“What will be the fullest expression of your greatness?” Sounds jarring, doesn’t it? It isn’t meant to be. The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch stated in a Postscript piece eulogizing Nelson Mandela, “It was in the negotiations of apartheid’s end that Mandela’s greatness found its fullest expression.” The instant I read the sentence I loved it. Why? I believe that every person, no exception, has a greatness quotient. Our toughest work? Bringing it forth.
Does greatness intersect with transition?
Greatness is a heavy word. For some it might mean winning the Nobel Peace Prize or leading a nation on the brink of a civil war. For others it might mean enabling a child with the confidence to last a lifetime. But, greatness, like success itself, is individually defined. What will be YOUR greatness?
Greatness, like ambition, is a hard word for me. It seems too grandiose. Too egotistical. By definition greatness means eminence, distinction, or an excellence that sets someone or something apart from others. (Google)
Last weekend The York Times ran a piece entitled, “A Formula for Happiness.” (NY Times, by Arthur Brooks, SR1 12/15/2013) It highlighted a surprising three-part anatomy for happiness which I found helpful in thinking about transition & greatness.
First, 48% of our happiness is determined by our genetic make-up. Really? It seems that researchers learned a fair amount by studying identical twins who had been separated at birth. The outcome? They isolated that which was nature versus that which was nurture. While the research was only excerpted I found it provocative – finally a rationale for how my mother-in-law’s behavior plays out at my dinner table.
An additional 40% of happiness is derived from one-off events. “People assume that moving to CA or getting a big raise will make them better off. They won’t. Huge goals may take years of hard work to meet, and the striving itself may be worthwhile, but the happiness they create dissipates after just a few months.” (NY Times, by Arthur Brooks, SR1 12/15/2013) Really?
The last bit offered in the article throws the remaining 12% of our happiness at values – “faith, family, community and work.” (NY Times, by Arthur Brooks, SR1 12/15/2013) The author isolates work as one of the few levers available to us to affect our happiness. In fact he ties work to our cultural identity as Americans…
“Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others.” (NY Times, by Arthur Brooks, SR1 12/15/2013) Does your work marry your passions to your skills?
Yesterday I met with a woman who is considering a transition. I am always cowed by such outreach because I never understood transition before finding myself knee-deep in one. She asked, “how do I start.”
My experience tells me that at its simplest you need two things to start a transition. First, a willingness to examine what might be. What would you hear if you let your curiosities or passions or interests speak louder than the judgments of what you should be or could be doing? Play with it. Write it down. Let’s call it an initial hypothesis. My draft goes something like, ‘become a recognized global thought leader on the issues of women’s development, particularly as they relate to transition.’
Second, create experiments or tests to validate your initial hypothesis. This process is called many things – rapid prototyping, agile, systems dynamics thinking, and on and on and on. By any name it is simply establishing a learning loop so that you can integrate experiential data into your initial hypothesis. The benefit? Each test allows you to refine your initial hypothesis. My new favorite word for it is ‘agile for the soul.’
The intensity applied and the timescale necessary to move through these two transition steps can vary. Tests can be as simple as listening to a Ted Talk or doing live research via a Skype call. Reading an article. Strategic volunteering. Or a new job. The only requirement? That you begin.
This holiday season I encourage you to give yourself a gift: to begin. My hope is that this gift can make you happy – and start you on a path to greatness in the fullest expression of who you are.
Thank you for your willingness to walk with me through this transition journey. I am eternally grateful for your involvement and feedback and patience. Warmest wishes for a safe and happy holiday season! Linda R.
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