We try so hard to fit in. From the time we are small, we go through significant efforts to be just like everybody else – to NOT stand out from the crowd. We want to do what’s expected of us. As children, we are praised for just this behavior. We are taught to color inside the lines. The sky is always blue; the grass is always green.
What if you wanted to create a different picture? Was this okay? Or did a well-meaning teacher guide you back to “fit in” land and back to widely perceived reality?
With so much encouragement to stay within the norm, far too often we’ve been encouraged to forget the most important thing of all: how to be ourselves – how to be genuinely, authentically US. It’s time to change this. Let’s look at five social norms to turn upside down to finally discover how to be happy and successful on our OWN terms.
Norm #1: Be Part of the Crowd
There are times when it’s a clever idea to be part of the crowd. Think about how great it feels to be at a rock concert where everyone’s into the music just as much as you are. But have you ever considered how someone must be the Rockstar or the concert isn’t going to be any fun at all? Which do you want to be, the star of the show or a member of the audience? Which do you think has a more rewarding experience?
There are times that you SHOULD stand out and take that stage – be the center of attention. Think about what might be holding you back and create a plan to take steps to be the star of your show.
Norm #2: Always Do What’s Expected
There are certain traditions that dictate success. For example, you might have been told going to college will get you a great job and you’ll make lots of money. The way I heard it was “Go to college, get a good job, make a good salary, and life will be good.” Is this always true? There are exceptions to every rule. My older brother was a very talented auto mechanic – so much so that I nicknamed him “The Mystic Mechanic” for his ability to seemingly sense what was wrong with a vehicle under his care. His talents didn’t lie in advanced learning, though – he was much better with his hands than in a classroom.
Sometimes tapping into your talents and doing what stands out gets you much further in life than doing what you’re expected to. My brother’s talents as a mechanic made him stand out in our neighborhood and throughout our city, where trying to force him into college courses caused him to struggle and dimmed his light instead of helping him shine. Wouldn’t it be better to take your opportunity where it comes and follow where it takes you? Leverage your talents, expand on what comes easily to you, and you may find your path to success takes the unexpected road.
Norm #3: Go One Better
We tend to think in cycles. For example, you get a raise, you buy a better car or move to a bigger place. We’re encouraged to always “up level” our lifestyle and the trappings of “success.” This kind of thinking, though, doesn’t allow for you to continue doing what’s fulfilling or keeping what you like. Instead, it tries to force you into a mold that might not be yours.
Leveling up in life doesn’t always mean that you must spend those increased resources or leave behind a situation that makes you happy in favor of one with a better title. Scores of people throughout time have refused promotions because they preferred to keep working in the job they loved and excelled at – not everyone wants to ascend to management, and that’s perfectly fine.
Norm #4: Listen to the Crowd
Majority rules, right? That’s what we’ve been told, at least. The problem with going to your peers for your decision making is they might not have the same goals or values you do. Wouldn’t it be better to do what honors you? Asking a group of 10 people their opinions on a decision you’re trying to make could be valuable to help you see different aspects of the decision and hear different viewpoints, but in the end, it’s YOUR LIFE. Unless the people you talk to have the same goals that you do for your life, unless they are working with your same values, their decisions won’t always be the right one for YOU.
Learn to trust your voice, tap into your intuition, and define what will help you create the authentic life YOU want to live. Your decision won’t necessarily make all your friends happy, but YOU must be happy with the decisions you make, and you have the power to decide.
Norm #5: Don’t Take Chances
By hanging back and avoiding a stretch-and-grow experience, you’ll never risk losing anything. You’ll also never get out of whatever rut you’re currently in. If you want life to change for the better or to find success, eventually, you’re going to have to have to try something new or different, no matter what the outcome. Getting out of your comfort zone can be scary and challenging, and at the same time it can be exhilarating and life-affirming.
Give yourself permission to dream BIG – and then put a plan in place to achieve that dream. You don’t have to jump off the cliff without a parachute on Day 1 – you can create a plan for the jump, make sure you’ve got the right equipment, and get some instruction on how to take the jump, how to fly, and how to land. Prepare to make your dream come true, and then go DO IT.