When do we call it quits on the sacrificial stage?

The unfortunate thing about pursuing something extraordinary in our lives is that every time we try to do something to help us break free from this real world mess, it only adds more onto our plate. Thus I found when I started our photography business and began working so much that I’d forget to shower, eat, and even sometimes I’d forget to pee… NEVER forget to pee, it only ends badly.

It just seems so impossible and so insurmountable sometimes to rise above any of the things that continually suck us back down into the dirt. The muddy, fertilizy, rocky dirt. Well I’m not going to pretend I know the answers and I’m not going to lie to you and tell you this is easy because if I do my husband will call me out and remind me that just last week I was inhaling tums and wailing about how it is NOT cool at all to have pain in my heart from stress.  Having your heart in physical, actual, real pain is NOT a good sign and it will most definitely make you question what you’re doing with your life… especially when you go to shower that night and find the red welts rising up on your skin wherever a piece of clothing was touching you.  My body is literally trying to find ways to expel stress… out my pores if it has to… its revolting, it’s fighting.  It hates me and it has good reason to. But what am I supposed to do? Give up?

How long can you stay in this sacrificial growth period that is supposed to ultimately lead to better things? Because I’m pretty sure I’m nearing the end of my little trip to sacrifice land.  So when is it enough? I really don’t have the answers here so I’m just leaving you with a question to ponder. How do we know when a difficult sacrificial stage for extraordinary living has become too much and needs to end?

 

Is Extraordinary Living Selfish?

Since my initial concept of this blog began to form, there is one major challenge I have wrestled with constantly.  Am I putting myself first too much in my attempt to live a Rare Existence?  The fact that you are currently reading this blog means that I have decided the answer is no. But still, it is a question that requires some thought, so I’m putting my musings out there.

There are 3 main reasons I do not believe extraordinary living is selfish.

1. Your role in the world matters.

Yes, I do believe that loving the world around you and giving of yourself to humanity as a whole are key elements to a well lived life.
I do not see living an extraordinary life as being in opposition to that life model, in fact I think they go hand in hand quite well. I believe that people’s talents, experiences, weaknesses, strengths, genetic predispositions, etc. all make up one whole unique person.  And it is my belief that each one whole unique person exists to fill certain holes in the world in a way that only that specific person with that specific makeup can fill. That said, I believe that if you are doing something that you are not fit to do or living as if every person were meant to do the same things, then you are going to be unsatisfied and potentially inhibit the world around you from living up to it’s full potential.
The main reason I think everyone should be living the destiny they are made for, is because I believe it is the main thing that will make their life beneficial to those around them.  I definitely agree that living your life for the good of others is the number one priority…  I just happen to think that living the life you are meant to live is one of the best ways to do that.

 2. Sacrificial love isn’t always what it seems.

Yes, life and love require sacrifices. It’s not all sunshine and roses and it’s not all about pursuing things that make you happy.  Sometimes you do things you don’t like for the sake of others.
The problem arises when people define themselves by these sacrifices.
It is so much easier to play the victim.  So much simpler to not push yourself in life because you simply assume your position holds you stationary.  No, life doesn’t always go as planned, no life is not all about our happiness, and yes sometimes love does require more sacrifice than we want to make.  But within all that we still have choices, and no one choice has to define us for the rest of our life because we still have choices after that.  Many people let the sacrifice phase run their entire life so that it no longer can be called a phase, but rather…well, it’s just called their life at that point. Spending your entire life sacrificing what you are meant to be doing with your life for the sake of others has consequences to not only you but to those you believe you are sacrificing for.
The good intentions behind our sacrifices can quickly turn into excuses to avoid our fears.
When this happens, we begin basing our life decisions on fear disguised as love and this is of benefit to no one, no matter how much we want to believe it is.  We are telling ourselves that we are living the way we are for the sake of another person, when really that person/situation can go on just fine without us.  But we are incapable of acknowledging that because that is going to require more self-examination and change than we are ready for.  When we get to this point, we are in the danger zone because there is a good chance that we are doing more harm than good by what we are still calling a “loving sacrifice.”  It’s important to constantly ask yourself “are my past sacrifices still necessary or am I just stuck in a bad routine that I have been afraid of questioning?”  Knowing when to make sacrifices for others is just as important as knowing when to move forward with your life within that sacrifice, or when to let go of the sacrifice entirely.
 I fully believe that you can commit to truly loving others in life and still pursue an extraordinary life.
Sacrificing for others doesn’t have to mean giving up your dreams and loving people doesn’t have to mean you don’t get to be happy yourself.  In fact, for many people, living an extraordinary life is all about giving up their comforts to enable them to love others better (as in the story of Kelli that I featured awhile back).  I also believe that love, happiness, filling the role you are destined for, and selflessness all fit together very well and often create a circle where each aspect feeds and strengthens the others.

3. Your loved ones will thank you.

Anyone who is drained of passion, hope, and joy is not going to be of much use to people around them.
If you are a mom who has become a complete martyr for your children and do not have a single ounce of self-esteem or personal identity left in you… what are teaching your kids about life?  If you are a husband who uses every ounce of energy you have to just survive every single workday long enough to be able to make it home and zone out in front of the TV… what kind of love are you able to give to your wife and what kind of example are you being to your kids about how to love people?
Sick people can’t make others healthy because disease spreads.  Push aside your fears and be willing to constantly ask yourself what needs to be done for the greater good of others… you might be surprised that it requires that you be healthy and happy so you can love others well.  Make the choice to be a healthy person who can lead others to health by example.

The bottom line is that though extraordinary living is focusing on yourself and your own life while pursuing changes that might result in your own personal happiness, that doesn’t make it selfish; because it is those very changes that will most likely result in positive changes in the lives of those around you. If doing what you are meant to be doing with your life makes you happier (and it’s likely that it will) that does not automatically make you selfish. Happiness does not have to equal selfishness. If you are pursuing your own happiness IN SPITE of what’s best for those around you, well then that’s another story. But extraordinary living is not about finding what you WANT to do with your life but what you are MEANT to do with your life and I don’t believe what you are truly meant to do with your life is something that will be detrimental to your loved ones, but in fact beneficial to them… as well as to yourself. As long as your happiness comes from things that are good and true then it is a gift from God and can be one of the greatest sources of the love that you extend to others.

The Emotions of Change: grieving your losses

“So you’re telling me that in order to take the next step forward, I have to give up WHAT?!?”
It’s the least favorite part of change for all of us… the stuff we have to give up. Whether it’s as simple as comforts and conveniences, or as complicated as relationships, there is a good chance that creating positive change is going to result in some losses. Even if you take the time prior to making a big change to examine these losses and weigh them against the gains, you’re still bound to be caught off guard by at least a few surprise losses or by how strongly you feel the hit as you begin to release the losses.

Just so you know, it’s OK to feel sad. 
Even during an exciting time in your life full of hope, joy, and opportunity, it’s good to take a step back and grieve the things you are giving up. In fact, I think it’s imperative to do so. Grief is a very important process that we need to go through at different stages in life to maintain our emotional health and sanity. If you try to ignore your sadness, it will affect you in some other way and will likely cause you more problems.

When I decided to move from Phoenix to LA, I turned each loss into a new doubt about my decision. 
What if my 3 year old niece forgets who I am? Maybe this is the wrong decision.  What if I trade my spacious two bed, two bath apartment for a tiny one bedroom with a shared bathroom and then still can’t afford to eat out or go to yoga class? Maybe this is a stupid decision. What if my husband and I have to spend mid-sized holidays like 4th of July alone? Maybe we shouldn’t go.

It wasn’t until my husband pointed out that I wasn’t experiencing doubt but rather sadness, that I realized I needed to take a moment to first identify my losses and then to grieve them.  I am sad I will miss my 3 year old niece.  I am sad I won’t get to enjoy some of the luxuries I experience now.  I am sad I won’t see all of my extended family on every single holiday of the year as I used to.

My ungrieved losses were also turning into fears…and trust me I already have enough fears to go around, I definitely don’t need more!  Maybe my 3 year old niece needs me to have special place in her life or she will end up a mass murderer serving 25 to life by the time she turns 18!  Maybe my husband and I will grow to hate each other living in such close quarters and our anger will be compounded by our lack of exercise and not being able to afford to escape even to a night out at a restaurant and it will also end in murder!  Maybe all kinds of crazy resentments will spring up between my family and myself, only we will never spend enough time together to appropriately deal with them and people will start dying and I will be left with horrible guilt and sadness over our unresolved issues… or maybe more murder will happen!

As you can see, my sadness over the people and things I was distancing myself from turned into a obsessive fear of death and destruction (as well as an extra 10 lbs) because I didn’t recognize the truth behind the emotions I was experiencing and I refused to acknowledge that some of my decisions were going to cause some sadness for both myself and others.

I know you think you can be all clever and trick your emotional being, but you can’t.
Have fun with the aftermath if you don’t believe me… and take down the number for Weight Watchers the next time Jennifer Hudson is on TV giving it to you because you’re going to need it. I recommend that the next time you find yourself going through major change, take a second, whether you are experiencing strong emotions or not (since so many of us are good at numbing ourselves), and make a list of the things your are losing. Count your losses and allow yourself to be sad about each one. And whenever a negative emotion of any kind presents itself, stop and ask yourself if you are feeling the appropriate emotion about it or if you are using some sort of defense mechanism to keep yourself from feeling the things you are designed and in desperate need to feel. Here’s a tissue, now get to work.

You can do it my dear

This post is dedicated to two of my friends (you know who you are).

 

“You can do it my dear.” That is what I told myself when my husband and I both went full time into our new photography business which has continued to support us for the past 3 years.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend, Kelli, told herself as she gave up her successful career to start up her non-profit organization that now helps hundreds of foster children every year.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Molly told herself (and her husband!) as he went in to reverse his vasectomy after they decided that extraordinary living for them means having and raising as many children as possible (they now have 4 boys and are pregnant with their 5th baby!).

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend, Nicole, told herself when she started up her blog that now has a large fan base and is leading to major speaking opportunities which enable her to help all kinds of people in more ways than she dreamed possible.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Christina told herself when her and her husband decided to start saving their money to fulfill their dream of living on Maui- which they succeeded in doing 5 years later.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Julia told herself as she gave up her life, time, and energy to nursing school because what she is meant to do with her life is help people.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Lynn told herself as her and her husband set off to leave their home in Phoenix and live in Chicago for a year… just to have an adventure.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Abby told herself when she moved to Africa to start housing and taking care of orphaned children there.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Katie told herself when she started sewing wedding dresses out of old tablecloths and soon became busier than she could handle sewing all kinds of unique women’s clothing.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what I want you to tell yourself next time you have a dream, inkling or idea, that seems made of equal parts amazing and impossible.

“You can do it my dear.” That is what I want you to tell your friends when they share their big dreams and ideas with you… right before you pull out a pen and paper and help them write out the steps to accomplish their plan.

YOU can do it my dear(s).

 

My Internal Guts are an Ooey Gooey Mess.

I’ve done it. I have an extraordinary life. At least that’s what my stats reflect….

Married 7 years. No children. Living on the beach in Southern CA. Photographer. Writer. Fraternize with Hollywood types (C list celebs count). Owner of a successful business. Work with my husband. Debt free (both our business and personal). Free trips to exotic locations for work… with my husband. Living like the rich despite being less than rich (see previous point). I now walk or ride our bike to more locations than we drive to. My friends are the shit. I’m a regular participant in cultured sort of activities (i.e. Broadway shows, museums, concerts, etc). I’m a regular participant in not-so cultured activities (i.e. pub crawls, turtle races, and street performance volunteering). I take 3 week vacations… back to back sometimes. I wait 6 month to go get my roots touched up, call it ombre, and pull it off only because I’m from Southern California.

I mean I get it, I have a lot and my life is pretty much the bees knees.

So why am I not completely satisfied by my circumstances?
I’ve done the work, made the sacrifices, and taken the risks to put me in a place that is set up perfectly for extraordinary living. I’ve been working on setting up my external circumstances for years, so what’s left to adjust so I can really appreciate these circumstances I’ve worked so hard to bring about? Oh yeah… ME!!!!

It’s time to work on my INTERNAL aspects of extraordinary living.
You can adjust your outward situation all you want, but if you never look inward, then you will feel the exact same about life regardless of if you are living in a multi-million dollar mansion with a butler to bring in your gold encrusted chihuahua, or if you live in a grass hut and wipe your kid’s poo off his butt with your hand that you will later clean only with a dry stick (that’s a real thing- watch the movie “Babies”).

No matter how extraordinary my situation is, if my PERSPECTIVE and HEART aren’t extraordinary, my situation is irrelevant.
It’s been through my internal heart work that I’ve found I’m extremely lacking on the perspective issue. I’ve found that no matter what has changed in my life, my perspective has stayed the same. My perspective on life is so ordinary that it’s keeping me from enjoying the extraordinary!

The following is now an official part of my plan for internal extraordinary living.

  1. Be a student and follower in the art of gratefulness.
  2. Accept the belief that I am in control of my stress level… it is a choice (view my stress as an internal issue, not an external one).
  3. Accept the belief that I am control of my happiness level.. it is a choice (view my happiness as an internal issue, not an external one).
  4. Let myself rest and enjoy the fruits of my labor (this is official doctor advice by the way, due to my low function adrenal problem that I’ve created through my stress).
  5. Continue to look inward to see what other changes need to take place within me so that I can spread that healing and growth outside of me.

I’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing to get further and further ahead in my extraordinary life and I’ve let that suck a lot of the me out of me. So now it’s time for me to heal. To rebuild. To grow. To reflect. To rest. And to change my perspective. So that the beauty of my external extraordinary life can be rivaled only by the beauty of my internal extraordinary life. So that I can truly be free to appreciate the blessings I have surrounding me and truly be able to extend those blessings to others. Let this new season of extraordinary internal growth begin!

 

Don’t expect to find the answers in a day

I’ve spent the last 2 years trying to decide what to do with my life.

And that doesn’t mean I just go through my normal day to day activities and hope the idea comes to me. That means I’ve spent hours and hours writing and brainstorming and breaking down ideas. Word associations, lists, rhetorical analysis. I’ve spent the past 2 years doing and I still am just barely touching the very tip of the answers to my questions!

I think it’s important you know this because when you find out that you don’t know what to do with your life it can make you want to throw your hands up in frustration and despair, thinking something’s wring with you, then debate giving up on your extraordinary journey.  But don’t give up! Because in fact….

If you don’t know what to do with your life, YOU ARE NORMAL!

You are like everyone else, even those who are living extraordinary lives! No one knows what they want to do at first! Particularly people who have unique personalities. If you are a unique person that means you’re meant to do something unique and uncommon which means that whatever you’re meant to do is not going to be the first thing that comes to mind when you first start examining the options out there for you. If it’s unusual it’s either going to be hard to come across it or it may even be waiting for you to create it! So just because it isn’t on the tip of your tongue, doesn’t mean you won’t uncover it one day!

Set aside intentional brainstorming time.

Don’t expect a rare magical idea to just float into your head unless you are giving it the time of day to come up with it. I spent the first year of my search having no idea what direction I wanted to go and it wasn’t until I spent a good 3 hours a day for a full 4 days straight (on vacation) sitting there and actually writing about various ideas in my journal that I even began to have an inkling of a possible idea. It was sitting there in a coffee shop in Mexico that I came up with the idea for this blog. An idea that never would’ve come to me if I wasn’t actively pursuing it and investing the necessary time and energy into finding it.

If you need help getting going, take the time to stop and do some of the exercises I’ve given you. Those will help kick start you into doing the kind of work that is essential for your extraordinary journey!

If you keep putting in the intentional work and have some patience, the answers will come to you and I think you’ll find out that they were SO worth the wait!

 

My Big Demon

So today we’re getting personal. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about bra sizes or that weird toe thing you have – or anything like that, there’s just a little (actually giant) confession I’ve got to make here.

It’s no secret that my extraordinary word is FREEDOM. If you know that, then you are not only an excellent reader, but you also know that I usually follow that declaration with a list of fairly generic things that I want to find or maintain freedom from. Well today I’m going to surprise even myself and get really specific up in here. I’m going to tell you what I want freedom from more than anything in the world. It’s an obsession even stronger than the one most girls have with Ryan Gosling’s seemingly photoshopped abs. So what is this obsession that takes precedence even over Mr. “Hey Girl” himself? The correct answer here is FOOD. I want freedom from food. Not from nourishment, not from cooking, and definitely not from the bliss of chocolate truffle cheesecake. I’m fine with all of that really.

What I want is freedom from my addiction to food.

I know that it’s totally normal for most people to daydream about food and spend lots of time looking forward to their next amazing meal. Being in the extreme foodie culture of Los Angeles has taught me that much. What I’m talking about is different than that. I’m talking about when you go out to eat with a friend and you literally can’t even hear a word they’re saying because all you can think about is the dry loaf of bread on the table that is causing you to use every ounce of energy to be socially acceptable enough not to chow both your portion and theirs in one swallow. I’m talking about when you are so full your stomach hurts because you’ve eaten everything tasty in the fridge, and yet you still start looking in the back to find your year old frozen pie crust or baker’s chocolate because even though it’s disgusting… it’s all that’s left.  I’m talking about not wanting to go to parties because you know you won’t be able to stop eating after one…two…three… make that four cookies, and people will notice and even though you’ll be mortified, you’ll reach for another and another after that.  I’m talking about when you spend 30 minutes weeping in shame over how much you just ate, only to eat that same amount 30 min. later when you’re stomach has stretched… which of course leads to another 30 minutes straight of crying. I’m talking about waking up in the morning, almost wishing you didn’t because you know you won’t be able to stop eating today any better than you did yesterday. I’m talking about just about every waking second of your life being devoted to food in some way… scratch that, every second in general because you dream about binging too.

Overeating isn’t the captain of the eating disorders football team or anything. It doesn’t really get the attention that the homecoming queen and king (anorexia and bulimia) get, but it can still bully any of us average Joe’s just as much as the popular kids can.

So now you know why I want freedom.

I can’t imagine how beautiful life could be if I could only find a way to never again eat to the point of almost being sick, or eat even though the food is disgusting and I’m not at all hungry, or leave a social scene because I want to go gorge myself away from my skinny friends, or give up the fight because it just feels pointless. If I could only find a way to escape living under the cloud. I live in a place that is covered in a grey fog, and no matter how much I squint or try to see above it, I just can’t get a clear vision of anything anymore. Either the thoughts of food or the thoughts related to the consequences of my constant thoughts of food, are with me through about 95% of my life. I am at all times hyper aware of where the closest Oreo is or isn’t, how long it will be until I will get to eat my next 98% sugar meal, how tight my jeans feel, how much lesser of a person I feel, how much I hate myself, and how I am just going to go eat more because I hate myself. This is the cycle of shame, addiction, and consequences…. and for me, it all revolves around what goes into my belly (and now my thighs and my butt too).

All the things I described above have been true throughout most of my life.

When I was a cute little, baby fat ridden 6 year old, I began the first page of my diary by describing how I couldn’t wait until I was “16, pretty, skinny, and hanging out at the mall with my boyfriend”. Turns out, I was not skinny when I was 16. I did not get asked to hang out at the mall (but this was partly because AOL browsers had brought the beginnings of online shopping to the world) and boys didn’t ask me to dances, football games, or anything else that Saved By the Bell promised me. When I was 18, I began the painstaking work of finding freedom from food thanks to a great class I took that I’ve since found out has evolved into a cult… hail broccoli, right? By the time I was 19 I was pretty far along the path to Skinnyland and almost wearing a size 6 (I bought a lot of Gap clothes back then because what they called a 6 fit a little more like a 7 and a half). But when I was 20, I broke up with my boyfriend (who, by the way, had fulfilled some of my girlhood fantasies by taking me to the mall sometimes)… and the layers of both fat, and muffin top disguising clothes, came piling back on. Since then, I’ve just gotten worse and worse and felt more and more trapped and controlled by food.

Now the same issue is back to haunt me in a different way.

As I now head down the path towards my extraordinary life, I find myself sort of hoping that many of my nearby dreams will actually wait a couple of years to come true. Wait, what?! Yep, it’s true. The thing is that some of these dreams involve me being in the public eye, so of course I want to wait that extra year since I will FOR SURE have lost 45 lbs by then!  I once heard that when Oprah was nominated for another Emmy in 1992 she actually prayed she wouldn’t win because she was the heaviest she’d ever been and was too embarrassed by her weight to go on stage and accept the award. Her dreams were coming true and her weight was slowing her down (probably both literally and figuratively). And now I’m beginning to feel the same way. The consequences of my obsessive addiction have found a whole new way to tear me down… they are getting in the way of my extraordinary life. In some ways they’ve always put a ceiling on the things I was capable of. But I’m beginning to realize that the chance of me achieving my goals are being significantly diminished, not only because fat people aren’t necessarily a favorite in American culture (despite many of us being huge), but also because my insecurities and wasted energy spent on this will hold me back from even doing something worthy of public attention in the first place. I can really only go so far in obtaining the life I am meant to live if I allow this weakness to control me.

But now, I’m moving on.

Now I’m in sunny southern California, the land of tofu, tummy tucks, and Tina Turner (what? sorry, I couldn’t think of a good T name). And I live right on the beach, which is of course the land of skin, skin, and more skin.  And no matter how many boob enhancing, waist minimizing swimsuits I order online from Victoria Secret, when beach day comes around for my friends, I still feel like a 13 year old girl on her period during Swim Party Saturday who suddenly comes down with small pox or some other previously eradicated disease to avoid attending. I am now surrounded by people who spend their lives eating only organic fruits and vegetables before and after their daily “surfing-yoga-kick boxing-spinning-Pilates-px90-hip hop dance-jogging” combination class. So far being here has still refused to magically turn me into a fit Californian, but I still have high hopes that the Jessica Biel Body Bug will come bite me one day. Not really, I actually am trying to do something about all this. So while I’m spilling all the beans here, I will tell you another secret, I’m in therapy for this now. There is obviously some degree of emotional eating here (notice the boyfriend break up trigger) and I just can’t seem to wrap my little head around the problems of my big body. I’ve also stumbled upon a great group of friends who happen to be in the fitness industry so there’s been lots of bartering going on between photography needs and fitness needs so hopefully giving a few photos will equal losing a few pounds. And really there is something to say for living around healthy people. It’s not as fun to eat a greasy Big Mac while everyone around you looks like they’d be less grossed out if they were watching the cow being slaughtered that made your Big Mac. I’ve also been getting great recipes and tips from some of my Jack Lalanne-esque friends. Those are all a few of the small things I’m doing to get started, and there’s plenty more where that came from. So here’s to California rubbing off on me a bit.

I’ve lived long enough to know by now, though it’s still hard to believe most of the time, that everyone has their thing.

Everyone has something that if they let take control, will threaten to hold them down until they lose their breathe and the life is sucked out of them. I always used to think it was just me, but it’s not. So what is it? What is it that is really holding you back? This is important because if this thing is still controlling you, not only is it stopping you from living a truly extraordinary life, but it’s actually forcing you to live an even less than ordinary life. You’re surviving in the negatives here, my friend. What is it? And what are you doing about it? It’s time for this to stop. It’s time for us to take control of this once and for all. If we’re living with constant and unnecessary fears, insecurities, shame, sadness, hurt, etc, etc, then we’ve done nothing more than waste our lives, regardless of how many of our dreams we’ve accomplished throughout it. Even if it is possible for us to have success while being torn apart by our weaknesses, I don’t believe any amount of it will make us happy anyways if we’re still being eaten away on the inside by something.

So there you have it folks, my soul, laid out bare on the operating table.

Now that you know I’m a real person with cellulite and all, I’m hoping you’ll love me in the same way you love Emma Stone- it’s that special place where you can truly appreciate her talent and really relate to her because her pasty white skin and ginger hair make her less threatening and more adorable to you.  I am very VERY scared to put this out there for all of you to read, but also very VERY excited because I believe it will be a major part in me finding support and eventual healing. Secrecy breeds shame, and shame isolates us from people. And as it so happens, the last thing we want is what we most need because people and healthy relationships are a major part of the treatment for breaking the shame cycle of addiction. So find some support, tell your secrets, make a plan, and join me as we overcome. Join me as we find freedom. Join me as we find a power we never knew we had that strengthens us to push through the seemingly impossible challenges. Join me so that when we find the life we are meant to be living, we can say that not only is it an extraordinary life, but that it is truly the best kind of life possible, full of more freedom and joy than we ever imagined possible. Join me.

(If you want to hear more awkwardly honest stories like this one, or just more about how to find and live an extraordinary life, follow Rare Existence on Facebook!)

The “What If Game”

If you’ve never played the “What If Game” whoa, you are in for a fright.  The “what if “game is the scariest game you’ve ever played… which is the very reason you’ve never played it before.  Everyone hates it.  Here’s how you play….

You think of what you want most in the world.

Then you think of all the bad things that could happen if you had it…. or if your plans for it didn’t work out.

And you dwell on those things.

You think about how you would handle each situation that could possibly even at all (even in a weird world where only horrible things happen) come up.

Then you realize that you actually could handle all of those horrible things (even if it wouldn’t be your ideal outcome) and that you would be surprisingly OK in the end.

At that point you begin to pursue what you want most in the world.  Because now you know that all your excuses, worrying, and paranoid fantasies aren’t actually all that bad.  In fact, what you would have to do in order to handle them is actually very minor when weighed with all of the amazing possibilities of what could happen if you went for this.

For example, whenever my husband and I begin panicking about not being able to pay rent in the future, we think “what’s the worst that could happen?”

The answer is that we’d both have to go get jobs for awhile. In other words, going back to “normal life”, the same place we started at, is one of the worst things that could happen if our business failed right now (don’t worry current clients of Radiant Photography- we’d still be able to fulfill our commitments to you if heaven forbid this ever happened!). So we’re back to square one with no harm done and it would be totally worth the risk and all we experienced in the process.

Even if we were still in debt (which we’re not thanks to Dave Ramsey) and would fall behind on our bills if this happened, we’d have more stress and have to work overtime for awhile but we’d still be able to repair the damage eventually… IT WOULDN’T RUIN OUR LIVES.  It would suck, but not as bad as choosing to work that hard at a job we hate because we were too afraid to do anything else… that would ruin our lives more than trying and failing would.

Once we’ve spent the time really identifying and facing our fears, we realize that the consequences won’t kill us. We also find out that we’ll most likely be able to recover within somewhere around 3-6 months (rather than 10 years as our overwhelming fears were leading us to believe). So we stop being afraid, start clipping coupons, and forget about it because being a barista or a pizza delivery person for a few months isn’t that bad (we’ve done it before!) and it’s better than ruining the life we have now by filling it with fear and worry about what MIGHT happen in the future.

The “What if Game” helps us realize that the consequences of failing are a very small price to pay for the opportunity to live out our dreams. Just the process of trying, and the experiences that happen to you in that attempt, impact your life far more than the effects of failure would!

So play the game… because if you win, you get to live the life you’ve always wanted.

(if you liked this game and want to learn more about Extraordinary Living join the  Rare Existence Facebook community)!

Post #3: 3 Things you Need to Control Your Own Destiny

I believe there are 3 things that make up our destiny… luck, choices, and hard work.

And we’re going to be talking about these 3 things a ton as Rare Existence moves forward. I’ll start now with the cliff notes version of my thoughts on these…

 

1. Luck is out of your control, so ignore it.

Whether you believe it’s God, fate, luck, physics, or the tooth fairy, you have to admit that there is something out there that makes things happen outside of our own will. For simplicity’s sake, and my lack of time to get into an existential argument with you about this right now, we’ll call it luck here. The thing about luck is that It will happen or it won’t, you’re blessed with the right gifts, circumstances, or opportunities, or you’re not… and there’s nothing you can do about it, so just pray that it comes and leave it at that. And if it happens to avoid you for some reason, please use every ounce of energy in you to try not to blame everything in your life on that (or on anything for that matter because passing blame is always harmful to you). If you do choose to spend your time fretting about your bad luck or lack of good luck, you will never find it in you to focus on the other two things you need in order to achieve the life you are meant to live. Just pretend that luck doesn’t exist so that you are neither wasting your time waiting for it or blaming it… because doing either will hinder you greatly. Luck does matter, but you have to live like it doesn’t.

 

2. Poor past choices make things harder but they do not ruin your chance for an extraordinary life.

Choices do matter significantly because consequences matter significantly, but bad choices in the past are possible to overcome, they just create extra work for you to get beyond them is all.  Sometimes that’s A LOT of extra work. Sometimes it’s so much extra work that people stop trying or just quit before they even start because they believe it’s impossible. And that’s why choices gets listed as one of the 3 things that affect your destiny… because the consequences of bad choices can make you give up.
Actually, poor past choices don’t really have to be one of the 3 factors that affect your destiny, if you don’t let them. Just like luck, this is not something you need to focus on to be successful, it’s really something you need to STOP focusing on the be successful. If you keep the focus on #3 (hard work) and just accept that your past choices might make you have to work a double shift in the hard work department, you’ll be alright. Paying the consequence of poor past choices works just like getting out of financial debt…you work twice as hard for a time to pay off what you owe for your past decisions and then eventually you find yourself back to even, ready to spend that energy you were using to pay for what was behind to now focus on moving forward. Focusing on your past mistakes and feeling sorry for yourself rather than taking action to fix them is just as bad as waiting for the Kool-Aid man to rescue you. Stop focusing on it and start working towards something better. I’m not trying to minimize your problems, I know they matter and affect you significantly and I do have compassion for you in that. I also know it can be so very hard to let go of the things you are beating yourself up for, but it’s the only way to think and live if you want an extraordinary life so you absolutely have to figure out how to move on.
As far as your future choices, be careful and thoughtful even when it comes to the seemingly smallest things. Since I was young I’ve believed that everyone is going a direction, even if they aren’t actively choosing that direction, but just letting it passively happen to them. Even the tiniest baby steps are taking you somewhere (just ask Bob).  Never believe that you are standing still, you aren’t.  You are either going the direction you want or the direction you don’t want. Choose wisely and make sure you actively CHOOSE instead of letting it just happen to you. Passive movement is almost worse than poor choice movement.

 

3.  If you believe in hard work over luck you will go farther.

I can’t count how many times people look at me longingly and say, “you guys are just so lucky” and while I know what they mean and I agree with them that my job has amazing perks, it’s still a fact that if they happen to say that during our really busy season when we are each working 80+ hours a week and my only friends are the characters on Weeds that I watch while I work, those people who tell me that are “so lucky” I don’t punch them in the face. Even more than their actual words, what bothers me most is the look in their eyes when they say it. It tells me right away they don’t believe the phrase “live your dreams” is meant for them.  It’s only meant for other people and they just aren’t one of the lucky ones so it’s just impossible and not worth trying at all. Yes, luck makes things easier, but it’s not a permanent state of your identity.  If you believe you are permanently a lucky person or an unlucky person then you will most definitely end up an unlucky person (what the psychology types call a self-fulfilling prophesy) because you will never ever make the right choices or put in the necessary hard work to MAKE things happen for yourself.  You have to try to MAKE yourself lucky, and that comes through hard work. If you work hard and stumble onto a stroke of luck, you will be successful. If you work hard and never stumble on a stroke of luck, you could still be successful. If you never work hard, your only option for success will be to grow a red beard, wear a green cap and suit, and carry around a pot of gold because you are going to have to actually BECOME a leprechaun to find the kind of miraculous luck you will need for there to be any chance in hell that you are going to be successful.  So bottom line, work like luck doesn’t exist.  Make you’re luck and then whether luck does or doesn’t go your way, you’re still much more likely to be better off than if you are just sitting around playing video games waiting for the Kool-Aid man to bust through your wall, say “OH YEAH”, and hand you the key to your big break. Keep on waiting, buddy. And if it does happen… puhLEASE send me pictures of you with your arm around around the Kool-Aid man because that is AWESOME and I really do hope that happens to someone!

Don’t forget that living the life you are meant to live, means there’s room in the equation for everything that has ever happened to you (whether it’s because of chance or because of you).  As I said in the first post, the life we are meant to live is made up of everything that makes you up, including your luck, your past, and your work ethic.  It is your responsibility to attempt to understand the things that make you up and to strengthen and utilize them in a way that will fill the place in the world that’s waiting for you. No excuses.  Only thinking, identifying, working, and improving. Let’s go.