Take A Stand for Your Own Greatness

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20 years ago, I took an instructor's course to learn how to help people create what matters most. Despite my shyness and inexperience in such work, the course was extraordinary. We worked late into the evening then bounced up next morning to start again. We worked with creative tension. We watched Martin Luther King's "I have a dream!" speech. We coached each other in creating what mattered.

I loved it all-except for one exercise.

At the end of day two, our facilitator Kallenn asked us to stand and declare, "I take a stand for my own greatness." He passed
the mike to a woman in front. She popped up, and proudly proclaimed her greatness.

I sat six rows back, my gut tying itself into a thick, painful knot.

I did not know why I didn't want to do it. But I didn't. When my turn came, I hauled myself up and mumbled the words, but I felt like a stranger to my own heart.

Instead of going for dinner, I sat overlooking the lake, and scribbled in my journal. I was confused. I wasn't sure what greatness was, nor that I had any to stand up for. As I dug deeper, I discovered I was angry about not practicing what I preached. An ex-teacher and leadership coach, I'd run a mountaineering school in the Rockies for six years. However, I'd drifted through my last two years then, then left, dispirited.
I realized I didn't feel greatness because I'd let my spirit's flame burn too low. I wanted to feel greatness. But, I feared admitting it, I might
have to stretch for something out of reach. Besides, who was I to proclaim greatness?


I sat, watching the lake and pondering my questions. When I went back to class, I was aware of my contradictions, but somehow okay with them. I dove into the work. I applied myself with vigor. I struggled to grow. Slowly, I felt a shift. Something opened in me. As my vision for my life and work became clearer, I felt my inner flame sputter to life.

At the end of the course, Kallenn asked us each to make a closing remark. When I faced the group, I felt nervous, yet excited. "Two days ago," I said, "I told you I took a stand for my own greatness, but I lied. I didn't feel greatness. Since then, I've realized greatness is not about ego, or power. It is about bringing into the world what truly matters to me. Greatness, I see now, is in us all, but unacknowledged, it dies. Realizing this, I can now say honestly, "I do take a stand for my own greatness." As I sat down, I felt like I owned my own heart.


Since then, I've helped thousands learn to create what matters most. And because I work at expressing greatness, I know why it is so difficult, at times, to do.

We often fail to acknowledge our greatness for fear of what others might say. Denying our hearts, we invest our energy in lesser things. We withdraw from our own power. But not offering our gifts to the world is riskier than putting them out.

Marianne Williamson said, "Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves 'who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talent, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world."

Accepting our greatness, we live into our authentic power. By creating what we love, we give gifts only we can give. By contributing to community, our lives become meaningful. By bringing greatness into the world, we leave the planet betterfor our presence.


"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening," Martha Graham told a young dancer, "that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost."

It is not our business to judge how good our gifts are, nor how valuable. It is not for us to compare our greatness to other's. It is our business to let vitality flow through us into the world. We need to keep the flame of our creative spirit bright.

I haven't always done so. But when my flame flickers, I recall how empowered I felt taking a stand for my own greatness, and how vital I feel when I create what matters. That opens me, again, to the possibility that lies. undiscovered, all around me. If I'm tempted to hold back, to ignore my greatness, I recall Goethe's couplet:

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

Remembering that my greatness is unique, I choose to give my gifts to the world, and let whatever happens happen.

About the Author:

Bruce Elkin is a writer, coach, and consultant who helps individuals and organizations create what matters most-in spite of problems, circumstances, and adversity. His ebook Emotional Mastery: Manage Your Moods and Create What Matters Most-With Whatever Life Gives You is available on his website at: http://www.BruceElkin.com.

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