High School/Adult Book- “Everyday Greatness”

I recently came across a book from the public library and thought that I’d pass along the title for those who enjoy reading about Level D!

The book is called “Everyday Greatness–Inspiration for a Meaningful Life.”  It’s actually a book of excerpts from Reader’s Digest that have been organized into various themes.  The Table of Contents looks like a list of virtues.  In each theme there is commentary by Stephen Covey and then some related quotes.

I find that I can more easily motivate my students when I feel motivated myself!  Reading stories about individuals who have acted from a place of internal motivation encourages me to think deeply about the value of such behavior.  In turn, this inspires me to talk about Level D to my students more often.

I’ve copied a section from this book to pass on to a friend of mine.  She just started working as a teaching assistant and recently attended a morning workshop introducing the PBS/PBIS approach.  Although she thought the workshop was upbeat, she said that she had her doubts about the program.  Her concerns were based on the reactions of her own children to a similar rewards/awards program at their schools.

She explained that her own two boys motivate themselves to do well in school and go out of their way to be good citizens; putting in hours and hours of school service. Sometimes her sons express resentment because they feel that their school isn’t truly interested in rewarding effort or ability as they say they are.  The boys see that the teachers often seem to use rewards/awards to try and change the behavior of those students who actually aren’t doing very well in school at all. Sometimes they feel that their own accomplishments and efforts are overlooked while poorly behaved students receive more attention and rewards than they do.   She said that since she had to agree with her kids on their analysis of the situation, she didn’t know what to say to them to make them feel better.

At that moment, I was rushing off to an appointment but I realized that the next time I see her I should give her a copy of the DWS Hierarchy and explain how she could use it to explain Level D motivation and the benefits that go along with such operation to her boys.  The next day when I came across the book, “Everyday Greatness, I thought that a few paragraphs from this book, describing Level D would also probably encourage her sons.

Here’s what I copied off to give to her:

Occasionally, the world witnesses a heroic feat or discovers a person with rare talent.  Every now and then, a scientist makes a pivotal discovery or an engineer designs a revolutionary device.  Each decade or so, a pair of politicians sign a bold peace initiative.  Annually, extravagant affairs tout the year’s best actors, musicians, athletes, and salespeople, while hometown festivals crown the person who can eat the most chili peppers or sound the best yodel.

Such singular events and accomplishments often appear in sizzling media headlines under the banner of “greatness.”  And in most cases they do represent a type of greatness that is deserving of attention and applause.  For many of them represent achievements that move society forward in significant, progressive ways, while others simply add a much needed measure of spice and humor to life.

But most people know there is another type of greatness that tends to be more quiet by nature, one that generally escapes the headlines.  Yet, it is a greatness that in my opinion is deserving of higher honor, ever more respect.  I call it “Everyday Greatness.”

Everyday Greatness is what I have called, in other settings, “primary greatness.”  It has to do with character and contribution, as distinguished from “secondary greatness,” which has to do with notoriety, wealth, fame, prestige, or position.  Everyday Greatness is a way of living, not a one-time event.  It says more about who a person is than what  a person has, and it’s portrayed more by the goodness that radiates from a face than the title on a business card.  It speaks more about people’s motives than about their talents; more about small and simple deeds than about grandiose accomplishments.  It is humble.

When asked to describe Everyday Greatness, people typically respond with descriptions of individuals they know personally, such as a farmer who year in and year out weathers the storms of life, provides for family, and helps neighbors.  Or a mother who knows she is not perfect but who perseveres in doing her everyday best to exhibit unconditional love to a challenging child.  They describe a grandparent, a teacher, a work colleague, a neighbor, or a friend who is always dependable, honest, hardworking, and respectful of others.  Above all, they describe someone who is within reach of emulation, sensing that they do not have to be the next Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln or Mother Teresa to exhibit Everyday Greatness.

Yes, the type of people they describe when trying to define Everyday Greatness are the same caliber of people I described in the opening lines of this Introduction––people who, despite the negative noise in the world, still somehow find ways to step up and do their part to make a positive contribution.  The key is that it is all part of who they are every day.

It’s important to say that the school my friend’s kids attend has the greatest intentions in the world; they want to motivate kids who aren’t doing that well.  It’s unfortunate that the path they have chosen to take–that of rewarding–is actually causing discouragement in some of their other students, the ones who already choose to operate at a high level.  I’m sure the teachers would be greatly disheartened to know this.

To my way of thinking, PBS has the potential not only to discourage some of the best students but it also creates a situation that makes it even more difficult for less motivated students to ever develop that inner drive that teachers are hoping to promote.  The outwardly “upbeat” feel of reward programs makes it difficult for people to see the forest because they’re focused on the trees!