A few weeks ago I was laid up in bed with a bad leg infection which restricted my movement and made walking outside my front door almost impossible.
Not sure if someone up there was trying to convey a message to slow down. Frustrating though this was, it highlighted one important realisation.
I missed my daily routine.
It was baffling, as there really was nothing extraordinary about this.
I wasn’t meeting Mark Zuckerberg for coffee or having a strategic session with Richard Branson. I noticed, to my surprise, how much I had begun to value the mundane and ordinary parts of the day. Especially when this became suspended for a few weeks.
Daily walks with my dog, engaging in a conversation with the postman and touching base with the selection of Slovakian security guards punctuating my street guarding school entrances. I missed speaking to the ladies in the swimming pool I attend weekly. Turning up to my dance class and joining the others whilst complaining about our weight gain clearly visible through the studio mirror.
Nothing ground-breaking and totally ordinary.
Put it this way, it’s not the type of routine people crave to create, but there is a comfort in the ordinary. Those activities in our life that ground us and build a foundation of interaction with the world and our environment.
In years gone by, I dreamed of a life of sheer success and excitement.
Huge amounts of travel to exotic, far away places and business contacts in each continent. Yet in the past year, I travelled more than I have ever done, covering more long haul flights than I dreamed possible and clocked up more air miles.
But the reality is, much as I feel gratitude for the opportunities, I craved to be home.
There’s a magic in drawing yourself closer to home both physically and emotionally, not everything is out there and somewhere to get to.
When Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ became divorced, she decided to travel as a way of finding herself. She started off in Italy, sampling the local cuisine and tasting every pasta dish possible, further on travelling to Bali on her personal quest.
She befriended the medicine man Ketut who gave her a few words of wisdom and in those words, she told herself she had finally found the meaning she had always been searching for. What she failed to notice was that the toothless Medicine man Ketut had never been further than his front yard and yet was the happiest man she had ever met.
She missed this pretty important point because she was too busy looking to him to try and extract an extraordinary piece of wisdom she could live from.
Yet it was staring right in front of her.
He needn’t have come up with any words of wisdom, as his actions demonstrated it. Everything was magical to him and he lived in a constant state of presence, with no desire to travel to New York to find it. He knew all he needed was right there with him.
All that was needed was to transform the ordinary moments into extraordinary.
We stare at the distance often wondering what could be over the side of the fence. The truth is that ‘over there’ is not more amazing than ‘over here’.
Yet in looking towards another direction, we dismiss those special moments in our everyday, ordinary life because we’re too busy running towards the next phenomena that will do it for us.
Yet we have the potential to elevate each moment, find the magic within it.
It’s as if I asked you to look out for the colour red once you finish reading this article.
Each item that even has a red lining or stitching will stand out a mile as you look around your surroundings. This is how we draw out the extraordinary, by looking for it, even when it seems bleak, invisible and almost impossible to find.
I can assure you that if there is even one tiny red stitching on your black three piece sofa, your eyes will now notice it.
What if we could notice and elevate those moments of life in the same way?
After I recovered from my leg injury, I began to reflect on how I’ve always signed my e-mails and even finished my voicemail messages with ‘Have a great day!’ In the past few weeks I’ve questioned this.
Imagine the pressure of having to create a great day, rather than approaching it without any expectation whatsoever.
Our culture and media asks us to dream big, whilst Internet Entrepreneurs are seducing us into multi-million dollar businesses, otherwise, it feels we haven’t ‘made it’. We need to aim for this type of extraordinary, but this almost always entails needing to create what hasn’t been created. Investing a huge amount of time in doing so.
Why does it have to be such a monumental experience of almost theatrical proportions?
What if our every day was composed of small extraordinary moments?
Those mundane interactions we elevate to a higher level. This is not something planned or scheduled, it just happens when we stop, take a breather and slow down.
This means experiencing life more fully, rather than in a half-hearted way.
A year ago I attended an event by motivational coach Tony Robbins. I watched gobsmacked as he paced up and down a stage, impacting 8,000 people who had travelled from all parts of the world to watch him speak. I have never seen anyone command a stage the way he does.
Tony didn’t ask the audience to dream big, or become like him.
Because there is only one Tony Robbins.
He had a simple message; Raise your standard, that’s all.
It’s not about having these huge aspirations that make us feel disappointed, overwhelmed and deflated when we struggle to meet them. It’s simply about being better today than you were yesterday.
A tweak, even a 1% difference.
Raising the standard by which we communicate, interact, and experience the world today more than we did yesterday. It’s a great place in which to create from.
When we have an expectation that we need to have an extraordinary life, we live in a sense of expectation. Then we start measuring up against everyone else.
There’s a huge weight of expectation to be extraordinary, but we’re just ordinary people with the ability to have extraordinary experiences. Is that not good enough?
Look around at what you already have.
The trees outside the window you’ve ignored, the delivery man you’ve dismissed, the grandparents you might never call, and the outside environment you’ve blanked out. Eliminate the expectation of how things should be, and see what already is. Be present to it and turn up the intensity to experience it more than you did yesterday.
This isn’t about dismissing travel or new experiences, as these can be incredibly enriching and life-enhancing.
I have travelled to places that have filled me with joy and have given me a greater understanding of humanity and the beauty that is around us the world over. But we shouldn’t be deluded that we also can’t find aspects of the incredible closer to home.
Elizabeth Gilbert thought she had found the extraordinary when she travelled around the beautiful island of Bali. Her home in New York would not be an exotic enough location in which to have insights or find any type of wisdom. She met her handsome partner in Bali and after the initial elation wore off, she was walking through the divorce courts again a few years later.
I guess she didn’t find herself in Bali after all. Although she did gain an incredible book and movie deal in the process.
Her story echoes my own and so many other people I have met in life. I haven’t met many people who are immune to this.
Charity not only begins at home, but everything does.
Transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary requires a deep presence and a desire to live in a more engaged way, not simply skimming through or experiencing life in a diluted fashion, but fully.
This requires a level of gratitude and of peeling away all that gets in the way of experiencing the moment. Being more and doing less, removing the expectation of how something needs to be. Experiencing life without expectation or demand and re-tuning our love for what surrounds us, however ordinary it might look.