10 Ways to Be Great Today

Earlier this week I wrote a post about the pursuit of greatness. I highlighted how it can sometimes create stress when it manifests as fear that we’re not good enough and might never be.

In reviewing the reader comments, I felt a sense of deep appreciation for knowing so many truly great people. And I imagined there were far more of them who didn’t comment—some who may not realize just how great they are.

I decided to put together this list based on some of my favorite related quotes. If you’re looking to nurture greatness, these tips may help you do just that—or they may help you recognize the extraordinary impact you already have on the people around you.

1. Be a source of kindness.

“Men are only as great as they are kind.” ~Elbert Hubbard

We all want to live in a world where people are compassionate, understanding, and kind. Every time we treat someone this way, we do our part to create that kind of world.

2. Treat everyone equally.

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who does him absolutely no good.” ~Samuel Johnson

There’s another saying that suggests we should be nice to people on the way up because they’re the same people we’ll meet on the way down. But there’s a more important reason to treat people well: We all thrive together when we stop fixating on “up” and “down” and choose to stand beside each other.

3. Remember that actions speak louder than words.

“Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

Most of us have ideas to make a difference in the world—and we can do these things if we’re willing to act as much as we think and talk. Take your plans out of your head and off the page, even if with just one small step. Wherever you are in the process, that’s the opportunity to be great.

4. Focus on the little things.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” ~Helen Keller 

Underlying every great, big idea there’s a purpose we can also meet through small, noble actions. Go ahead and make that plan to change the world, but remember that the exchanges and efforts that may seem ordinary are often the most extraordinary.

5. Believe in the promise of tomorrow.

“Great hope makes great men.” ~Thomas Fuller

It may seem like it’s deluding yourself to nurture hope, but hope doesn’t have to imply blind faith that things will work out as you want them to. In can mean you have faith that you will learn, grow, and do something positive with whatever comes your way. When you believe you can, it’s much more likely you will.

6. Put love into whatever you’re doing.

“We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.” ~Mother Teresa

Create with love, engage with love, bake with love, build with love—whatever you do, put your heart into it. Even if you’re working toward a different career, know that this day counts. Take this opportunity to nurture something positive in whatever it is your doing.

7. Keep an open mind and be open to change.

“The final proof of greatness is being able to endure criticism without resentment.” ~Elbert Hubbard

People don’t always offer constructive feedback, but oftentimes they intend to; if we can stay open to what might be true, we can learn and grow a little every day. That’s greatness—not an enduring state, but the willingness to evolve.

8. Keep things simple. 

“Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life gets complicated when we overwhelm ourselves with things we think we should do or have. All those “shoulds” can easily suffocate the one simple thing we all want: to enjoy our time with the people we love. When we fully appreciate our days, suddenly being great seems less important.

9. Forget about yourself for a while.

“It takes a great man to be a great listener.” ~Calvin Cooledge

So often we merely wait to talk instead of actually listening, but this is why people open up to us—not just for advice, but also for our loving, attentive presence. When we give that gift to others we communicate how greatly important they are to us.

10. Motivate others to be who they want to be.

“Really great people make you feel that you too can be great.” ~Mark Twain 

We all want to feel that we matter. Show someone else they do, both by believing in their dreams and recognizing how they make a difference right now. The most powerful difference we can make in this world is the one we make supporting each other.

Photo by laughlin

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Nice list. It would be great if people would print this list and come back to it daily, until it was habit. The world could change so rapidly.
    Dan Garner

  • I liked the last point.. It is very necessary to surround yourself with people who positively criticize you and lift you higher rather than dragging you down.. And truly great and noble people not only give their best but also encourage others to explore the best of their abilities..

  • Tana Franko

    Thanks for fixing #8. 🙂

  • Great idea to follow up on your last post, Lori. We all have so much to offer and when we think about the potential we have sometimes we do get overwhelmed with trying to do too much at once.

    I notice that very often lists like these and quotes like the ones you have seem to be conflicting at times if you look at them literally and narrowly. For instance, one will seem to say “think big” and another will say to “do the simple things.” I think that’s what sometimes confuses us.

    What helps me is to realize that all these things have their place in our adventure and our journey (on the way up or down as you say.) They each can apply to different times and different situations. We’re multifaceted beings and unique. And if one doesn’t apply to you now … don’t fret over it! (or find where it might apply in some fashion and be grateful for it.)

    As always, thanks for your work and for sharing it with us.

  • These are great. I do these things for others all the time, but sometimes you have to be that for yourself, too. Realize that you deserve love, kindness, and motivation to be who YOU want to be to. I am super self-critical, and am just beginning to have an internal dialogue about how to be a support and love system for myself, along with everyone else. Cheers!

  • I realized after the email went out this morning that I accidentally deleted some words. Glad I caught it so it makes sense now!

  • That’s my favorite quote of the mix, as well. I used to think of greatness as having all the answers and telling people what to do; I now believe it’s about supporting people to discover for themselves what’s right for them.

  • Thanks so much Dan. =)

  • That’s wonderful, being part of your own support system! I have a tendency to be self-critical, as well, so I am always reminding myself to treat myself like I’d treat a friend.

  • Hi Carmelo,

    I know what you mean, about the contradictions. I find that’s true of inspiring quotes in general. There’s actually a quote I love that touches upon this, that reads, “Every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.”

    Like you, I try to ask myself, “How does this apply to me now?” Sometimes I need to let go, sometimes I need to hold on. Sometimes I need to think bigger, sometimes I need to hone in on the details.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. =)


  • Hi Lori,

    Wow, that’s a great one. And really speaks to what I was saying. It’s like the yin and yang of life, isn’t it?

    Thank you for replying! 🙂

  • Lydia

    Hi Lori, I really enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for sharing _/|_

  • You’re most welcome! Have a great weekend =)

  • I will! You too, Lori. Going to Yosemite next week. Going to be awesome. Love that place!

    btw … I would dearly love to apply to write for you. I’ll send my ideas in on the date you suggested. 🙂

  • Fantastic column Lori. Thanks 🙂

  • Kensai

    Great reading to begin a day!

  • nabihah

    Can I give you a hug Lori?! 🙂
    Your writing, not just in this article but the others as well, were so beautifully written with those humble words~
    Thank you! *big hugs

  • Fantastic!

    But don’t forget that life isn’t all about DOING things…

    Remember to “Just be” as well!

  • I would love a hug! Thanks so much–and you’re most welcome. =)

  • Have a blast at Yosemite! I look forward to reading your post. =)

  • You’re most welcome Lydia. I’m glad you enjoy it!

  • Thanks David. =)

  • I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • NamasteNettie

    Lori – i learned about Tiny Buddha at a time in my life when I was experiencing a lot of pain and sorrow, and I found such comfort in your posts. Through the healing years, I continue to be inspired by your insight, love, and gift with words.
    This post in particular resonated with me, because it mirrors a huge piece of my own roadmap to happiness and success. My greatest joys come from simple encounters where I feel a real connection with others, and through that, with the creator.
    Thank you also for this timely reminder to do something positive with whatever comes my way.
    May God bless you for your beautiful reflections. Keep them coming!

  • Thanks so much, and great addition! =)

  • Hi Nettie,

    I’m glad Tiny Buddha has helped in your healing process! I also get so much joy from simply connecting with people, which is a big part of why I love running the site. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. =)


  • lv2terp

    Fantastic post!!!! Thank you Lori for sharing your wisdom, love, and experiences!

  • Thanks so much, and you’re most welcome!

  • Jo-Anne

    Doing is wonderful….
    Being Great IS great…….
    Being Ordinary and Honouring the ordinary is Divine…..

  • Jo-Anne

    Loving yourself is the best gift……

    Loving your “super self-critical self” invites you to understand the gift it is to you. It brought you back to You…….and knowing the Dark is there helps you see the Light.

    I believe our Dark side is the protector of our Light…it has our back so to speak. The trouble is we face the dark and turn our back to the light…..TURN AROUND, NOW…..SEE THE LIGHT!

  • Heather

    It is very difficult to remain positive and loving when people can be so rude, callous, and selfish at times. Not reacting to a person’s insults or negative demeanor can be altogether challenging; and as I strive to be my children’s confidant and role model, it’s usually best to walk away, even if it means the negative person ‘seems’ to get the last word, at least you can retain your dignity and self respect.

    I wanted to add to #1 – You
    must be the change you wish to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi
    🙂 Thank you for each and every word of wisdom and guidance you offer 🙂

  • What you wrote about the last word really struck a chord with me. This was a big thing in my childhood. I was always told I couldn’t get the last word, and so I always felt like I was out of control if I didn’t fight for it–like I was being dominated. I created so much negativity trying to fight negativity. It really does come down to stopping the cycle and being the change. Not easy, but so crucial!

  • Prin

    “Think big” and “simplify” are often one and the same. In other words, stop focusing on the tiny detail, expand that thought, think bigger – and simplify!
    My table is one part of a bigger room, simplifying the entire room removes the problem of the cluttered table. (Weak example but hopefully it paints an applicable example)
    I love your writing. Thank you for sharing.

  • I never really thought of it like that before, but that’s so true, about the potential for bigger to be simpler. Thank *you* for sharing as well!

  • Emmanuel

    I really appreciate this tips, I should share it with my community.Thanks Lori

  • You’re most welcome! =)

  • Jitendra Parida

    Good one ..
    It inspires me ..
    Life is very short, we need to learn so many thing..
    Share the happiness. Be humble and kind.