“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.” William Shedd
You can spend your life….
Playing it safe,
slaving away at a job that slowly sucks the life out of you,
spending hours watching mindless television,
shuffling from one errand or chore to the next,
fretting about things you have no control over,
trying to keep up with the Joneses, or
settling for content…
But is that what YOU were made for?
If it is, I’m afraid this might not be the right place for you. I’m sure there are plenty of great places and people for you to hang out with in the harbor, but you see, this ship is about to set sail.
If on the other hand, you are driven by a deep desire to make a difference, to do something truly meaningful, and to fully experience the glorious possibilities that life has to offer, you too are destined for an extraordinary life!
What is extraordinary living?
Not to sound terribly cliche, but it really will take on a different hue for everyone. My idea of an extraordinary life is bound to differ from yours. In fact, my extraordinary life may vary greatly from year to year.
Despite these differences, extraordinary lives share certain similarities.
If you reflect on some extraordinary lives from both past and present, from sages and philosophers, artists and scientists, revolutionaries and business leaders to teachers and grandparents, siblings and friends, they are typically characterized by these three traits.
An extraordinary life is…
1. One where the remarkable days outweigh the mundane or dismal ones.
Close your eyes for a moment and flip through your memories of the past year. Now bring to mind a handful of your best days. Days where you could close your eyes and sigh to yourself, “What a remarkable day.”
Your best days won’t necessarily look alike. Sometimes an incredible day will be…
Filled with excitement and adventure.
Passed pouring over a great book or learning something new.
Shared with a loved one or a group of buddies.
Devoted to a spiritual practice such as silent meditation.
Spent lending a helping hand or making a contribution.
Of course you know not every day is going to look like one of your best days. There will always be dark days and difficult times to face, but those who live extraordinary lives know the good days can outshine the bad.
Case in point, Viktor Frankl spent many days (several years worth) in some of the darkest and most inhospitable conditions possible – Nazi concentration camps. Yet, he was able to rise from those ashes and proceed to create his most meaningful work and inspire millions around the world.
In the grand scheme of his entire life, the remarkable days outweighed the dismal ones.
2. One that inspires or motivates others.
When you think of an extraordinary life, who comes to mind?
Maybe it’s one like Frankl’s, a tale of finding purpose and meaning in the most sinister of human conditions. Maybe it’s one that was ultimately sacrificed for a worthy cause, like Martin Luther King Jr.’s. Maybe it’s one dedicated to service and love, like Mother Teresa’s.
Or perhaps it’s someone you personally know. Like the grandma who earned two master’s degrees and flew airplanes in a time where women were expected to stay home and tend to children. Or the mom who left her family and home country to provide a better life for her son.
Just like our best days, we are all moved and inspired in different ways. Moreover, there are multitude of ways that we can move and inspire.
3. One that can be looked back on with satisfaction and without regret.
Close your eyes once more, but this time imagine yourself as an old man or woman sitting in a rocking chair on your front porch. You rock gently back and forth as warm breeze blows, ruffling the pages of the weathered book you are clutching. You’ve just finished reading the Book of Your life.
What expression is on your face?
Is your mouth curved into a wrinkled smile? Is it tear-stained from recalling your triumphs through difficult times and reliving joyful occasions? Are your eyes lightly shut with a sigh of contentment on your lips?
Or is your brow furrowed and your knuckles white from clenched fists? Is it one full of sorrow, disappointment, or regret?
Sadly, too many people reach the end of their lives only to discover they never truly lived.
Through his many years conducting funeral services and from his interviews of over 200 people others considered to be especially wise, Dr. John Izzo discovered:
Death is not what we fear most. When we have lived life fully and done what we hoped to do, we can accept death with grace. What we fear most is not having lived to the fullest extent possible, to come to the end of our life with our final words being “I wish I had.”
So what separates those who are filled with a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction from those filled with bitterness and regret?
It’s who we become and the way we live our lives each and every day.
It’s the adventures and experiences we have.
It’s how we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
It’s the connections we establish and the relationships we develop.
It’s the contributions we make and the legacy we leave behind.
It’s also what I’m writing about in my upcoming ebook:
Choose Your Own Adventure
Make the Book of Your Life One Worth Reading
which will be a free gift to all of you who know you were meant to set sail!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
A final thought about extraordinary living…
Pretty much anyone can, but few actually do.
That’s what makes them extraordinary.
How about you? Are you still waiting in the harbor?
Or are you out sailing on the seas of extraordinary living?