10 Qualities of Greatness Inspired by Nelson Mandela

imagesNM1 For the last fifteen years, I’ve been talking about a world where “power” is not defined by how much control you have over others, but how much control you have over your Self. It’s not about how many things you acquire, it’s about how many people you inspire.

Nelson Mandela epitomizes this Power Living vision and gives us a model of a life well-lived. His example can inform our own daily choices. Here are 10 qualities of greatness inspired by his words:

1. Purposefulness

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

What is your mission? What timeframe have you given yourself to have an impact? We each have something to contribute and the time to start is now. Don’t put things off until “tomorrow.” Have a sense of urgency for delivering on the promise of your gifts.

2. Self-Confidence

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

In what areas of your life are you playing small? Nelson Mandela shows us that an ordinary person can do extraordinary things by showing up fully for life’s circumstances.

3. Boldness

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” View quote card.

Confidence is important; what comes next is the belief that anything is possible. Be bold by stepping out in faith and taking action. Words can only take you so far; get out and do.

4. Optimism

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” View quote card.

Mandela’s resilience teaches us that no matter how bad things may seem, keep your head up. When you come up against roadblocks, remember that you have the ability to choose a new path.

5. Forgiveness

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” View quote card.

What hurts are you holding on to? Forgiveness is more for you than the other person. It helps you release negative energy and strongholds. If Nelson Mandela could forgive his jailors after 27 years of being imprisoned, you can certainly extend an olive branch to those you feel have done you wrong.

6. Courage

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

What role has fear played in your life? Have you ever talked yourself out of doing something that was in your heart? If you find fear holding you back, face it head on. Stretch yourself by doing the thing that will give you butterflies.

7. Determination

“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”

What do you do when the going gets tough? Nelson Mandela is an example of how persistence pays off. Keep focused on your vision and remain vigilant.

8. Humility

“Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.” View quote card.

Mandela’s ability to put his ego aside and work for the greater good was a sign of deep inner strength, pragmatism and humility. Sometimes you have to minimize the “me” for the larger “we.”

9. Self-Reflection

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

How self-reflective are you? Being able to examine yourself, recognize your weakness and strengths, and celebrate your own transformation is a source of power.

10. Love

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” View quote card.

Most of all, Nelson Mandela has taught us that approaching things through the lenses of love can helps us see the humanity in ourselves and others, and come together around a common good.

Think about which of these qualities you want to embody more in your life. Remember, you have the power to choose how “to be”.

Read “Nelson Mandela’s Lesson on Love.” View Nelson Mandela Quote Card Gallery.

Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy is a Harvard Business School-trained strategist, digital consultant and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She helps companies operate more efficiently and individuals live more effectively through her company Power Living Enterprises. A seasoned yoga/mindfulness teacher and executive/life coach, she is also an internationally-recognized voice in Personal Empowerment, Leadership and Health & Sustainability. In addition, she is the co-author (with her mom, Columbia University-trained journalist Janie Sykes-Kennedy) of Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master–an inspirational memoir on 99-year-old yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch, as well as Shining Bright: Quotes and Images to Inspire Optimism, Gratitude & Belief In Your Limitless Potential.

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