Leading an Ordinary Life is Extraordinary

A look at our culture's obsession with the extraordinary, and why an ordinary life is a life worth living.

I just finished re-watching a fantastic video sent to me by a like-minded friend. This video clip is of a speaker named, Brene Brown, who researches topics such as vulnerability and shame, among other things.

She has many profound insights, but something that really stuck with me was this — she talks about our culture's obsession with being extraordinary, and how we've come to associate an ordinary life, with a meaningless life.

This is true, and it is horrible. She goes on to say that the ordinary parts of life; such as, connecting with loved ones, communing with nature, and pausing for moments of gratitude, are the very things that give life meaning, yet we undervalue them constantly in our search to find something better. But here's the thing... there is nothing better. Everything you do, acquire, or become will be hollow and insignificant, unless it is fueled by simple, ordinary moments of connection and gratitude.

This quest to find the extraordinary is often expressed in our need to stay busy; somehow we seem to think that being perpetually busy means that we're important, dare I say, extraordinary! We have even gone so far, as to force our children into this perverse way of being, by keeping them over-scheduled in a desperate attempt to make them extraordinary!

Obviously, the child who participates in piano, soccer, ballet, and karate will grow to be superior to the children who stay home and play in their yards. Clearly, these children will lead happy, fulfilling lives, and never fall prey to the suffocating existence of an ordinary person. This is a delusion that many of us seem unwilling or unable to see through. These children are not happier, they're not extraordinary, and neither are you.

What good is striving, if you miss the beauty of the spring flowers and full moon? Who cares about your child's excellence, if you can't even tell me the exact color of their eyes? Have you ever paused long enough to look? Who gives a whit about your perfect body, if you've given up the pleasure of a delicious meal? And how impressive is your job, if it consumes every ounce of your spirit? Does your extraordinary spouse even remember to hold your hand?

An ordinary life is a gift, not something to be cast aside, or placed on the back-burner for a later time. An ordinary life is what you find when you've taken the time to filter through all of the bull, in order to uncover what is actually valuable. An ordinary life is not boring, insignificant, or meaningless; in fact, it's the exact opposite, if you open your eyes and heart wide enough to take it in.

I think a great deal of our unhappiness stems from this inability to appreciate simplicity. We're so worried about doing something noteworthy, that we wind up missing countless opportunities to live a life of true value. Taking your children outside to look at the stars matters. Gazing into your lover's eyes, and truly seeing them, is life-changing. Having a picnic on the beach, by yourself, is a valuable way to spend your time.

The people I envy most, are those who spend more time being than doing. If you can cherish summer's first tomato, pause to stare at the clouds, laugh with a child, or hug and hold on; then I say, that your ordinary life is nothing short of extraordinary!

If these simple moments elude you, then I urge you to dwell in the ordinary for a while, only when you cease striving, will you find what your soul truly seeks.

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Cate Tsahalis April 06, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Thanks, Matt!
Thressa Milianta April 07, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Perfectly written! You were reading my mind :)
Corey Fyke April 07, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Well-said, and so true. I was just remarking to a friend the other day that there's very little time set aside in modern life to stop and smell the roses. Great blog, Cate!
Cate Tsahalis April 07, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Thank you, Thressa. Who knew that I had mind-reading abilities?!
Cate Tsahalis April 07, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Thanks, Corey. You're absolutely right, there isn't enough time in modern life to stop and smell the roses, but somehow we have to change that. These moments are simply too important to let pass us by!


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