“Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it.” ~ Robertson Davies
“Heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary.” ~ Gerard Way
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live an extraordinary life? Have you ever wished you were something a bit more extraordinary yourself?
Even if you’re not living up to your potential right now (and extraordinary doesn’t require perfection), it’s important to know that you are not merely the sum of your thoughts, beliefs and habits.
You are also what lies beneath the surface, what rests dormant inside of you. In other words, you are also your God-given potential. That extraordinary potential is part of who you are. It is what you can become. It is what is possible. It is what you were meant to experience, even if it seems like it’s still light-years away.
And that is extraordinary!
Extraordinary is as Extraordinary does
So what does it mean to be extraordinary anyway?
Well, in a word, it means to exceed ordinary. And if ordinary means doing and thinking and believing what most people do, think and believe, then being extraordinary means being different than most.
Most people don’t read personal development blogs or seek inspiration or motivation to supercharge their day. Most people don’t do much reading at all, for that matter.
But that’s not you!
Most people don’t spend much time thinking about the quality of the friends they attract, or the quality of their thoughts or the quality of their character. Even fewer do much about it.
But that’s not you!
Most people let their time slip by one tick at a time, never setting goals or working to improve themselves in substantive ways or challenging their own comfort zones.
But that’s not you either!
You aim higher and live with more passion and purpose than most—or you’re learning how to. You create opportunities and grow and challenge yourself—or you’re taking the initial steps to.
And that’s pretty extraordinary!
The reason I know this about you is because the unextraordinary tend to wade in the shallow pools of their own stagnation, hoping and wishing and never doing.
But not you.
You look for insight and inspiration and the next step that will take you to the next level. You’re here, doing that now, I suspect.
And that’s also pretty extraordinary.
Supercharge Your Extraordinariness
So if extraordinary is as extraordinary does, by doing more things extraordinarily, your life itself will become extraordinary … if you are willing to do the work to get there, of course.
Ordinary focus and commitment and passion lacks the pulling power to lift you to the level of extraordinary. After all, extraordinary is extra-ordinary. You just can’t reach it by virtue of ordinary effort. The “extra” is required.
So begin to supercharge your life in the following 10 areas for an extraordinary impact of legendary proportions.
You were meant to face your fears and overcome them with a steely sort of courage, to stand tall without apology as a unique individual of value and character. You were born to make a difference, to stand for something, to be willing to fight for fundamental principles of human freedom and dignity.
The extraordinary nature of your courage is obvious in your willingness to endure public ridicule for what’s right. It shows in your unwillingness to compromise your values for a quick and easy gain or a superficial fix.
You don’t throw in your hand simply because someone else thinks you should. Your life is marked by dignity and decency and truth and honor. Such things call on our deepest reservoirs of courage. That kind of courage shapes our experiences and makes life that much more extraordinary.
There are people who wake up every morning knowing they matter, knowing they make the world a better pace, knowing they’re needed, that they add joy and happiness to a few more hearts on the planet.
There are people who, Gandhi-like, give all of themselves to make an extraordinary difference. Others give more modestly, but also profoundly. They give from their hearts, out of compassion and a deep seeded desire to make a difference.
It should be noted that obligatory giving is not really service. It is being taken from, consensually or not. So extraordinary giving is much more than simply paying your taxes so the government can take care of some anonymous, faceless group.
Rather, it is freely sharing your time and means and talents and energy. It’s going out of your way to bless and lift and serve. It’s stopping to help push a car or volunteering with a favorite charity or working for a worthy cause or visiting shut-ins and comforting those who mourn and feeding the hungry and looking for opportunities to do good continually.
You can make an extraordinary difference by being conscious of the effect your example has on others, by developing a compelling sense of compassion, by doing random acts of kindness, by reaching out of your myopic world into a larger universe to effect change that actually improves life for those in need of improvement.
But the most important difference you will likely ever make will be the service you render the one, the individual, one-on-one, eye to eye, hand to hand, heart to heart. It’s a good thing to provide resources to a group in need. But there’s something deeply sublime, something uniquely extraordinary in personally reaching into the life of another human being to provide hope and help and love.
Happiness is the condition of the human experience when major obstacles to it have been largely overcome and our lives are significantly aligned with True North principles that naturally produce it.
Extraordinary happiness is the synergistic result of supportive thought, combined with self-affirming belief, combined with right action, combined with living with integrity to universal principles.
In other words, happiness is the natural result of positive, optimistic, opportunity and possibility thinking, believing life matters and yours specifically does too, that there are answers to life’s most difficult challenges, while actively creating meaning and pursuing growth and living an honest and grateful and loving life.
The point is, happiness is not the result of any one thing. It’s a combination of traits and characteristics, each one of which can add depth and longevity to our happiness, but are required on a larger scale to reach the extraordinary.
Character is the heart and blood of the organism, its vitality and moral authority. It is what most fundamentally reflects the heart and defines us at the core. Character is the substance of reputation, the foundation of trust, the seed and fruit of behavior. (<– Tweet this last sentence!)
Extraordinary character is telling the truth because it’s true, not for fear of being caught in a lie. It’s not the self-serving kind of pseudo-character that’s performed for public consumption. It’s kindness when kindness isn’t deserved and no one is around to see it. It’s the inner strength that risks ostracism for doing what’s right when what’s right is no longer popular.
There is no extraordinary character without extraordinary self-discipline and self-mastery. At the root of exceptional character is an enduring commitment and consistent integrity. The key, and most difficult part to master, is the consistency. And that’s why we so honor those with extraordinary character.
Let’s admit it. Loving others takes work. It’s pretty easy to love those who make loving them easy. But it requires a ton of inside-work on the soul to love those who make us work for it. Only when we can love those who are difficult to love, those who don’t return our love, those who are prickly and sharp and nasty, can we claim extraordinary love.
But that is the kind of love that changes lives … starting with our own. That kind of love, what might be called Biblical Charity, is a reflection of who we are rather than the result of the quality or nature of any particular relationship we enjoy.
Perhaps the only way to experience love at this level is to practice spontaneous forgiveness. When someone offends, forgive them instantaneously. When you can do that, extraordinary love will be within reach.
Extraordinary love also requires seeing through the distorting film of fear and insecurity, of character flaws and personality disorders at the inner essence and potential of the person who most needs love while making it most challenging to give it. But when we have attained the ability to love the unlovable, we’ll experience its fruit as compassion, kindness, peace and joy to an extraordinary degree as well.
We were put on earth to form families and friendships and build and nurture those relationships to become no less than celestial. But so many people endure relationships that are far from the ideal.
They have learned to cope with relationships that just don’t satisfy or are painful or destructive. And yet we were meant to have extraordinary friendships and extraordinary marriages and experience an extraordinary closeness to our children.
So what gets in the way of it all?
Mostly we do.
We get greedy and selfish and prideful and stingy and insecure and fearful. We start counting offenses and taking things personally and interpreting things rashly and saying things we shouldn’t say and doing things that undermine those very relationships we regret not being closer.
So the best way to develop extraordinary relationships is to work on the gears under the hood of our own lives. Improve the self and everything the self is associated with improves as well, including our relationships.
Warning: Work at improving yourself, not your partner’s self. Your work is under your own hood, not someone else’s. Even with our children, the most productive work we will do under their hoods is by spending time under our own. Better people tend to make better parents, after all. And better parents make better kids.
This one is difficult to clearly identify because success can be defined in so many different ways. The most limiting definition (simply because it leaves out so much that’s infinitely more important) is the traditional success of professional ladder-climbing.
But no matter the kind of success you choose to pursue, you can be successful in an extraordinary way if you plan for it, prepare for it, invest in it, and work at it. But what you specifically plan and prepare and invest and work on depends on what you’re willing to succeed at.
My best advice is to learn from the leaders in the field in whatever area of life you want to be successful. Master what they do. Then do it your own way. Resist the temptation to simply duplicate their success. Extraordinary success is rarely accomplished that way.
We are both spiritual and physical beings. And yet we pay incredibly more attention to our physical sides. I believe we do so to our own detriment. If we work more on getting in tune with the Divine, our lives can be profoundly changed in dramatic ways.
I’ve known addicts and inmates and those with horrible pasts and dreadful thoughts about themselves and about life who then connected with their spiritual sides, who reached up to feed that connection and are now living deeply meaningful lives of real purpose and joy.
The rewards of a spiritual life are real and include the fine-tuning of conscience and the honed ability to recognize truth from error. It includes attaining greater insight and wisdom and living life at its most joyful. Life becomes sweeter. Happier. Better. We gain a sort of humble confidence that can only be felt, not described. Our outsides come to better reflect our insides and our insides experience an extraordinary peace.
We just visited Disneyland recently. And while it’s not truly the happiest place on earth, it’s a pretty good commercialized version of something that scores pretty high on that scale nonetheless.
But what I love about Disney is the Fastpass system where you can get an early ticket and go back at the prescribed time to skip most of the line-waiting. It’s the car-pool lane to Disney attractions.
We can have that in the area of personal growth as well! We can Fastpass and car-pool our way to extraordinary growth when we approach it with sincerity and humility and an open heart.
But there has to be a passion for growth. So often we read posts in the personal development genre and nod and smile knowingly and say to ourselves, “Yes, yes. This is good stuff. So insightful!” And then do nothing to apply it.
While extraordinary growth doesn’t require a particular system or method for growth, it does require an open heart, passion, attention, effort, the ability to learn from mistakes without beating ourselves up for making them, and taking one step at a time toward the goal of self-improvement, then celebrating each extraordinary step toward success.
So many of us simply stop learning much on our own once we’ve scored the college degree and have it hanging on the wall like a trophy to prove our competence. We cross the finish line and stop. We stop learning and stop researching and stop thinking, unless, of course, work requires an occasional workshop for re-licensing.
But extraordinary people spend their whole lives learning. They are humble enough to admit deficiencies in their knowledge and passionate enough about learning to seek to fill in those holes.
They look at life from different perspectives and are open to learning from the expert and novice alike. They love discovering new truths and uncovering new layers of insight. They are passionate about growth and development. And so they spend considerable time in its pursuit.
Life is an extraordinary experience. We can make our lives even more extraordinary by doing even more things extraordinarily. I invite you to choose an area you think will most benefit your extraordinariness from above, then go at it. Learn what you can learn. Do what you can do.
And see what can happen to an ordinary life.
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PS: I have a guest post up at Goodlife ZEN called What is the Missing Ingredient in Your Life? Check it out and let me know what you think!
Photo by Will Clayton