Barbara Stanny was on a much-needed retreat when she heard a clarion call come out of nowhere, loud and clear. She caught three simple words: Go for greatness.

The voice struck like a lightning bolt, wise and commanding. It was a message that would change her work and her life’s path.

“I was burnt out and exhausted. I’d lost my mojo. I was just going through the motions,” Stanny remembers. She’d been working on the book that would eventually become Sacred Success: A Course in Financial Miracles (BenBella, 2014), but the project was at a standstill. She’d spent three years interviewing high-earning women, some of them millionaires, looking for their secrets to wealth. She aimed to pass that knowledge to other women, but then she noticed an inner restlessness.

Stanny knew she had to be quiet enough to hear what was trying to come through. She was losing faith and confidence—in herself and the project. So she took off for a few days alone. Next thing she knew, dressed in a bathrobe and walking across her hotel room, she heard the message from a “voice in my head as clear as my voice is now.” But what exactly did it mean to “go for greatness”? As Stanny followed the words, she realized that she’d been using ego-based thinking in her focus on “millions.”

That direction ignored what her soul craved: greatness—and the role of greatness in the success and wealth of prosperous women.

Stanny had overlooked an important facet of women and money. Her project wasn’t about money in the conventional sense. It was about the power women feel and express once they get clear about their greatness.

When women don’t become what they’re supposed to be, God gets noisy.

There’s usually a crisis, a rumbling, something’s telling you it’s time to sit down and listen because as Stanny describes greatness, it’s a wholly unexpected kind of power. And finding it and unleashing it is the essential work of your soul.

Greatness Is Gladness

Greatness, Stanny explains, is not meant to be intimidating or pie-in-the-sky unattainable. It doesn’t mean fame or huge amounts of financial wealth—although those may very well turn out to be the by-products.

Greatness simply means that you’ve found your soul’s purpose, your bliss, and you’ve put it into action in the world. This is what leads to your sacred success. Greatness is ultimately about serving the greater good in the unique way you were divinely designed for and being richly rewarded in the process. Stanny knew that she had to put God into the discussion about money.

“When you bring the Divine into the conversation with the almighty dollar,” she explains, “financial success becomes not just about having more money, it becomes a healing process, a transformational journey, and a rite of passage into our power.” Stanny’s research on all those women millionaires showed that they weren’t really after the money—especially not after they’d achieved security and stability. They were there for the expression of greatness itself.

As Stanny sees it, the soul longs for connection and expression. It wants out. Your greatness is your own unique nature. It’s a gift that has a value—one for which you should be well-paid. It’s also the part of you that expresses the indwelling divine.

Stanny insists that all of us will get the call to greatness. You don’t have to be on a retreat to have that experience, but you do have to tune in and get quiet.

Spend some time with yourself each day and your soul (and what it wants) will appear, and it will keep coming up until you pay attention to the signs.

Power Is Coalition

Stanny describes being raised in a way that led her to be uncomfortable with greatness. “We’re conditioned out of our power,” she explains. “So much of my misery came from the way I was raised as a girl.” Her life’s work has been women-centered, helping women to overcome the limitations of their upbringings and the societal expectations that lead to ambivalence and fear around power.

“Women are afraid of power because powerful women have been punished for centuries,” Stanny says. She describes the crises in her own journey that led her to discover her power and take it back. Like many women, Stanny let her husband (a stock broker) run the finances. Without her knowledge, and hiding a gambling problem, he mismanaged funds disastrously. She found herself being a single mom with three daughters, enormous tax bills, and an ex-husband who’d left the country. When her father (the R of income tax preparation giant H&R Block) refused to help her, she had to face her terror and take control. She described having to find the “feminine face of power.”

Greatness, she says, is a wildly powerful force. Yet women don’t have a lot of practice embracing this force, especially when it comes to working, earning, and doing. Historically, women have been encouraged to keep silent and not rock the boat. Stanny explains how women see power differently than men do. They generally see it as a force to be shared, to have power “with,” while men more often see power as something to have “over” others.

“A powerful woman is someone who knows who she is, knows what she wants, and expresses that in the world unapologetically,” Stanny explains. “That means speaking up—asking for what we want and saying ‘no’ to what we don’t want. We’re living in a time that requires that women step up to the plate and into their power so they can lead alongside enlightened men to reshape history.”

Remembering her dark days, Stanny now knows she had the power she needed all along. “All I had to do was turn on the light,” she says. “I finally turned it on by doing all the things I was scared to do.” Once she learned to empower herself, she realized she was also being called to support other women as they came into their own power. In helping these women heal from cultural limitations, she discovered that she also heals herself.

“I want to be the little drop in a huge ocean, getting women to pull their light switch to really become who they are,” Stanny says.

"Nothing in this world is a better high than to be who you really are, who God meant you to be.”

Divine Discomfort

Answering the call is rarely easy. To get close to greatness, women have to confront their fear of power, facing their discomfort, and find a way to bust through it. When Stanny looked through the transcripts of her interviews with highly successful women, she realized that all of them struggled with fear and doubt. They felt like frauds, but they didn’t let their fear stop them. “There’s a pivotal moment in every high-earner’s life when she’ll tell herself that no, she can’t take the next step. It’s too scary,” Stanny says. “But she does it anyway.” Overcoming that potential block is what separates the successful from the unsuccessful.

“Women in the midst of sacred success exercise tremendous courage,” Stanny explains. “There’s no such thing as fear.” They won’t necessarily succeed that’s not the point. The point is that they tried even in the midst of doubt and fear. The fear is always there. Just take it with you and get the work done. As the handwritten sign on Stanny’s desk reads, “Do what you fear because that’s how you grow.”

“This discomfort is an important part of sacred success,” Stanny adds. “In fact, right before successful women soar, there’s usually a crisis that forces them to get quiet. You are ready for the call to greatness when you’re restless, when you feel like something’s not right. This is your soul saying, ‘Stop what you’re doing. Pay attention. It’s time to play a bigger game.’”

Barbara Stanny's Words of Wisdom

On Money: “Money is a tool, and like any tool, you have to read the directions. Understand it and be clear on what it does and what you have. I believe that money is God made visible because money allows us to change the world, to change people’s lives, and to make a difference.”

On Discipline: “Discipline is being a disciple unto yourself. To do that, give yourself what you need to have, and do what you need to do, even if it makes you uncomfortable and you don’t want to do it. It’s especially important to have mental discipline—be very careful about what goes in your head and out your mouth.”

On Self-Reflection: “The whole point of asking, ‘Who am I?’ is to get in touch with all the parts of yourself—your light, your darkness, the misconceptions you’ve had about yourself, and all those self-imposed blocks you didn’t even know were self-imposed. This question’s sole function is to help you learn to love and accept all those parts you once judged harshly.”

On Miracles: “When we get in touch with love, that’s what creates the miracle. We have to see things differently to get in touch with love. The miracle allows us to see differently, seeing the gift, seeing the message, seeing the blessing in what felt like a curse. When our perception changes, we extend the miracle and love love. That’s what miracles are made of.”

This article appeared in Unity Magazine® and was a 2018 FOLIO: Eddie Award winner.

About the Author

Molly Pennington, Ph.D., is an award-winning writer whose work often aligns social justice and spirituality. She’s published articles on parenting, education, and popular culture (with an emphasis on race and gender) in print and online. Pennington is committed to cultivating optimism without ignoring the wounds of the world. Read her blog at and engage with her on Twitter and Instagram (@docpennington) or on Facebook (@mollypenningtonphd).

Molly Pennington


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