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X is for 'Xtraordinary

“Normality is a paved road. It’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow”

Van Gogh

Extraordinary literally means, out of the ordinary or outside the norm but in a sense there are a multitude of awe-inspiring things going on in the world, in our daily lives, all the time but too often we don’t pay sufficient attention and miss the opportunities we have to experience a life of ‘awe and wonder’ around us.

“I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practising gratitude.” Brene Brown

How do we live an extraordinary life?

“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it. Others could be given a single weed and only see the wild flower in it. Perception is a key component to gratitude and gratitude a key component to joy.” Amy Weatherly

There is a well-known phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ but familiarity also means that we stop paying attention. It’s too easy to go through life ‘not seeing’ the everyday miracles that we take for granted and only focus our attention on them when things go wrong. If we want to live an enriched life, and flourish, then we need to pay attention to the world around us

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. ” Thich Nhat Hanh

Paying attention is an under-used tool. By necessity we perform many tasks and activities on auto-pilot, but there is a whole part of our existence that we are not fully appreciating because we are too busy, going too fast and our heads are often elsewhere, rather than in the here and now. In our state of near constant preoccupation, and familiarity with our environment, we stop noticing the many things going on around us, at so many different levels, and we are impoverished because of it.

It is important to pay attention because “Where your attention goes, your time goes” Idowu Koyenikan

We can rush through a day in a blur with an endless list of things to do, holding many things in our head and have endless distractions or excuses or we can slow down and pay attention to the present moment. Time is our greatest asset. We all have the same amount of hours in a day, but it is how we use that time that makes a difference because what we do with our time today will determine the quality of our life later.

“Greatness comes by doing a few small and smart things each and every day. Comes from taking little steps, consistently. Comes from a making a few small chips against everything in your professional and personal life that is ordinary, so that a day eventually arrives when all that's left is The Extraordinary.” Robin S Sharma

Our world is made up of lots of small things which make up our bigger life experience. When we pay attention to the small things in life, the simple pleasures of life, then we will experience a deeper, richer experience of life and flourish.

“The beauty and mystery of this world only emerges through affection, attention, interest and compassion . . . open your eyes wide and actually see this world by attending to its colours, details and irony.” Orhan Pamuk

When we develop the skills to really pay attention, it is impossible to become bored even when we are doing a repetitive task that we have perhaps done multiple times before. By using all our senses, there are always new things to observe and by using our mind we can reflect ‘even if’ it is only about the materials we are using, where they came from and the many processes of how they got to where they are.

“An extraordinary life is all about daily, continual improvement in the areas that matter most” Robin S Sharma

The mind is a powerful tool and it can hinder us or helps us. Our brain undergoes changes with or without our conscious knowledge so it is important that we control and set the direction for these changes.

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” Tony Robbins

Neuroplasticity can be used to further our journey positively towards our optimal selves and an extraordinary life by making conscious choices, action and through practice because over time our brain can create new pathways. By being proactive, neural networks will grow new connections, strengthen existing ones and build insulated pathways that will speed transmission of impulses. i.e. we can increase our neural growth by the actions we take, the questions we ask, practice and the development of good habits.

“We go through life following the same routine, day after day. But in order to create a rich, full, and meaningful life, we need to stop to reflect on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.” Russ Harris

By focusing on our values and goals and the satisfaction we can obtain, it helps us think about how we can do something differently and get a more constructive and positive benefit. To change a habit it is necessary to use our willpower rather than how we feel as our feelings and emotions can lead us astray.

“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” Wade Boggs

For us to experience change, we must consciously take action; whether it is a change of attitude or perspective or a change of behaviour.

And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them”. Charles Duhigg

People can be extraordinary; they can go to extraordinary lengths to achieve something or go out of their way to do things to or for themselves or others.

The Guinness Book of Records now known as the Guinness World Records is now the ultimate authority on record-breaking achievements. It started out as an idea for a book of facts to solve arguments in pubs in the early 1950’s when Sir Hugh Beaver (1890—1967), Managing Director of the Guinness Brewery, attended a shooting party in County Wexford. There, he and his hosts argued about the fastest game bird in Europe and failed to find an answer in any reference book.

“In 1954, recalling his shooting party argument, Sir Hugh had the idea for a Guinness promotion based on the idea of settling pub arguments and invited the twins Norris (1925—2004) and Ross McWhirter (1925—75) who were fact-finding researchers from Fleet Street to compile a book of facts and figures.”

Extraordinary actions don’t always appear in this book though.

“You can't relate to a superhero, to a superman, but you can identify with a real man who in times of crisis draws forth some extraordinary quality from within himself and triumphs but only after a struggle.” Timothy Dalton

There are millions of extraordinary acts that happen, on a daily basis from people just like you and me; whether it is someone overcoming difficulties themselves or the self-less acts from ‘heroes’ that often go unrecognised.

We relish news of our heroes, forgetting that we are extraordinary to somebody too.”

Helen Hayes

We all have the power to live extraordinary lives because

“even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.” Stephen Chbosky

The most important thing, wherever you draw your inspiration from, is to consistently seek to maintain a growth mindset so that you are continually learning and refining yourself.

“Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.” Orison Swett Marden

The world we live in is extraordinary; full of mind-boggling stuff that is yet to be acknowledged or discovered. Make your life extraordinary by paying attention and creating good habits based on your values and goals.

“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.”

Gordon B. Hinckley

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