Just look at any band of teenagers in a shopping mall or outside a school, and you’ll see the lengths to which we humans will go to fit in with the group’s definition of normal. As adults, we continue relying on those conformity skills to fit in with our chosen crowd.
Almost every group has its normal behaviours clearly defined: we can all identify computer geeks, tai tai’s, lawyers, golfers, and many other groups simply based on their behavioural attributes. I’m sure you belong to a number of groups whose characteristics you’ve adopted almost unconsciously.
Fitting in with a group is a good thing. It gives us a sense of belonging, identity, and security, and it establishes group-specific expectations of how each individual will act and respond to others in the group. In this way, it reduces misunderstandings and the social gyrations otherwise necessary to establish who you are and how you will behave. So members of a networking group have a mutual understanding that they will provide business opportunities to each other – and those in the group who violate this defined normal behaviour will find themselves outcast or ostracised.
But at the same time, the pressure to be normal can be distressingly, painfully limiting due to our natural desire to retain that group identity, security, and safety. It squelches personal expression and creativity and smothers the urge to accomplish the extraordinary.
When was the last time you pointed to someone and said, “Wow, that person is so normal – I’d like to be just like that!” Instead, consider the heroes you admire and respect, whether they are political, religious, athletic, or in some other walk of life. Nelson Mandela; Mother Theresa; Gandhi; Tiger Woods – to name a very few – are these people normal!?
We all have the ability and opportunity to act in ways that are not normal, ways that expand our horizons and enhance our lives and the lives of others. It’s usually fear that stops us: fear of stepping outside the defined normal conduct of our group, of being thought “weird” or – well, yes, abnormal. But it’s by doing the unusual and the extraordinary that we can surprise ourselves by being more of who we are instead of less.
I invite you, therefore, to do something wonderfully not normal. Take a small step, even a baby step, outside your comfortable boundaries and explore the possibilities. Then think about how it felt, and how you plan to keep extending yourself into the abnormality of excellence. Like Mark Twain, 19th Century US author said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
About the Author: I’m Grace Judson, the founder of and driving force behind Svaha Concepts. Feeling trapped between your career goals and your loathing for “playing politics”? You can remain true to your values and integrity and still be politically savvy. For more information or to access my free resources (including my free workbook “The Five Deadly Shoulds of Office Politics that Maul, Mangle, and Murder Careers (and what to do about them),” please visit Svaha Concepts’ website.