I think we don’t expect that we can do something extraordinary because, for the most part, we live fairly normal lives. Most of us have a rhythm to our days, a routine that can be comforting and satisfying in its predictability. We have come to know ourselves, both the best and the weakest that lies within each of us. We know that there is no “extraordinary” inside, much as we wish it from time to time. We’re just regular people, living out each day.
That doesn’t mean we don’t believe that there are extraordinary things out there—sheer magnificence in the pounding of waves against a rocky shore, spray sparkling the air. I don’t think anyone can view the Grand Tetons, blinding white against an azure sky, and not believe that they are extraordinary. Or the solemn, reverent wisdom of the giant redwoods, whose lives have spanned millennia. Extraordinary, all.
Doing the extraordinary, though, is for heroes; the larger than life people who rise up to achieve something greater than any of us believe we ourselves could do. It is for the artist whose work transforms his canvas; for the musician whose work bathes our souls in its beauty. It is for the scientists and the astronauts: people whose dreams are fed by extraordinary intellect and patient tenacity.
We know who we ourselves are, and we are not extraordinary. We are simply human beings, trying to live our lives as best we can. Isn’t that right?
Perhaps not. I’ve come to realize a different truth.
Sometimes I imagine that four years ago I asked a fortune-teller to look into my future.
“You have two paths before you,” she would have said. “If you follow the first path, you will be disabled and in pain for the rest of your days. If you follow the second, you will be happy and healthy and fit. However, I cannot tell you which path is the truth.” I would have known that second path was the false one. I would have known that I would have to do something extraordinary for that second path to be the real one, and there wasn’t any extraordinary in me.
Only five percent of people who lose weight are successful in keeping that weight off. Knowing that statistic can make you feel like the deck is stacked against your success. But what if we believe, we truly believe, that the ability to do something extraordinary is inside each one of us? What if we decide to believe in ourselves? Robert Browning said, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
I reached further than I thought I could; I did work I didn’t think I could ever do—and it changed my life. I think that’s extraordinary.
Believing that the extraordinary is inside you allows you to exceed your reach; it empowers you to achieve what you thought impossible. It puts a little bit of extraordinary into your everyday.