Life Is Extraordinary…only if we choose to see it that way.

I was seated in a an overloaded taxi a few months ago, listening to Jay Shetty’s On Purpose podcast, watching the sun set outside the window and thinking about how grateful I was to be here, now, in this moment. I closed my eyes and took a huge breath, smile plastered on my face, just basking in the moment.

And then it happened.

The taxi swerved hard. The young man next to me was thrown against the window.

Then the screaming started. All around me people were screaming and hurling insults at the driver, behind me a woman was silently praying and I sat there; paralyzed by fear, my hands glued to the tattered seat in front of me

‘Pray. Prayer’ I thought,’ I should be praying. Should I?’

Shutting my eyes tightly closed I wondered whether this was the moment I apologize for all my sins and transgressions?  I didn’t want to have to pray like that, in that way, for that.

Didn’t a prayer of repentance in that moment mean I had given up hope? Didn’t it mean that I thought we were going to die? Where was my faith?

So I screamed, at myself this time; most importantly I was screaming at the unfairness of it all.

I wasn’t ready to kick the bucket yet. Was there even such a thing as being ‘ready?’

I was terrified; I could feel the bile rising in the back of my throat. Oh God, My mother! My poor mother’ I thought as I stifled a sob, ‘my brothers, this is going to break my grandma’s heart’

I was so caught up in my own thoughts that I failed to notice that the taxi had stopped.

‘Were we upside down? Was this it?’

Scared that I’d open my eyes and find myself covered in blood and surrounded by dead passengers, I slowly peeled one eye open.

After a quick peep down to see if I still had all my legs, I opened both eyes and looked around the taxi. Everyone sat still as if in some sort of daze, the woman behind me continued to pray.

I looked outside the window and saw that we were not upside down, thank God. I watched the driver slowly get out of the car and stumble to the side of the taxi and rest his head in his hands.

Apparently, from the snippets of conversation I heard inside the taxi, he had dozed off behind the wheel and lost control of the vehicle. Fortunately, he had woken up in time to get it back under control before running us into a ditch.

I sat there watching him, wondering what was going through his mind at that moment. I sat there thinking about how this whole scenario could have easily taken a wrong turn and I closed my eyes and said a small prayer of thanks, to the God I believed had just saved our lives.

I reached out and felt my legs, pinched them a bit for good measure, then felt my arms, still intact.

I put my hand on my heart and felt my steady pulse and thought about how extraordinary this moment was.

The moment I realized how precious life is and how each and every moment of our days is a grand gesture of God’s mercy in our lives regardless of how we individually define those moments.

Maybe you’ve had one of those moments, where you feel so incredibly clear and awake. Maybe, like me, it was during a scary event or maybe it was during an everyday moment like brushing your teeth.

The immediate effect isn’t anything extreme. There is no out of body experience, no inexplicable knowledge of the universe. Just an ordinary little thought that leads to another ordinary little thought.

That makes you wonder, what if living an extraordinary life isn’t about the details? What if it was the moments that make life extraordinary?

I realized that day that there is no sideline committee waiting, noting down every extraordinary detail in our lives; there is only us, refusing to grant ourselves the permission to see everything and every moment in life as extraordinary. There is just us, the people we care about, our corner of the world, and those little moments that we can choose to see as extraordinary.

We continuously follow the same routines, and do the same things day in day out and somehow we have lost our curiosity about life in the process. What happened to losing ourselves in creative projects just because? To creating art, writing poetry, and indulging in every passion we have just because? Why aren’t we one of those people who see even the most ordinary moment in a market on a Friday afternoon as extraordinary?

How do we do it? How do we begin to see life as extraordinary?

We all have different versions of what we believe defines extraordinary and  what is so perfect about it. I may spend my Friday’s with children from disadvantaged homes and you may spend it on your couch watching a documentary. Both are extraordinary. Living an extraordinary life is entirely up to you—it’s your life, after all. The action itself isn’t as important as the intent behind it. As long as your intention is to make something in your world just a little better, to learn something just a little deeper, to try something you’re just a little curious about, then that’s it.

In case you’re not sure where to begin or you don’t know how to view each moment as extraordinary, here are ten things you can try;

  1. Start acting like a tourist.

We get used to our surroundings and daily events and forget about the extraordinary moments that make up our days. How about you try being a tourist in your own life and backyard and try seeing things for the first time? How about you remember how that view used to wow you, or how the way someone treated you used to make your heart race. Recapture the awe in your life by changing the lens with which you view life.

  1. Hold tight to your appreciation and positivity.

First, slow down and look around. Then, appreciate anything and everything you possibly can. Even when everyone around you wants to complain, be the one who notices what a nice day it is. Look out for the funny things the beautiful sunsets and acts of human kindness. Whenever I was asked to talk about my day, I used to begin with something that went wrong. Then I gave myself one tiny challenge: to lead with gratitude. I made a point of starting conversations with something positive as often as I could, which meant that I had to start looking for those positive things and remembering to bring them up. I discovered so much beauty around me with this one simple switch. You can too.

  1. Lead with gratitude.

Always start the day out by being grateful. Thank whatever God you believe in for your eyes that you open each morning without fail, for the nose through which you breathe each night, for the arms that allow you to lay in your bed, the voice with which you greet your loved ones every morning. Thank him for the fact that never have you ever opened your mouth and sound failed to come out. Lead with gratitude throughout your day.

  1. Define what extraordinary means to you.

What do you want to see in this lifetime? What do you want to learn? How do you want to feel while you’re living your life? It’s easy to think about these things and easily replace them with something you feel is more serious. Well don’t. Don’t get drawn into the loophole of comparing your definition of the term with everyone else’s. After you do this, then make sure you…

  1. Live With Intention.

Begin by setting intentions for the week ahead. Write down an idea that excites you, a feeling you want to nurture, something that you might want to learn or create. Then give yourself small, meaningful challenges that fit with those intentions.

  1. Befriend your body.

Your body was made for living, so live in it. Use it in a life- affirming way. Don’t just feed it, nourish it. Let it move, let it sweat, let it pump its blood, laugh, cry, and feel. Stretch into it and savor its senses. Rest it when it’s tired, heal it when it’s hurting, love it even when you want to change it, and thank it. And when it has something to tell you, lean in and really listen.

  1. Always stay curious and creative.

Follow the fun and let yourself overflow. Take on a ridiculous project just because it lights you up, even if it’s silly, even if you feel you’re “too old,” or its “wasting time.” Let it be messy. Let it change directions. And let it fail spectacularly. The outcome isn’t as important as the process of it.

  1. Be of service in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Share something. Create something. Teach something. Go where you are masterful and add value to the world in any way that’s accessible to you. Feed the animals; pick up litter, volunteer in your community. Big or small, it doesn’t matter; it’s the meaning behind it that makes all the difference. And then…

  1. Slow down.

The extraordinary life you’ve been waiting for is happening right now. While you are racing to the finish, making plans, keeping up and getting by; your extraordinary life is patiently waiting for a warm welcome. Slow your pace and look around or come to a complete stop to fully appreciate what is right in front of you. And then lastly,

  1. Admire the small miracles.

Extraordinary isn’t always in the grand gestures and big impressive changes or events. Revel in the little things like the first bite of a ripe piece of fruit, a beautiful view, a stranger’s kind smile or some of the other things that happen every day. Enjoy small pleasures and find love in the little stuff.

Open a newspaper and you will see people doing extraordinary things; from inventing mind-boggling gadgets to athletes making unimaginable records every day. All of us can be extraordinary. All of us can have extraordinary lives. It doesn’t depend on your title, gender, color or age. Anyone can be extraordinary or rather I should put it this way; anyone can choose to see the moments in their everyday lives as extraordinary. I did in that taxi where we almost crashed. You can too.

Featured image | Jessica Castro | Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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