7 Ways to Go From Ordinary to Extraordinary

UPDATED: May 22, 2017
PUBLISHED: May 22, 2017

What does living an extraordinary life really look like?

Well, in order to see the “extra,” let’s look at an ordinary life first. When I say ordinary, I mean you’re in a job you don’t particularly love, you’re plodding along day to day, and you’re just kind of existing.

An extraordinary life, on the other hand, is one you design. You live a life that you want to live, a life that’s exciting and invigorating. You don’t have to live a life of extraordinary wealth, though there’s nothing wrong with that. But you are in charge of your life. You’re doing what you want to do, you’re being paid for doing something you’d be doing anyway, and you’re genuinely happy. To me, the best definition of an extraordinary life is a happy life.

Related: Why You’ve Got to Find What You’re Passionate About

Here are seven specific ways to transform your life from ordinary to extraordinary.

1. Understand yourself.

You need to figure out what motivates you. What excites you? What are you passionate about? What is it that you love to do?

If you’re not sure, spend some time understanding yourself. Observe what makes you happy, what makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning and what makes you feel fulfilled. Focus on doing the things in life that you’re dramatically excited about.

2. Get paid for what you love to do.

Once you figure out what motivates you, try to design your life where you are maximizing the amount of time you’re doing that activity. Maybe that means setting aside time in the morning or on the weekends at first. Then try to design a life where you’re actually being paid to do what you love. The goal is to earn your living doing something that you’re passionate about and would do for free.

3. Invest in lifelong learning.

If you want to live an extraordinary life, you have to focus on improving yourself every day. At the end of the year, you should understand and know something that you didn’t know at the beginning of the year. The only way you can coast in life is downhill. Stay green and growing. Challenge your brain with mastering something that you didn’t know before.

4. Have high expectations.

This is critical to leading an extraordinary life. Don’t become cynical and think, Good things don’t happen to me. Things always go wrong for me. Have high expectations for yourself and your life. Dream big. Let yourself get excited about a big goal or a big idea. Stay inspired to move forward and continue growing. A big dream can help you do that.

5. Be financially independent.

There’s a difference between financially independent and rich. Financially independent is where you live within your means. You don’t have massive amounts of debt. Out in the world, you might look at some people and think, Wow, they must be rich: Look at that car, look at that house. But in reality, they might owe everybody known to man. To me, that is not extraordinary. Extraordinary is where nobody—no institution, no bank—has their thumb on you. Dream big, but prepare for adversity. Expect and plan to succeed, but realize life doesn’t always go great.

Being financially independent means you’re never in a position where you’d be ruined if the world around you went downhill. When the financial collapse happened in 2008, my kids were going to private school. I remember so many other people pulled their kids out of school. I knew friends who had planes and then suddenly didn’t have planes anymore because so much of their life was built on debt.

Whatever level I’ve been at in life, I’ve always believed in the idea that a paid-for car is a good car. A car you owe a gazillion dollars on so you can drive a Maserati is not a good car. Become financially independent.

6. Deal equally well with success and failure.

If you try many things, if you live a life of adventure, you’re going to have a lot of success, and a lot of failure. Hanging in my office is a framed copy of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If.” At one point, it says, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same…”

Things are never as good as you think they are when everything’s going good, and on the other side, things are never as bad as you think they are when things are going crappy. What sets you apart is the ability to go through life, grow through life and weather the storm. There are going to be sunny days and stormy days. That’s just fact. Put yourself in a position where you can financially, physically, emotionally and mentally make it through.

7. Work harder.

The founder of Primerica, Art Williams, used to give a speech on “A Little Bit More.” He talked about the difference between the super successful person and the average person. He said the winner does what it takes… and a little bit more. You can’t go through life just doing what’s necessary. You have to do what’s beyond necessary. If one level of effort will get you ahead, then the next level of effort will get you to an extraordinary life.

Succeeding in life is not easy. It takes hard work. The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. Work hard. Pay the price. But make sure that you’re working hard and paying a price toward a goal that you want to achieve. Do that, and an extraordinary life is within your reach.

Related: 5 Steps to Personal Greatness

John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.