By Chip Hosken
This is an interesting question but the answers are vague to the point of uselessness. Most “ordinary” people make choices everyday to remain in whatever situation they are in. As the saying goes, if you keep doing what you are doing you will keep getting what you are getting. Here is a hypothetical approach to moving away from ordinary towards more than ordinary that I literally just made up on the spot. Go forth and be fruitful.
0. Understand that you are going to be making small changes with a cumulative long term effect. This will not happen overnight.
1. Take an inventory of your life. You have some skills, some education, some expertise gained throughout your ordinary life. You also have some obligations and debts. Whatever the outcome of the inventory, that is your starting point. Most people will fail to be truthful with this inventory, and fail to acknowledge their limits, and sometimes even overstate their abilities. Understanding your reality is the key to setting the right expectations for growth.
2. Assess your desires. “Ordinary” is vague. Do you want to be a better pianist? A better father? Someone with respect or power in your local community? Develop a list of goals that are specific. These goals will form the basis for what “extraordinary” means to you. If you are unable to envision your life in the extraordinary state, stop. You are not hungry enough to have success. Even goals like “becoming a millionaire” are ok, but do not ignore the sacrifices you will have to make to achieve them. Most people, when faced with the opportunity to make a sacrifice, will avoid doing so.
3. Stop blaming your situation on anyone. Accept that you are where you are, this starting point is your launching pad towards your goals. Now, you may have some legitimate issues that have to be overcome, like alcoholism or spousal abuse. These are unusual circumstances and may require more work to unwind than an average person. The good news is, you can do it, the bad news is, it takes time and sacrifice.
4. Stop making excuses. You’ve already taken an inventory of your limitations. Your free time is set by your work schedule, your spouses needs, your kids needs, or your other responsibilities. For now you are working from within the limitations you perceive. Eventually these limitations will reduce and chance, and you will find more time and energy for your “extraordinary” endeavors.
5. Stop goofing off. You are watching reality TV? Cut it out. You are spending time playing world of warcraft? Cut it out. You have to feed yourself and your family. You have to pay the bills. You have to get some exercise and you have to rest. If you want mindless recreation, and are unwilling to sacrifice your TV shows to change your life, stop. You will not succeed. You will develop healthy habits for recreation once you get rid of these mindless ones.
6. Give up junk food. Eat fruits, vegetables, meat, and drink plenty of water. Avoid processed foods because they are poison. Avoid fast food because it is poison. Stop eating grains for a month and see if your life improves. For most people, it will.
7. Start walking. Walk places, take the stairs, start a fitness routine on top of your walking. Nothing crazy. Pick up some weight and put it down. Repeat. Get your heart rate up and let it come back down. Repeat. Take a day or two of easy rest every week, but walk every day. It doesn’t matter if you are obese, these are the first steps towards personal health. Take them.
8. Start mediating. Not in the zen voodoo kind of way (unless you want to). Schedule a few minutes each day to organize your thoughts around a particular purpose. Keep a notepad and write down the time and the intention you set. Notice how these thoughts change over time.
9. Schedule a time each week and each month to review your goals and your actions towards achieving those goals.
10. Developing the habits above will give you the time and energy to pursue the sacrifices below.
11. Now, start building a broad foundation of excellence. I suggest that this starts mainly with education. If we assume your goal is to be extraordinary at work, you have to identify what it is that you don’t know, and learn it. If you are in sales and need to be a better sales person, go to the library every day and read about sales techniques (or cruise the internet for blogs about the topic), about time management, research your target customers, whatever it takes. Talk to the people you consider extraordinary. Ask them for advice about your specific need. Be brave. Most people are cowardly when it comes to asking for help. It is not cowardice but bravery that drives someone from the comforts of ordinary to the challenging lifestyle of “extraordinary.”In the meantime, just start asking for whatever it is you need. All this boils down to is TAKE ACTIONS that advance your general ability.
12. Take notes. Take in everything that is useful to you and make a personal library of things that you learn. As you grow, you will need to review this library. Eventually the knowledge will become second nature, but until it does, review your progress every week. Over time, condense your notes to only what is essential.
13. As you begin to move from a place of general self-improvement, you will discover more precise and narrow areas of your life that you will need to spend time on. The larger and broader the base you’ve developed, the higher you will be able to rise. At this point, you should notice that your mood has changed, you are more assertive, you are in better shape, and you are having less personal conflict in your life. Continue to make ever more specific goals that are taking you on the path you’ve chosen, towards your model of extraordinary. More than likely, a year has passed at this point. You probably don’t have the commitment to do anything for a year right now as you read this. But you have the ability to start with one day, and that one day should be today. Repeat.
14. Help others. Do not hoard your newfound self-knowledge. Help others start on their own path to self-improvement, not by telling them what is wrong, but by simply saying yes when asked for help. Gently guide others to self-improvement habits. Do things for people that will help you build a network fo people who think highly of you. Do this because it is the right thing to do, and will promote the feeling within yourself that you are indeed extraordinary.
15. Use what you’ve learned thus far to develop true expertise in at least one area. Be the person other people in your organization go to for info on the topic. Write a blog, start speaking about the topic, take chances that you will make mistakes and be made a fool in public. The first or second time sucks. But you will eventually master these skills, and truly become an expert.
16. Evaluate your progress. If you’ve taken the actions above, you will no longer feel ordinary.