Keeping Our Greatness in Check

I recently watched an episode of Super Soul Sunday where Oprah interviewed Shauna Niequist, author of the new book Present Over Perfect. During the show, they talked about this quote from her book and it has been tapping me on the shoulder ever since.

“The very thing that makes you, you, that makes you great, that makes you different from everyone else is also the thing that, unchecked, will ruin you.”

Being a frequent visitor of the personal growth section of the bookstore and enthusiastic taker of all means of personality tests, I have found my greatest gift is seeing the potential in other people. I love nothing more than trying to find ways to help people understand themselves better. I have this deep belief that everyone is worthwhile and that if they could only see their own greatness, they could do amazing things in this life.

It is this very thing that makes me a good friend, a good boss, a good colleague and someone easy to get along with. It’s also what draws me to coaching.

But just as this gift giveth, so it taketh away. When, as Niequist puts it, I let it go “unchecked”, I go from being a support to people to being an idealistic fixer. I stick my nose a little too far into their business and try to force a fix that I see for them. What is that common saying? You can’t fix other people? Yeah, it’s sage advice. Because it’s true.

The most valuable learning I have gained in my coaching education is that the coach is NEVER the expert. As a coach, I am not expected to diagnose anything, teach anything, fix anything or be the authority on anything. My role as a coach is to simply listen.  And then I help people hear what they already know within themselves to be true.  I continue to stand with them as an advocate and accountability partner as they take the steps they want to take to better their life.

And you know what? It’s so freaking refreshing to do just that. The unnecessary stress I would cause myself trying take on someone else’s emotional responsibilities was frankly just exhausting, not to mention completely ineffective.


In my new chapter of living in wellness, I will remember that I believe the state of the world today is not because we’ve lost the ability to see the good in others but because we’ve lost the ability to see the good in ourselves.  And so I will continue to see the good in myself and be grateful for the gift I was given to see the good in others.  I will be more aware of the shadow side of my unique gift and try to listen to and care for others without adding my own agenda.  I am the only one who can limit my own suffering.  I am the only one who can keep my greatness in check.


Run Your Own Race

If you’ve never heard about Dave Wottle’s 1972 Olympic race, you should definitely check it out sometime. While it looks like one of the greatest comebacks in history, what’s most amazing is that he didn’t actually speed up and outrun the pack. In fact, he ran essentially the same 200-meter split times throughout the whole race. He stuck to his pace, and one by one, his competitors fell.

In life, there are many reasons staying on our own pace isn’t exactly easy.

The most obvious is comparison. Listen, experts write about this all this time so there’s probably nothing new I can share here. But I can remind you that comparison kills joy. It takes anything you see as good and turns it into a pile of poo. So, don’t do it. And if you find yourself doing it, just say “No. Nuh-uh. Not Today.”

Another reason is our attachment to our story. Take Dave. If he’d been attached to the story of himself as a world class, gold medalist runner, then the second the competitors got out in front of him, he would have felt the need to prove that he was who he said or believed he was. Instead, he just continued doing his thing. It takes boundless bravery to just be you and not get caught up in trying to be the story you have created about yourself.

Also, while it’s great to use friends and family as a sounding board for making decisions in life, we can have a tendency to take on how they feel about our situation (that they aren’t actually living) instead of listening to our own inner voice. It culminates into those life moments when you look around and think, “How in the world did I get here?” You were running someone else’s race, that’s how.

Finally, sometimes we lose sight of the finish line. Instead of running towards the goal, we end up running away from the race altogether. Running towards the finish line gives every runner a chance at victory. But running away from the race will guarantee a loss. When I left my career, I thought I was running towards a new life. Looking back on it now, I realized I was just running away from a situation that I had let get out of control. Running towards something comes from a place of love – love for yourself and a way of life that is consistent with who you are. Running away is all about fear – fear of change and the unknown.

Fear is the biggest reason we get off track. And the more important something seems, the more afraid we are going to feel. The only way to overcome fear is to drag it into the light and expose it as a cuddly teddy bear instead of the big, green monster we imagine it is.

Are you afraid of what other people will think? Ask yourself this. If I could know that everyone in my life would be supportive, what would I be doing differently?

Are you afraid you will fail? Ask yourself this. What would I do differently if I could be guaranteed I wouldn’t fail?

Are you afraid that what you want is too difficult to attain? Ask yourself this. What is one small step I could take toward reaching my goal?

Running our own race means we have to question our own fears and limiting beliefs. When interviewed about the race, Wottle told reporters that as the pack pulled away, he thought he was done. But he didn’t let the fear of losing stop him from continuing on.

So, the next time you feel a bit lost, just think, WWDWD (What Would Dave Wottle Do)? And then get yourself back on your own pace and run your own race.