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 Ungrateful Generation

“Your generation is ungrateful and you expect too much out of life”.

This is a statement I’ve both heard and read many times before. It’s been said directly to me, as well as to my generation as a whole. Regardless of how it’s presented, it’s always said with a spirit of annoyance at me (us) and with a high degree of self-righteousness.

I agree, we are often ungrateful. I agree, we do expect a lot out of life. Notice I changed “too much” to ” a lot” because I don’t believe our expectations are too high to be achieved. The other part I disagree with about this statement is that ungratefulness and high expectations have to go hand in hand.

Yes, we need to be more grateful, but I believe you don’t have to be complacent to be grateful.
There’s a fine line between being content with what you have and pushing forward to obtain or becoming more. I think it’s soooo important to constantly be doing your best to find that magnificent balance because if you are existing too much on either side, you’re missing out. And I believe that being complacent and choosing not to pursue opportunities you are made for that are right in front of you is just as wrong as being ungrateful.

Are we really the first generation to expect a lot out of life?
You wouldn’t even be in America, the land of opportunity, right now if one of your ancestors along the way didn’t choose to expect more from life and go seek it out. Ever since the first people arrived in America, they have worked to set up this country so that we can expect a lot out of life. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s a lot to ask for, don’t you think?
Wars have been fought, people died on ocean voyages on their way over here, our grandparents slaved away at jobs they hated, all so we could have freedom and opportunity. Pretending those opportunities don’t exist or choosing not to take advantage of them is like spitting in the faces of the people who did so much work to make this country great.

It’s precisely BECAUSE I’ve been given a lot that I feel called to do a lot with it!
I’m an American and I’ve been given lots of opportunity.  I can either ignore it or turn around and pass the gift on so that I can continue to bless the country and community that has blessed me so much. I want to be great like my ancestors and do what I can to make things even greater for future generations. We’re building up yo, so lets keep the momentum going rather than letting it stop with us or even worse, allowing our generation to be the ones that sends us into reverse!

So yes, I am grateful (or at least I try to be) for what I have and all that has been done by others to help me achieve it. And yes, I am asking for a lot out of life. The bottom line is that because I have a lot, I expect a lot, so that I can DO a lot.

(If you like this patriotic speech or want to learn more about Extraordinary Living, join the Rare Existence Facebook Community!).

(Yep, my super smart husband said that!)

Post #2: I always sat up straight and ate all my broccoli

Hi, nice to meet you.  We’re still kind of strangers but we’re about to get intimate really quick.  The kind of stranger intimacy that only happens when you are thrown together by a chance tragedy with a group of unlikely strangers and are forced to team up to stay alive (movies don’t lie right?).

The point is, if we’re about to embark on this journey of extraordinary living together, it might help to have a little “first day of school getting to know you” kind of time. The future direction I’m headed towards might make a little more sense if you know about the past I came from. So here’s my story.

Oh and one more thing before we get started…just so you know, a lot of the stuff I’m about to tell you about my life is old news. I wrote these first posts over a year ago in my beginning preparations for this blog and my life has already made significant leaps towards the extraordinary since then. But too bad, I’m going to make you sit in suspense for awhile and you’ll just have to keep reading Rare Existence to find out what happens to bring me to the point I’m at right now! Secrets, secrets, secrets!

So here goes…

I grew up with very little change in my life.  The timeline of my childhood probably has like 2 lines on it (and one of those lines is my birth).  I went to the same church from birth until high school and that church was also the school I went to from pre-school until 8th grade.  My dad was heavily involved in leadership at that church and my mom went from being on staff at the school to being on staff at the church.  So basically my entire life took place on the same church/school campus until I was 14.  Oh and let’s not forget the fact that I lived in the same house from 2 years old to 22 years old (when I got married) and that I still have yet to ever live in another state or city (I’ve been in the Phoenix area my entire life). I told you, that timeline is steady and straight! Eventually I stopped going to that church and I went to a public high school, community college, and then on to Arizona State University.  I graduated from ASU and went on to pursue a master’s degree in counseling (which I didn’t finish and is on indefinite hold).  My parents are still married, I’ve never lost anyone close to me, and my entire extended family still all lives nearby.

You can see that my life in a nutshell equals very little change.

When you don’t have any major transitions, trauma’s, or tragedies until high school (and still very few then), you grow up viewing life a certain way.  And for me, that life was marred by a constant fear of what happens when things DO change and when tragedy DOES strike!  I know it’s ridiculous and you can call me a pessimist, but while I was able to enjoy my easy going life (I am still SO grateful for it!), I also felt extremely guilty and had a lot of fear of the unknown.

This fear of the unknown, quickly transformed into me trying to prevent anything unplanned, or unapproved from entering into my life.

If you want to get right down to it (and I do, because this blog is about honesty), I became very controlling.  I believed I could control my world and the people in my world… so that everything could go how I wanted it to and I could remain happy always. The good thing that came from my young fearful state is that I was so afraid of getting into trouble that I always followed the rules and was protected from some of those life changes consequences that the after school specials warned me about. The down side to this is that it definitely fed my view that if I was “good” enough I could keep full control over my life and keep anything bad out.

I guess that’s the view you develop when everything does go your way for a really long time.  I’d never been confronted by the force of nature or by seemingly random acts of God.  So I started to believe I was the god of my own little universe.

While I never experienced a major force outside of my control, I did finally come face to face with a PERSON I couldn’t control (by the way I didn’t control my parents, but I didn’t need to try because my obedience led to very little conflict between us).  My husband was not about to let me control HIS world and mine!  So thanks to God knowing the kind of person I needed to marry more than I even did, I ended up being forced to confront the fake little reality I’d created and sat comfortably in for so long and instead step out and begin to take a few risks in my life.

If this were an after school special, it would end with a super dramatic chord progression and “… to be continued” written across the bottom of the screen.