I was thinking to myself when I sat down to write this article, what fun it would be to talk about what it takes to live an extraordinary life. The answer is surprisingly simple but not what most people would think of offhand.
What is an ordinary life? What is an extraordinary life? That depends on the perspective of who is asking the question and their level of gratitude in their life. What does gratitude have to do with living an extraordinary life? Aren’t you supposed to be grateful for something after you receive it? Despite what some people think, having an ordinary or extraordinary life isn’t about money, the things you have, wealth, fame, power, lifestyle, or position.
You may ask, how these things do not matter in the pursuit of an extraordinary life? A person needs money to live and lots of it leads to having the things we want in life, right? To that, I would have to ask, “How do you explain a person, that has very little in the way of material possessions or money, having a life filled with joy? Then I’d have to ask: “How does a person that has riches, fame, a beautiful spouse, nice cars, several amazing homes, and everything else one could wish for, view life as dull, boring, and miserable?
I’m not using generic examples; read the news and you will see real people living out these very scenarios every day. People young and old with terminal cancer are grateful for and celebrating each day they can breathe another breath. People living in poverty give what they can to help others when they have so little themselves and are proud that they have enough to share. We all have read about others that have achieved fame, and fortune and seem to have it all, ending their lives in suicide due to addictions or depression. What about the people who, despite having great wealth and means, wander aimlessly in life from one day to the next and never make any real difference in their life?
Then you have those who live a middle-class life that goes to work day after day. They have a family, a nice home, good vehicles, and maybe a few “toys” like boats, an RV, a motorcycle, musical instruments, hobbies, or collections. They earn a comfortable living and get to take one or more vacations per year. They have plenty of food in their pantry and a comfortable chair or sofa they like to sit and relax on. They have big-screen TVs, computers, tablets, and the latest, greatest smartphones. Yet they spend their evenings and weekends as a “getaway” from work because they don’t really love what they do, but hey…the pay is good. So, they survive, comfortably mind you, yet unfulfilled, uninspired, and unmotivated to get out and do anything outside of their zone of comfort. All these, are people from all walks of life but with drastically different perspectives on what is ordinary versus what is extraordinary.
What escapes most is we, as humans, excel and feel a sense of what it is to truly live when we can master what challenges us. We feel a sense of accomplishment as we overcome obstacles and conquer our fears by doing what we never thought we were capable of. The moment when we realize who and what we are and feel proud to be that person is when we learn to love ourselves. In that moment, it does not matter if we are small or large, tall, or short, or what race we are. It does not matter to us how others see us because we see ourselves as the beings of light and beauty that we all are inside. It is that moment that we need to learn to live in to have an extraordinary life. We are at our best when we do what we love and have a passion for. Do you notice that it is all about feelings and emotions here? Do you yet realize that it is not about what we have or how fat our wallet is? True happiness comes from being truly and deeply grateful for what we have, what we are yet to receive. Fulfillment comes from how we enrich others’ lives by sharing what we have. Not only with our material rewards, but also through sharing our gifts, talents, and abilities.
Abundance in life comes in many ways. It is found in those who love us and, again, enrich us with what they freely give to us. It is found in graciously and confidently receiving the appreciation of those that you have touched in a positive way. It is found in receiving support and help when you are in a challenging situation. It is found in receiving more than your needs, thereby giving you more to share with causes that are important to you. Keep in mind that we were created to have fruitful and abundant lives. We were never meant to live in a state of lack. There is nothing wrong with having the most modest of homes or extravagant ones, a nice bass boat or a yacht, a nice SUV, or a car that looks like it is going 200MPH while sitting still. It does not have to mean that because you have more, others have less, there is plenty for everyone. But the one thing that you need to remember is that abundance in life starts and ends with gratitude.
Once again, because it cannot be overstated, living an extraordinary life is about experiencing extraordinary happiness and fulfillment in all that you do. It is about feeling love from others and giving your love to them. It is about the memories we create and the memories we create for others. It is about living in the moment, not waiting for it to arrive. It is about doing what you love and having the passion to do it well. It is about giving and receiving. It is about, simply put, living life to the full…not simply surviving it. It is about having the courage to say no when someone offers to trade your dreams for an ordinary life (or for a big paycheck) and it is about realizing that you are never too young or too old to live the extraordinary.
“What escapes most is we, as humans, excel and feel a sense of what it is to truly live when we can master what challenges us. We feel a sense of accomplishment as we overcome obstacles and conquer our fears by doing what we never thought we were capable of. The moment when we realize who and what we are and feel proud to be that person is when we learn to love ourselves.”
By: T. Michael Fairchild, MCC