The Seven Key Skills for Becoming Extraordinary
In this abridged excerpt from her book Be Extraordinary, psychologist Dr Jennifer Wild explains what the seven key skills are for transforming your life from ordinary to extraordinary.
Some people can get over anything. Doctors diagnose them with a rare form of cancer, and they recover. They help someone in distress, are viciously attacked and blinded, yet pull through to start a successful business improving other people’s lives. They are killed in combat, are miraculously brought back to life, and campaign across the country to raise awareness about the emotional difficulties linked to combat service. These people bounce back from horrendous trauma that would emotionally and physically cripple most people. They flourish with renewed resolve to face any problem with grace and ease.
We feel inspired knowing how other people achieve success in circumstances more challenging than our own. Their stories feed our curiosity about the transformational journeys of other people’s lives. Yet we are often left wondering how they did it and how we could achieve success in our own lives.
As a psychologist, I specialise in helping people to overcome PTSD, the crippling stress reaction that afflicts soldiers and other survivors of horrific events, such as mining disasters, car crashes and the sudden death of loved ones. As a scientist, I develop and test strategies to prevent PTSD. I have built programmes based on the latest science to improve resilience for people in the most stressful and dangerous jobs, such as police officers, firefighters, paramedics and search-and-rescue personnel.
In my many years of practice, I have noticed something remarkable: overcoming adversity and becoming extraordinary tap the same processes. People who flourish with or without trauma as their catalyst naturally draw on the same seven key skills:
Vision refers to the pictures we hold in our mind’s eye or the impression we have of ourselves, and our big picture for our lives. People who transition from ordinary to extraordinary prep their path to success with imagery. They transform the images that hold them back and they create winning images. But it is not just the images they hold that are vital to leading an extraordinary life, it is also the big-picture image they create for their lives.
People who transition from ordinary to extraordinary clean up messy memories. No matter what they live through, they create a meaningful relationship to their past that ensures an extraordinary future. This means creating fluid memories, so we’re not interrupted throughout the day by intrusive memories. And it means learning to unhook the present from past events that fuel self-doubt.
People who transition from ordinary to extraordinary with or without trauma as their catalyst choose to focus on what they can do rather than on what they can’t or on what may be lost to the past. They also develop their attention muscle since they realise that time could well be limited. These people optimise their minutes by focusing efficiently without distraction.
Helpful Thinking Habits
Part of the training to think like a winner is to recognise unhelpful habits, such as dwelling and catastrophising, and to transform them. We need to develop healthy thinking habits too that tap proactive language and guide you to interpret ambiguity or uncertainty in positive ways. Healthy thinking, like happiness, can be trained. It’s a skill we can learn.
Avoidance is the number-one behaviour that keeps people stuck in a rut. It is also the number-one behaviour that keeps PTSD going. But four extraordinary behaviours pave the path to success: exercise, sound sleep, planning ahead and compassion.
Determination is the inner grit that keeps you going on your worthy projects and meaningful goals. People who transition from ordinary to extraordinary are motivated to start and determined to keep going. They maintain momentum on their path to success, determined to overcome negative circumstances and build a better life.
Cultivating happiness encapsulates choices to be happy. Happiness, like an attitude, is a mindset we cultivate. Overcoming trauma or transitioning from ordinary to extraordinary requires the capacity to overcome everyday losses and offers the opportunity to tap tools to feel upbeat and happy on the path to extraordinary success.
We all have the potential to create and inspire extraordinary change in our lives, better facing the bumps that may appear on our road to success. Seize the opportunity to create an extraordinary life. You don’t have to suffer a trauma to be extraordinary. You can be extraordinary now.