Today, I would like to feature an excerpt from my most recent book, “Yes, you can change your circumstances.” (Amazon says there is still time to get delivery by Christmas… at least where I live… so, if you find this excerpt challenging, perhaps the full book might be an excellent gift for yourself. You can find it at amazon.com when searching under Eldon Henson.)
As we approach the end of the year, some introspection is a good thing. How have I lived this year and what should change, especially regarding my mind, heart, and hands, for the upcoming new year? You’ll find below the Introduction to this book which provides an overview of the 340 pages that follow.
What does it take to live an extraordinary life?
How do we know when a life is extraordinary? What is the difference between an ordinary life and one that is amazing, fulfilling, impactful, and meaningful? My definition of an extraordinary life is one marked or characterized by the attributes and actions contained in three key words:
- attitudes that drive the heart and hands
- how we act when no one is around (integrity)
- mental toughness
- the outpouring of the heart that provides a reflection of the individual
- internal peace
- positive view of life
- actions that make a difference to others
To introduce this work, I would like to briefly speak of each of these three components of character that you will read about in coming chapters. Then, I hope to tie them together in a way that provides a description of extraordinary at the end.
In one of my previous books (Achieving your best day yet!), I spoke about the importance of character. In essence, character is what has been cultivated in your mind that results in behaviors, actions, and impact. In that piece is outlined a list of 33 attributes that mark a life of character:
- Gratitude – Does the individual express a genuine sense of thankfulness for what they have, what others do for them, and the blessings in life they have been gifted?
- Self-discipline – Does the individual possess the ability to get things done without nagging, urging, or threats? Does the person habitually fulfill their commitments?
- Willingness and ability to work – Does the individual do their share, especially without being told? Has the person learned the value and benefits from work?
- Hope – Does the individual have a sense of hope for the future and something on which to base that hope? Does the individual live in the present and look forward to the future more than longing for or regretting the past?
- An attitude of service – Does the individual put others before self? Does the person seek ways and opportunities to make life better for someone else?
- Faith/Optimism – Does the individual live with a sense that “this could be their best day yet”? Does the person express an attitude that lifts others? Is the person confident in whatever the future might hold?
- Contentment – Does the individual have a sense of satisfaction in their life? Has the person learned the art of being content, yet without sacrificing a desire to improve?
- Desire to improve – Does the individual seek to learn from mistakes? Is the person seeking ways to enhance skills, abilities, and mind?
- Responsibility – Does the individual assume responsibility or accountability for his/her own actions? Will the person typically “do what they say they will do”?
- Compassion – Does the person truly care about others? Do the person’s actions show a heart-felt compassion for the feelings and circumstances of others?
- Humility – Is the person allowing their actions to speak louder than their words? Do they downplay their own contributions while enhancing that of others?
- Perseverance – Will the person stay-with-it long enough to finish the task? Does the person finish what they start? Are they in it for the long haul?
- Joy – Does the person have a genuinely happy disposition? Has the individual learned to express joy even when circumstances are negative?
- Peace-loving – Does the person seek to bring about peace and consensus? Does the person diffuse negative circumstances?
- Generosity – Does the person willingly give sacrificially to others? Does the person seek opportunities to share what they must make a difference for others?
- Kindness – Is the person kind to everyone in every situation? Does the person show the same level of kindness to those that can do nothing for them in return as they would for a VIP?
- Purity – Does the person strive to be faithful, pure, and “clean” in what he/she says, does, supports, and encounters?
- Courage – Is the person willing to stand up for what is right, even in the face of opposition? Will the person defend the defenseless?
- Trust – Can the person be trusted in all things? Does he/she trust others?
- Sense of self-worth – Does the person have a healthy understanding of their own worth to others and God? Does the person hold their head high or cower under pressure?
- Respect for others – Does the person appreciate and respect the opinions, abilities, backgrounds, skills, and personality of others?
- Mercy – Does the person express forgiveness and mercy frequently and freely?
- Justice – Does the person seek that which is right, true, and fair? Does the person stand up for those that cannot do so for themselves?
- Self-control – Does the person control their words, actions, and attitudes appropriately even when they are being mistreated?
- Honesty and integrity – Can the person be counted on to be truthful and honest in all situations? Would others name this individual if asked to name individuals with integrity?
- Willingness to submit to authority – Is the person willing to submit to others in authority over them? Do they respect their boss, their parents, and government officials? Is rebellion a normal response to not getting their own way?
- Love – Does the person willingly express love for others? Is this individual willing to freely express their thoughts about and to others?
- Confidence – Does the individual exude a sense of confidence in who they are and what they do? Will they look you in the eye when speaking? Is their handshake firm?
- Desire for excellence – Does the individual seek to do their best in all things, small or large? Does the person strive to do things well rather than cut corners?
- Desire to learn from others – Does the individual freely accept the teaching and counsel of others?
- Desire to develop and enhance relationships – Does the individual understand and appreciate the importance of connecting personally with others? Does the person seek genuine relationships rather than less personal social connections?
- Genuineness – Is the person the same in private as in public? Does the person express one persona with friends and another at work? Can you say about the person, “What you see is what you get?”
- Love for God – Does the individual know God and outwardly express a love for Him? Is the person seeking to know God more and better? Does the individual live in a way in which he/she seeks to please God?
I believe that heart is synonymous with joy to a very large extent. When your heart is full, when it is full in the right way, the joy of your life will overflow to those around you. And it will be manifested in your impact to others.
M. Ahlers once said of joy:
“Joy is a choice based on being content regardless of circumstances. Understanding what encourages joy in your life can help you cultivate it and build up your resources for when circumstances are difficult.” M. Ahlers
I appreciate that Ahlers speaks of four key aspects of joy:
- It is a choice – We can choose to have joy. We can impact our level of joy. In short, the absence of joy is because we have chosen so.
- It is unaffected by circumstances – Joy does not rise and fall based on what happens. Certainly, our happiness during any day can be high or low, but joy is our base that should remain relatively consistent.
- It can be cultivated and built up – However, we can impact the joy within us. It can grow or decline… again by our choice. It is impacted by how we feed our minds and what we allow into our hearts.
- It can sustain us – Joy can get us through our most difficult times. It can be a source of comfort… or hope.
So, as we look at matters of the heart… of joy… let’s consider how a full heart can make a difference to those around us in positive ways.
Ultimately, an extraordinary life can only occur if our mind and heart drive action that impacts others through our actions (e.g., hands). It is not enough to merely be a warehouse of right attitudes with a desire to impact others. Unless our attitudes and desires result in action, we are, as the Bible says, merely a clanging cymbal or noisy gong (see I Corinthians 13:1).
So, what actions mark an extraordinary life? What is it that you see that demonstrates impactful hands? To me, the greatest indicator of this would be love. An extraordinary life is one marked by love for others. When you love others, you serve them, you support them, you benefit them, and you make them better simply by your presence. An extraordinary life is one that impacts others in a positive way. But an extraordinary life cannot occur without introspection and intentional effort.
This work is divided into the three components of an extraordinary life… mind, heart, and hands. The components of each section are intended to show through examples, lists, quotes, and thoughts how we can mold ourselves into more content and impactful individuals. In essence, when our attitudes create in us righteous desires, more extraordinary actions should result. Hopefully, the nuggets of experience that I have accumulated over my nearly 7 decades of life incorporated here will stimulate in you a desire to grow in character, strengthen your resolve to impact others, and produce a life legacy that lives well beyond your years.