A Troubling Thought

Last night, I was walking home in a daze, as a single and troubling thought echoed in my mind.

“Just let me be great.”

It’s a dangerous thought, both to myself and people around me.

You see, this thought puts my ability to be great in a mysterious somebody’s hands, leaving it out of my control. Whether or not this is the case is questionable, and better left for another piece of writing.

But a better question is this — what happens if the mysterious somebody accepts my plea and says, “Okay, I’ll let you be great.” What happens if suddenly my request to no one is accepted by everyone? What happens if no one will get in the way between me and my potential?

Will I actually achieve greatness?

My honest answer: probably not, and it’s because of this thought process:

If I don’t feel as though I’ve achieved greatness before, why should I believe that I can achieve it now? I don’t even know greatness, how can I realize it?

Some of you who know me know that I’ve managed to accomplish a few things in my life — winning some small but tough speech competitions, graduating college and running a marathon.

But if I’m unable to own even the little greatness that came in those moments, thinking that someone else “let them happen,” then it’s as if I, myself, never achieved anything.

Thinking, “just let me be great” takes away my ability to own any greatness.

More so thinking this thought over even a year may be enough time to change how your mind works. In the book, The Happiness Advantage, happiness-psychology researcher and expert Shawn Achor describes this mental change as “The Tetris Effect”

When Tetris came out, it became widely popular and people spent hours playing it without end. Soon enough many people noticed that when they weren’t playing the game, they would imagine Tetris pieces flying from the sky filling city skylines. The thoughts seemed instinctual, a natural part of their thought process. Their ability to focus on Tetris shapes in the game translated to finding similar patterns in real life.

Achor explains that our mind does this naturally. If we hold a certain outlook or perspective, our mind looks for patterns in the world to confirm that perspective.

So if you consistently think to yourself, “just let me be great,” your mind will look for people to be in the way. It will learn to see the pattern — the things people say, and people’s actions that get in the way. It will then learn to see the signs of people about to get in your way.

I must admit, this thinking seems fairly useful. Avoiding obstacles is important. But to ensure that this thought isn’t a danger to me, I must complement it with a different thought.

“I will do my best to be great.”

Without this thought, I won’t take ownership of my journey with greatness. Instead, I would always leave it in someone’s hands. I will never develop the thought pattern to find opportunities for me to be great. I will never start learning what being great could mean for me.

Alas, before heading to bed, I looked in the mirror and I thought to myself,

“Just let me be great.”

The only one person in my way was myself. So, in the still of the night I accepted my own plea. I thought to myself,

“I will find an opportunity to learn to be great, and everyday I will do my best.”

It may come slowly to me, and I may even stumble. But as I stumble, my mind will learn to find the opportunities to be great. My plea that was at first a stumbling block will turn into my stepping stone.

And that sounds like a step in the right direction to me.