In the midst of disasters, political angst and mindless celebrity gossip, stories surface of those who live extraordinary lives. Some involve famous individuals, such as Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling and Laurene Powell Jobs who live fabulous lives and accomplish rare feats while helping others do so because their wealth allows it.
Other anecdotes recount ordinary individuals, such as those featured annually in CNN Heroes, who work quietly against the odds. They prove that it is not only possible to do what you want to improve the world, but to do it with courage and ingenuity .
These exceptional people represent the few who stand for something beyond themselves. What motivates them every day and make them different from the majority?
- They cope with failure differently: They expect failure sometimes, no matter how hard they work at something they love. And they learn from each failure and fix what does not work. And they never give up looking for new and better ways to try again.
- They start with a full day: Not necessarily a packed or crowded calendar, but they live busy yet balanced lives. They take time for themselves, they are flexible, but spend most of their time accomplishing their goals because it is what they want and need to do.
- They give with no expectation of a return: What they do for others is given freely, with no payback expected or wanted. Whether they give money, time, knowledge or materials, it comes from the heart and they consider the act of giving a vital part of life.
- They take chances: Along with a high risk of failure comes the need to challenge themselves to think, act and work differently from what they know, or others expect. They expect ridicule and criticism from others and embrace it as a sign that someone is paying attention to their actions.
- They laugh at life: They are serious people involved in crucial endeavors, but they still find life funny. And they laugh at themselves, too, because they don’t think of themselves as extraordinary. They tell dirty jokes and bad puns and find hilarity in everyday situations.
- They don’t judge: They listen to all sides of a discussion, and while they express an opinion, they don’t judge any individual based on their opinion or thought. They accept different viewpoints as normal, appreciate them as part of humanity’s fabric and move on.
- They don’t procrastinate: They have their list, and they finish that list every day, with or without outside assistance. Whether mundane or monumental, they don’t run and hide from life’s tough tasks.
- They appear poised, confident and strong: Regardless of inner fear and doubt, the face they present to the world is fearless. They understand the power of positive thinking.
- They know it’s not about money: They know even the poorest people can do extraordinary things. Mother Teresa lived a life of poverty and personal sacrifice and touched millions of people with her words and works of kindness.
- They guard their health as their greatest wealth: While they love their work, their mental, spiritual and physical health comes first. Without a healthy life and mindset for themselves, nothing else matters and little else works.
- They understand the value of money: They know what it buys and they know how to save, invest and use it for good. They don’t deny themselves, but they don’t buy based on the latest fashion or fad.
- They reach out to others for help: They form friendships, mentoring relationships and professional alliances and use them to advance their careers and causes, discuss and solve work issues and provide resources, educational materials and seminars.