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The Greatness Process

“Good is the enemy of great.” – Jim Collins

In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell introduces a principle known as the 10,000-hour rule. In summary, the rule states that 10,000 hours of practice are required to become a master of a skill. Guess we all have a few thousand hours left on our double unders! The concept received great scrutiny by many who argued that in the mastery of a skill, factors other than practice must be accounted for. Gladwell’s point was well noted though – most people never achieve mastery, or greatness, because somewhere along the way they settle for good enough. Or perhaps they have the wrong perception of what greatness they actually pursue. When I’m coaching my athletes, I like to use the phrase, “Greatness is a process.” If you want to experience greatness both in the gym and in life, here’s the process you’ll need to follow.

1. Greatness is the process of defining a great end

This is where most people get into trouble right out of the gate - they begin with the wrong end in mind. I remember when I was in sixth grade and decided I wanted to learn to juggle. I saw a clown juggling at the circus and figured if the guy with the big nose and fat shoes could do it, so could I. Not so fast as Lee Corso would say. As I sat in my bedroom with three balled up socks, I set a goal for myself. Keep one in the air at all times. And guess what? By the end of the night, I achieved greatness. I juggled those three socks for quite some time. But did my juggling look like the clown? Well truth be told, I probably looked more like a clown than he did. Where are you missing the mark in life by setting the bar too low? If you want to live a great life, you must define a great end state. In Spiritual Fitness, the end state is Shalom. (If you want to know more about Shalom, check out this post)

2. Greatness is the process of mindful practice

You will never become great without practice. The repetition of skill training creates new neurological pathways and allows us to move with less thought. Why do you think it takes like 12 years to become a surgeon? Would you want someone to operate on you who just took an online course they can’t wait to try out? Ridiculous, I know. Yet we read a book on how to have a great marriage and don’t understand why we still have problems. You know why you still have problems? Because greatness takes practice. And that practice must be mindful. In Spiritual Fitness, we practice exercises such as prayer, Bible reading, meditation, stillness, and a host of others. But if you don’t stay in the moment when you practice these exercises, they will never achieve their full work in your heart. I know too many people who do all the things I just listed and still live average lives. Perhaps it’s because the third component of the greatness process is simply too much.

3. Greatness is the process of embracing discomfort

Just as Jim Collins describes good as the enemy of great, comfort is the enemy of fitness. Let’s be honest, suffering is hard. Sitting on the couch, that’s pretty easy. Here’s the thing though – you can train your body to embrace discomfort. I call it being comfortably uncomfortable. In physical fitness, this is akin to working out just under the threshold of your breaking point. As you spend more time in physical discomfort, your body adapts becoming more durable to such discomforts. The same is true in Spiritual Fitness. When we step outside our comfort zone and do things like put others first or forgive people who hurt us or give our worries and anxieties to God, it creates discomfort. These responses aren’t comfortable for most people. However, the more you live your life this way, the more comfortable they become. You realize your comfort zone is actually bigger than you thought, and you constrained yourself because of limited thinking or poor self-awareness. Fitness and discomfort go hand in hand. Greatness comes from learning to embrace discomfort, not running from it.

When you wake up, do you want to have a good day or a great day? Do you want the people you lead to call you a good leader or a great leader? Is it enough to live a good life, or are you willing to give yourself over to the greatness process? If so, you must define a great end, be mindful in your practice, and learn to embrace discomfort. God’s purpose for our lives is to bring greatness to His name. Renew in your spirit a commitment to the greatness process and get ready to live your best life ever.

Questions for Reflection:

Of the three components of the greatness process (define a great end, mindful practice, embrace discomfort), which do you excel at? Where could your process be improved?

Can you think of an example where comfort disrupted your greatness process? What did you learn from the experience?

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