10 Ways to Be Great Today

by Lori Deschene

Earlier this week I wrote a post about the pursuit of greatness. I highlighted how it can sometimes create stress when it manifests as fear that we’re not good enough and might never be.

In reviewing the reader comments, I felt a sense of deep appreciation for knowing so many truly great people. And I imagined there were far more of them who didn’t comment—some who may not realize just how great they are.

I decided to put together this list based on some of my favorite related quotes. If you’re looking to nurture greatness, these tips may help you do just that—or they may help you recognize the extraordinary impact you already have on the people around you.

1. Be a source of kindness.

“Men are only as great as they are kind.” ~Elbert Hubbard

We all want to live in a world where people are compassionate, understanding, and kind. Every time we treat someone this way, we do our part to create that kind of world.

2. Treat everyone equally.

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who does him absolutely no good.” ~Samuel Johnson

There’s another saying that suggests we should be nice to people on the way up because they’re the same people we’ll meet on the way down. But there’s a more important reason to treat people well: We all thrive together when we stop fixating on “up” and “down” and choose to stand beside each other.

3. Remember that actions speak louder than words.

“Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

Most of us have ideas to make a difference in the world—and we can do these things if we’re willing to act as much as we think and talk. Take your plans out of your head and off the page, even if with just one small step. Wherever you are in the process, that’s the opportunity to be great.

4. Focus on the little things.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” ~Helen Keller

Underlying every great, big idea there’s a purpose we can also meet through small, noble actions. Go ahead and make that plan to change the world, but remember that the exchanges and efforts that may seem ordinary are often the most extraordinary.

5. Believe in the promise of tomorrow.

“Great hope makes great men.” ~Thomas Fuller

It may seem like it’s deluding yourself to nurture hope, but hope doesn’t have to imply blind faith that things will work out as you want them to. In can mean you have faith that you will learn, grow, and do something positive with whatever comes your way. When you believe you can, it’s much more likely you will.

6. Put love into whatever you’re doing.

“We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.” ~Mother Teresa

Create with love, engage with love, bake with love, build with love—whatever you do, put your heart into it. Even if you’re working toward a different career, know that this day counts. Take this opportunity to nurture something positive in whatever it is your doing.

7. Keep an open mind and be open to change.

“The final proof of greatness is being able to endure criticism without resentment.” ~Elbert Hubbard

People don’t always offer constructive feedback, but oftentimes they intend to; if we can stay open to what might be true, we can learn and grow a little every day. That’s greatness—not an enduring state, but the willingness to evolve.

8. Keep things simple. 

“Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life gets complicated when we overwhelm ourselves with things we think we should do or have. All those “shoulds” can easily suffocate the one simple thing we all want: to suddenly being great will seem less important.

9. Forget about yourself for a while.

“It takes a great man to be a great listener.” ~Calvin Cooledge

So often we merely wait to talk instead of actually listening, but this is why people open up to us—not just for advice, but also for our loving, attentive presence. When we give that gift to others we communicate how greatly important they are to us.

10. Motivate others to be who they want to be.

“Really great people make you feel that you too can be great.” ~Mark Twain

We all want to feel that we matter. Show someone else they do, both by believing in their dreams and recognizing how they make a difference right now. The most powerful difference we can make in this world is the one we make supporting each other.


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