Why there is nothing normal about being normal.
Over this past weekend I ventured out into the cold Canadian fall to visit my cousin. The journey took me a solid hour and a half walk to get there.
For the average human being they would call me crazy. Like the waitress who we chatted to as I paid the bill for breakfast.
Oh and my cousin as well, but he knew that already.
And no doubt many other people as well would call me crazy for walking out in this weather. Summer kind of makes sense, but fall, that’s crazy.
But Is It Really?
Perhaps in the year 2017 where we have flying cars, taxis, and just in general cars. But obviously there were times where we didn’t have those things. Where people had to take a horse and buggy or you know, walk.
By all means what I’m doing is old fashion today. But I’d argue that what I’m doing is being my unique self.
For years I’ve refused to get a drivers license. I’m also aware of the costs of vehicles and their upkeep and don’t consider them worthwhile.
There’s also the fact that I’ve turned to walking or biking everywhere I go. Moreover if I do need a drive, I live in an area where people I know can drive me somewhere.
My whole point in all of this is to say one particular thing:
Screw Normality And Stand Out
We’re all unique individuals here. Born to be different and stand out from the other billions of people that are living on Earth today.
Even though we may have some common traits amongst us, we are all unique. From how we see the world, what we believe in, and our own experiences as well.
The problems is, I believe a lot of what we experience at times comes from a system that is designed to make us normal. Whether that is by someone else’s doing or our own.
Before I continue, I want to explain exactly what normal means to me. I’ll follow that up with how we can actually break out of that and live a life that we want to lead.
dictionary.com defines normal as this:
- Conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
- Serving to establish a standard.
In other words, normal is the formulation of a standard and conforming to it, even if it doesn’t make sense.
I see this as a big problem in a few ways. Primarily in our own education system.
It was Albert Einstein who said
“If you tested a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it’ll forever believe that it is stupid.”
This is in relation to standardized tests, where each student is taught the exact same thing and are given the exact same questions.
Yet we all achieve different results. Some of us fail, some of us succeed.
We achieved those results because some of absorbed more information, or we choose to study harder or more than others.
That’s what makes us unique.
Our effort, our motivation, our overall attitude.
But not many people realize that. Some people are like the fish in that quote. They’ll believe that they are stupid. All because a system told them that.
They won’t strive to achieve higher because they are a B or C student. They think that is their “normal”. Their norm is to achieve B and C’s in school.
That’s their place.
I don’t believe that.
Because you and I both know that’s not normal. It’s impossible to fit a circle peg into a square shaped box.
We are born to be different and to stand out.
Let’s Break The Mould
In the end, our sense of normal isn’t all that normal. From our systems, laws, and rules, our own minds have warped into what we consider as normal. What is right and wrong.
But not everything is so clear just like not everything is normal. Again a long time ago, people walked great distances and that was normal. Today we drive vehicles or use taxis or a faster method than walking.
We’ve evolved past the point walking doesn’t seem necessary when it comes to great distances. Unless we are doing marathons.
But that need for a vehicle is a norm in our society, and it can be pretty damaging. Much like believing for the rest of our life that we’re stupid, it has the potential to harm us mentally and financially.
Even though a car in every instance is in theory helpful from getting to point A to B, why exactly do we need cars?
They make us feel safe, we can get to work or other places faster, we get to show off our status.
Those all are advantages, but the disadvantages are the costs.
More than likely one of those costs is the auto-loan you took out to pay for the car. An auto-loan where you’ll pay more into that loan than what the car is actually worth.
So not only will you be paying more for a car that’s worth less, many people are comfortable with this. Why?
Because in this day and age it’s “normal” to be in debt. Whether it’s a mortgage, an auto-loan, student debt, or even credit card debt.
And credit cards have only been around since 1950. In a time where being in debt was considered a bad thing.
My point in all of this is our own normality has changed from decade to decade and in the end, we still have a lot of things that don’t quite make sense.
And we need to break out of it.
In order to do that, there’s a series of exercises that we can do. The intent is to shift our perspective and broaden our horizons. To see the larger picture and to find new solutions and fix old systems that don’t work.
People have changed a lot over the years and I believe a lot of it comes down to being informed, but also practicing these exercises.
The first is positive affirmations.
Much like with our education system and with others, we are told a variety of negative things. Not to mention we have advertisements that appeal to core aspects of ourselves.
We see good looking men and women using certain products so we buy them. Hoping that we end up like them.
The reality is that we don’t. But at the same time it’s good that we believe that we look good.
So start off by telling yourself that. Even when you have a bad hair day. Before you shave or put make up on. Tell yourself you look good.
Start To Speak Differently
This was something that I tried several months ago. I started to avoid saying “you should”. That little experiment prompted me to start thinking differently. Because I said it frequently enough, I had to change my wording.
All in all this changes the words that I am using and as I discussed last week, our words make an impact.
My point is, whether you want to work on your tone of voice or to say less of certain words, that does change how you process things and approach problems.
We have all of these sayings that are meant to inspire people or to convey what we believe in. Some of those sayings I feel are actually quite harmful.
For example the saying of “the sky is the limit.” Is meant to be inspiring. That we are limitless. But you and I both know that we’ve gotten people to land on the moon, significantly farther than the sky.
In other words we are still putting limits on ourselves, a being who has unlimited potential.
So I challenge you to avoid saying a particular word for a day, or even a week. Pay attention to how much you’ll change when you replace “no” with “yes” or “I can’t” with “I will”. The difference can be huge.
Listen To Philosophy
One thing that I’ve been dipping into is philosophy. I’ve gotten some great recommendations from another fellow writer and have started to enjoy listening to the different perspectives on various topics.
Whether it’s philosophy or something else, I encourage you to take some time out of your day to listen to something different. A lot of listen to music and though that can be great, you’re not learning anything.
To grow is to be engaged and to be thinking. We all have one body and it’s important to take care of it. But we also only have one brain and we need to take care of that too.
So download a few podcast episodes and listen to some.
Ask Yourself Deep Questions
Even if you’re not going to the extreme of listening to philosophy podcasts, I believe it’s important to ask deep questions.
Deep philosophical questions.
Questions that have the potential to change us based on our own answers.
I believe through asking questions we can understand ourselves more on a fundamental level. Particularly in order for us to grow, I believe it’s important for us to know what we desire in our lives.
Furthermore when we understand that, we need to know what are our problems? What sort of limitations do we place on ourselves?
And more importantly the question of what do we do to get there?
These aren’t simple answers and in a lot of cases we need to put together some level of a plan.
But with these questions, we can form a simple plan and leave it at that.
After all we can be working, yet still procrastinating with vision boards or brand development and so on.
What’s important at the very beginning is how will you get off the ground? What sort of steps are absolutely necessary to get to where you want to go.
Meditate And Disconnect
And lastly is to meditate and to practice being disconnected. I personally meditate on a daily basis. When I went out to see my cousin, I avoided social media for most of the day.
To truly connect with yourself and other people, it’s important to move away from the norm. Having technology around us constantly.
Even though technology has helped us in many ways, I believe we can spend a few hours, a day, or even a weekend vacation away from our phones and computers.
At the very least strive to pull away from social media and technology for a few hours and do something else.
Meditate for a little while and ask those deep questions. Go for a walk, nutritionists suggest we walk for at least one hour every day. Read a book or meet up with a friend at a café and just talk.
It’s these small kinds of interactions that we do every day that makes us human, that make us unique.
I challenge you to try those things every day and notice how much you’ll break that mould of normality:
- Give yourself a compliment or have a mantra you chant as part of a morning routine.
- Avoid saying a certain word (or set of words) for a week.
- Listen to something different other than music.
- Ask yourself deep philosophical questions
- Spend one hour per day on yourself, completely disconnected.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon