What is “Extraordinary”?
Let’s begin our journey together by examining the concept of “extraordinary”. What does the word technically mean? To understand this, we can look at traditional definitions. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that extraordinary means:
“: very unusual : very different from what is normal or ordinary… extremely good or impressive”
This is a comparative concept. It means “something very different from something else – normal or ordinary”. Comparative concepts like these can make achieving extraordinary challenging; how do you know when you have achieved extraordinary? What is the measurement? What are the milestones?
If you are an achiever in life and career, you are probably a goal-setter; you probably relish the thought of checking of milestones, tasks and other objectives. In fact, if you’re like me you probably keep lists to track your progress in various aspects of life; and you might even add a completed task on an existing list just to have the distinct thrill of checking it off—evidence of success. Admit it! You do it, don’t you?
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However, adding “Be Extraordinary” to a list such as this is fruitless, because the phrase cannot be measured or simply checked off as finished. To do this, we will have to dig deeper and define what the term means in concrete terms. What does “Being Extraordinary” mean to you, in your life?
Before we dive too deep into this personal definition of extraordinary, a closer examination of “ordinary or normal” might be in order. Webster’s dictionary has two definitions that are related to our subject matter:
- “of a kind to be expected in the normal order of events : routine, usual <an ordinary day>”
- “a : of common quality, rank, or ability <an ordinary teenager> b : deficient in quality : poor, inferior <ordinary wine> “
Isn’t it interesting that the second definition uses the phrase, “deficient in quality”? This feels very much like a cultural assignment—a judgment on what is good enough to most on most days. This definition gives me pause to wonder how this cultural judgment impacts self-worth when internalized by a society.
On most days, in many situations, “good enough” is simply good enough. Wisdom indicates that there are times when “good enough” is the best balance of time, attention and energy in something that does not rank high on a well-prioritized list. If we were to be dissatisfied with ordinary 100% of the time, we could arguably be labeled “perfectionist”. Perfectionism has its’ own litany of issues and negative connotations, most of which to not cultivate an extraordinary life experience.
“Wisdom indicates that there are times when “good enough” is the best balance of time, attention and energy in something that does not rank high on a well-prioritized, values-based list.”
Perfectionism is a continual unrest, dissatisfaction, and tormenting judgment. This is not a state of being that contributes to being extraordinary. Indeed, our productivity and effectiveness in all aspects of life can be greatly diminished through a constant focus on perfect. Key relationships often suffer because the inner-turmoil and constant judgment builds impenetrable castle walls and motes around us, disconnecting us from others and our ability to succeed.
This disconnected state deteriorates our ability to influence others. In terms of leadership, perfectionism can be effective in the short-term, but is not the stuff of great leaders who others want to follow and emulate.
In families, perfectionism equals tremendous stress and dysfunction. It erodes trust and builds resentment when it is the primary focus for communication and living together. Chronic perfectionism and the continual dissatisfaction communicated can create long-term relational riffs and eat away self-respect in all involved.
So, being extraordinary is not being perfect. We will examine personality types another time as they relate to states of being, but for now let’s decide that our goal is not to become super humans, perfect in all things; and it’s certainly not to harbor judgment and/or resentment as a regular practice. These states simply do not serve us well in terms of life/career experience.
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