A few days ago, my brother and mentor GD was talking on the phone about his recent workshop on ‘stuckness’ in life. He felt it was relevant for me to hear about a participant who had topped his class in school and college, and excelled at work. Everyone told him he was destined for greatness. And now, since he had quit his job a year ago, he could not bring himself to start anything new – because it didn’t feel like it was matching his vision of greatness.
I was startled because this was so close to my situation. My school motto was Natus Ad Maiora – Born for Greater Things –and perhaps it had set the tone for my life. I got my name in the top ranks through college and got double-promoted multiple times at my media job. For most of my corporate life, I tried to use every waking minute to live up to my full potential for greatness.
The question GD had asked the participant (and me) was: “Is it possible that your desperation for greatness is your biggest obstacle?”
I was initially taken aback. Without this promise of greatness, I feared wallowing in depression and mediocrity. This conviction gave me hope that all suffering and hard work would be ultimately worthwhile. It inspired me to be patient, to work hard, to stay focused.
But then I remembered that the pressure of this destiny had also become a weapon in the hands of my inner critic who put it to my head every time I tried to begin something new.
Sensing my train of thought, GD continued: “You reject too many things when you ask: is this the great thing I am meant to do? Is this great enough, amazing enough, perfect enough for me? More often than not – the answer seems to be ‘no’. Even if you do push yourself to begin, you work from stress, fear and proving. In life, you don’t always know what is going to turn out great.”
I could sense the deadly seriousness this ironclad demand for ‘greatness’ brings to exploring new ideas. But I still found myself resisting letting go of this belief, which had been my wishing star on many a lonely night.
“Yes, this desire for greatness generates a pleasurable fantasy,” GD said, “but is it really helping you get there? Or is it actually diminishing your real greatness?
“You are already an Awesome Divine Being. But when you try to prove your greatness, you have actually lost sight of it.
“When you operate from the desperation of greatness, you lose sight of whether you are truly enjoying what you are doing. You lose your natural light-heartedness and freedom. You lose contact with spontaneity, with life in the here-now. Often, just doing what feels sensible or fun in this moment can be the beginning of something great!”
It reminded me of my father, the national-award winning author and painter Aabid Surti, who has found such unexpected greatness recently with his little idea of fixing taps in his community for free (Read the story here). He didn’t start off trying to become famous or even change the world. It just began with repairing one leaky tap, he says, because it seemed like a good idea. For months afterwards, he didn’t tell anyone he was spending his Sundays fixing leaks in the neighborhood. Five years later, he was invited to accept an award by the President of India. What were the chances that he would find significance in doing something tiny that made him happy rather than waiting and planning for that giant sunburst of glory to appear?
GD concluded: “Instead of being desperate for greatness, choose Presence and Playfulness. Being Present… being Conscious and Aware will guide you effortlessly to your next move. And being playful will ensure that the ego does not take over and corrupt everything.”