5 Ingredients for a Big, ExtraOrdinary life

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I found this ad as I was looking through a glossy at the dentist.

It was for a car. A big car.

According to the people at Suburban, BIG car = BIG life.

Hmmmm….this got me thinking of the definition of a big life. By America’s standards it may appear that big life means: A packed scheduled, huge home (maybe even a second home), many vehicles and lots of lots of stuff.

I choose to define a big life as an existence full of relationships, faith, good health, adventures, contentment, margins for down-time, and purpose within a career.

These are all parts that move the needle on my Happiness Barometer.

As a family we still have so far to go in the way of taking the big out of the material and putting more emphasis on my list above. That’s a true statement on the car ad: There is so much more to life, but of course I’m going in the opposite direction from the thinking of our friends at Suburban. So much more exists on the other side of making big purchases to fill up our big lives…according to one of my favorite minimalists and authors, You can buy happiness (and it’s cheap). The good news is you don’t have to pare down to 200 square feet of dwelling space or live out of a backpack to feel the thrill of a BIG LIFE.

I put the word ExtraOrdinary in my blog title because I’ve always felt the pull to live differently in this conventional world…or should I say conventional U.S., because I do feel people in other parts of the world seem to get it a lot more than we do. Stuff clouds our collective American view and creates the disconnect so many people complain about. I’m a proud U.S. citizen, no doubt about that, but I do wish as a country we could re-prioritize our lives to maximize inner & outer happiness. I believe that a Big ExtraOrdinary life comes from making intentional choices. Along the way I’ve identified a few that have made all the difference.

 

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1) Invest time in your marriage/relationship.

What’s that quote from H. Jackson Brown? “Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.” I tend to believe this. I was fortunate enough to get it right with husband-picking the first time around (I know lots of people figure it out later in life) and so much of the climate in our home is determined by how the hub and I navigate this vida loca. Over the last 18 years it’s been a team effort and I feel the reason it’s been a solid team is because we invest in date nights, vacations sans offspring, and the weekly check-in. When kids came on the scene, I craved time with him minus the crying and airborne peas and carrots.These days I yearn for peaceful couple time in the absence of teen drama. He’s my first choice every time when it comes to adventure partners….it was a joint decision to make this life ExtraOrdinary.

2) Choose work that fills you up.

It’s very hard to head in the direction of a Big, ExtraOrdinary life when you don’t want to get up and face the day. There are a lot of people out there who see the 30++ hours a week as a break in pursuing ExtraOrdinary-ness (if I can create a new word)..it’s a weekend thing. It can’t be! Big lives happen each any every day of the week. Yes, we have to do the laundry, go to the dentist and write checks to the cable company, BUT an unpleasant job that sucks the very humanity out of a you is always going to get in the way of living the life you know you are worthy of. There might be major financial sacrifice or a change of location in choosing work you love, but ExtraOrdinary is waiting and it will be worth it.

3) Put family before career.

It is a wonderful thing to love your job. I’m finally there in my 3rd grade classroom, but I’m very careful about creating boundaries between work and the clan at home. That old cliche’ about “it all goes by so fast” and “you’ll turn around and your kids will be all grown up”—both true. I’m looking at my high school-bound child #1 and can’t believe that in five short years two unused rooms will be collecting dust. These days, family adventure has never been so important. Luckily, child #2 is extremely skilled at getting us out in the world, whether it’s the park for a evening picnic or a weekend hike in the mountains. We are also intentional about dinners together at the table (with a napkin!) to catch up and make plans. The Airstream purchase manifested from our desire to travel as a family and explore the U.S. together.

4)  Recognize your talents and put them to use in everything you do.

Post 40th birthday, I finally stopped wishing for skills I didn’t have. I had confidence in the contributions I knew I could make in the world starting with my own house. I’m an extremely creative person with no left brain (luckily, I married a left-brainer—together we make a whole brain!) and if a project requires imagination, I’m your girl. It’s been so fun to create in every area of my life: our home, charity fundraisers, birthday parties, holiday gifts, Airstream interior…the list is long of the various things I’ve taken on, but I have to say there would be no ExtraOrdinary if I didn’t own the gifts I’ve been given and use them. Some of you—God bless ya—are left brained people who can organize, establish and regulate for yourselves and others. How amazing that we can make the world better by the specific gifts we’ve been given! And in turn, create an ExtraOrdinary life for ourselves.

5) Travel as much as you can to as many different places as you can.

I always come back from a trip amazed by how much is out there beyond my own little world. I love, love, love getting off a plane in a new city ready to explore. My 6’6″ spouse is not as willing to head to places like Australia (Melbourne, I need to visit you!), but I will get to the far ends of the earth at some point in my life. I did the Eurail thing after college by myself and I can honestly say it shaped me more than 4 years of college did. My AFS exchange experience in Tunisia in ’88 played a huge part in forming the person I was to become. My biggest dreams involve plane tickets & a small backpack and/or an Airstream and U.S. map. I have the same dreams for my girls because I know for a fact that it invites ExtraOrdinary in.

There are some great posts out there about being ExtraOrdinary. This one is great and of course, Courtney rocked this subject with clarity, as usual. I think it’s something we all want more of. Who wants to be conventional when you can squeeze every last ounce of amazing (and yes, I’m using it as a noun) out of your well-lived life.

What makes your life ExtraOrdinary, friends?

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19 thoughts on “5 Ingredients for a Big, ExtraOrdinary life

  1. Hello!

    This seems so brilliant.

    True that most of our thinking, not only in U.S., but almost in every part of the world is getting blocked with such types of thinking.

    I really loved your honesty and suggestions.

    Glad to have stumbled upon your blog.

    Would love a feedback from a fellow minimalist on my blog about minimalism and simplicity.

    keep reading, keep writing and keep minimizing!

    Best,

    Hardik
    http://thatindianminimalist.wordpress.com

    • Hardik! When I think about what I was doing at 19 I just cringe. Holy moly, you are a man beyond your years—good for you! I love your thoughts on judgement…we need to release it for maximum happiness. I think you’re going in a wonderful direction. I’m glad you found me! Happy minimizing to you as well 🙂

      • Eh, yes.

        Thank you, I am glad, I discovered this Minimalism thing.

        Ah, yes leaving judgement behind is hard, but nothing helps better than that.

        Keep reading. And cheers. 🙂

  2. Love this! I’m a right brainer married to a left brainer, too! And elementary teacher for 13 years, but now stay at home mom! Feelin’ a kinship with ya! But, oh I don’t put enough into my marriage. We rarely do date nights and have yet to have a sans kids vacation in the last 7 years since kids. I’m going to work on it!!

    • Yes—kindred spirits, for sure. You can relate when I tell you that a lot of my school clutter just made a nice little transition to my classroom. ugh. I need to get my hands on all of it in the summer when I’m not totally encompassed by little people. Good for you for staying home! I did that too. It’s important work…the most important you’ll ever do, right? Take a hold of those date nights…they’ll make all the difference. Best to you and your family, Beth!

  3. Great post!

    It’s so nice to put down that technology that’s constantly plaguing our minds, and to just breathe a little. That is what qualifies a “Big ExtraOrdinary Life” for me. Being able to take a step back and relish in everything I have and accomplished.

    • I don’t think we do that enough as a culture—stand back and just relish what we’ve Done, rather than what is TO DO. Well said. It’s a challenge, but so, so worth it. Thanks for visiting!

    • Life’s too short for ordinary, don’t you think? Love your blog. I happen to think mothering is the most important (and sometimes the most difficult) job title there is. It was so hard for me–I think I started my photography business 30 seconds after my second child was born. I never regret those days spent with strained carrots in my hair and 50 story books in my lap. It was precious, precious time…love that your spot on the internet supports women who’ve made that choice. Awesome! My mom was an actor my whole childhood—the scheduling thing could be challenging, but the flexibility was great (plus it was fun to see her in plays, commercials and one very cool movie). I was proud of her—I’m sure your kids think you’re amazing too.

  4. Great Blog! I am so glad I found it 🙂 For me, the extraordinary is found in my everyday surroundings. My career, ( I also am an elementary school teacher, music) my music, my friends, and my family. I believe when we are truly engaged in our activities, we live life to the fullest. 🙂

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