance levels.The more you’re willing to challenge yourself, the more your comfort zone expands.
Start small: turn off your GPS on a roadtrip for a while, order something you’d never normally try at a restaurant, approach a perfect stranger and strike up a conversation. While you may not always succeed, you will always learn new perspectives.
Ask yourself: if, at the end of your life, you look back on this choice, would you regret not making it? It’s important to try to distance yourself from how you may feel in the present, because most people fear risk in the short-term. However, they also are more likely to regret not taking those risks later.
Believe it or not, by taking controlled, informed risks, you actually make yourself more resilient to dealing with unexpected challenges, too.

Put yourself out there. Putting yourself and your works out into the world is the only way that people are going to see and acknowledge that work. It can be terrifying to show your first draft of a novel to someone, or put up your photography on a website for everyone in the world to see, but exposing yourself to others’ opinions and critiques is the only way you’ll improve and ultimately achieve greatness.
If you’re an artist, make a website and put your work up online so that people can see examples of your art. Talk to galleries or even coffee shops in your community about hosting some of your work.
Network! Go to professional events in the field you’re trying to achieve in whenever possible. If you want to be a great artist, go to gallery openings and workshops. If you want to be a great scholar, go to the best conferences. You have to see what others are doing and be willing to talk about your own work.

Keep learning. Even as you’re succeeding, you will need to keep learning — and not just from the mistakes you make. Keep looking at how other people are achieving their goals and see if you can incorporate that into your own life.
Try to make yourself better each day. Consider donating to a cause you think is worthy, or use your writing skills to cheer up a friend. Doing an act of kindness or compassion can help you feel better about yourself, which in turn will help with your confidence in achieving your goals.
Stretch yourself to learn new things. If you’re really good at mathematics, try to get in some literature or history. If dancing is what you’re trying to do, take a break to learn about art or computer science. Learning something new keeps your brain active, it keeps you from becoming too relaxed, and it can give you new avenues for inventiveness and creativity. It will also help you challenge confirmation bias, or the tendency to look only at the information that supports what we already believe.
Seeking advice and knowledge from others can also help stimulate your own greatness even if they are in very different fields from you.

Don’t act alone. As you’re achieving your goals on your way to greatness, always seek out the help and guidance of others. There isn’t a single person who has achieved something that hasn’t been helped in one way or another by people in their community, whether through schooling, through a single kind act, or through access to social programs.
When you have achieved greatness, don’t forget to give back to your community and to the people who helped you along the way, the person who edited your first manuscript, the people who convinced you to join track, the people who taught you how to code, etc.


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