Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Looking for the (extra)ordinary

What is ordinary? The Oxford English Dictionary defines ordinary as:

with no special or distinctive features; normal : he sets out to depict ordinary people | it was just an ordinary evening.
• uninteresting; commonplace : ordinary items of everyday wear.

Ordinary can also be described as milk-toast, unremarkable or boring. Personally, I relish an ordinary day when work runs smoothly and everything is good in the universe. Unfortunately, many of us are under the assumption that if you are ordinary, you are not special. This prompt asked me to let go of the falsehoods that keep me from true self-reliance. Here is a list of some of  my unfounded expectations.

False comparisons with others

As I have mentioned in other posts, I have a fear that I am not enough. What I mean is that no matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough for the people who matter most to me. Now that I am near completion of my MBA I am forced to think about what my next steps will be professionally.

Do I have what it takes to be successful in the business world? Will I be taken seriously as a skilled business woman? Will I be shut out because my experience is chiefly in retail? Am I too old?

All of these questions are unfair and untrue comparisons to an invisible “other.” There is no real reason why I shouldn’t be taken seriously. I am not too old! I have more experience than most others who are searching for a career.

False expectations of myself

My false expectations tie in with my false comparisons. For example: at my age, I should already have achieved a certain level of success. Another false expectation is that I am not successful unless I have my own office, drive an expensive car and go to the right places.

The truth is that I have lived up to so many of my expectations. I married the right man, I have two amazing children, I am thought of as an expert in the field of customer experience. I started and maintain a blog. It is crucial that I open my eyes to all that I have accomplished rather than what is still missing.

My false investments in a story

Most false investments are based in fear. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of abandonment. Because of fear, it took me 20 years to finish my undergraduate degree. Fear of being alone kept me from learning to love and accept who I was. Fear of acceptance stifles me still. Why do I continue to be concerned how I am perceived? Why does it matter if I am liked? It is because I am not afraid to ask these questions of myself, that I continue to grow as a leader. I believe that unlocking questions like these will take me to the next level of self reliance.

Most Ordinary by Patti Digh 

Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are our most potent at our most ordinary. And yet most of us discount our “ordinary” because it is, well, ordinary. Or so we believe. But my ordinary is not yours. Three things block us from putting down our clever and picking up our ordinary: false comparisons with others (I’m not as good a writer as _____), false expectations of ourselves (I should be on the NYTimes best seller list or not write at all), and false investments in a story (it’s all been written before, I shouldn’t bother). What are your false comparisons? What are your false expectations? What are your false investments in a story? List them. Each keep you from that internal knowing about which Emerson writes. Each keeps you from making your strong offer to the world. Put down your clever, and pick up your ordinary.

(Author: Patti Digh)

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