Wanting to be great is not unusual. Achieving greatness, however, is rare. This is in part both because so few people understand what it truly means to be great and because so few people are willing to put in the time and effort to become great. It takes long, hard hours of work to become great at anything. The common phrase is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master. That is a lot of time to spend playing a guitar or practicing a back handspring.
Greatness is not simply about being the best at a specific skill. While that can mean a person is described as “a great athlete” or “a great engineer,” true greatness is not just about excelling at a certain task. Greatness also requires using skills to better the wider world.
Greatness requires a person to help other people. What good are incredible skills if a person never uses them to do good? The person who creates the cure for cancer will likely be described as one of the greatest medical researchers of the century. Would they still be described that way if they learned how to cure that deadly disease but never shared their knowledge or the results of their experiments?
A large part of being great is what a person does with their abilities. Do they use them to do the most good possible or do they hoard them? Worse, do they waste those skills? Such things are not great at all.
To be great, a person also has to live a life of honor and integrity. They need to live based on their values, not by what is convenient in that moment. This is not always an easy thing to do. Strong convictions may be unfashionable or even mocked. Without them, however, a person cannot truly be called great. God calls those to greatness who are willing to stand by what they believe. Those who abandon their character when things become difficult will never truly be great. They lack the strength of heart necessary to be great. God is guiding those with strong values to greatness.
Holding tightly to values is not necessarily easy, but neither is greatness. Greatness requires a person to be able to push through troubles and obstacles. A person who is being guided to greatness will find that they simply cannot bring themselves to give up. When they start to walk away, something begins to nag them. There is an itch to return to it. They may even feel guilty for abandoning their dream or project. When a person simply cannot let go of something and is willing to work hard and push through difficult times to achieve their goal, God might well be guiding them to greatness.
The ability to keep focusing on a task or dream requires passion. No one can stick with something through thick and thin if they do not care about it. Passions are the things that light a fire in a person’s heart. They are what God is really calling a person to do. They are the sort of thing that a person cannot let go of, no matter how much easier their life would be if they did let go. Those who wonder if God is guiding them to greatness need to think about what they feel called to do. Is it something that truly moves them? Could they stick with it through thick and thin? Does it help others? The last one may not be readily apparent, but there are many things that help others besides building homes, nursing the sick or providing food. These are all extremely worthwhile endeavors, but they are not the only things that can make a difference in someone’s life. A character in a book might convince a person that they too can recover from a serious injury. An inspirational movie might help someone who is struggling escape from their pain for an hour or two and let their spirit rest enough that they can continue to carry on later. A secretary who greets people with a smile might be the only kind word someone hears all day. God guides people to greatness in many ways. Just because it is not obvious at first does not mean He does not have a plan.
God also uses the people in a person’s life to call them to greatness. It is said that a person is the composite of the five people with whom they spend the most time. As such, a person needs to consider their friends and family when they think about if they are being called to greatness. Are these people who will help them improve themselves? Are these people who encourage them to follow their passions? Do those people encourage them to keep going even when things are difficult? If so, these people might be one way God is guiding someone to greatness.
Greatness is not instantaneous, nor is it without struggle or risk. Someone who is unwilling to take risks will never reach greatness. Neither will someone who is arrogant. Reaching greatness requires a willingness to always continue learning. One cannot learn without admitting there are things they do not already know. An arrogant person has trouble accepting this. Someone who is being guided to greatness by God, however, will know that they cannot know everything and will take risks trusting that everything will work out in the end.
Greatness is more than simply material goods or flashy abilities. Greatness is about who a person is and what they do with the gifts they were given. Greatness requires a person to use their abilities for good and know down to their bones that they can always improve. They are aware that they will never truly master everything. Although they may push to master every facet of their skillset that they can, they know they will never master them all, and they are alright with that fact.