“Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” David Lloyd George
Normal is the usual condition. It is the set of conditions to which we have become accustomed. The word normal can also mean average. When we say that a person’s bodily temperature is normal, we mean it is somewhere near 98.6 degrees. This is the average temperature for healthy bodies.
What is normal in your life? For many people, pain is normal. They have a collection of aches and pains they deal with each day, both physical and emotional, and they have become used to them. Is this you? Have you accepted daily pain as normal?
Unfortunately, normal for many people is mediocre at best, and painful at its worst. We tell ourselves that that is just the way things are. We tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do about it. This is rarely true.
We are the creators of our experience. This is hard to accept when life is unhappy or when others seem to be causing us pain. But in most cases, things are happening the way they are because we set it up that way. We create patterns in our emotional reactions to life and we tend to repeat them. By insisting that the problem is out there we are resistant to moving beyond it, thus our problems repeat themselves.
“All inner resistance is experienced as negativity . . negativity ranges from irritation or impatience to fierce anger, from a depressed mood or sullen resentment to suicidal despair. Once you have identified with some form of negativity you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry, or hard done by person.” Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now
In many workplaces, people not communicating honestly to each other is normal. Conflicts seethe below the surface, often oozing out in the form of gossip and complaining in small groups. People blame each other and feel justified in doing so. Patterns of feeling betrayed, victimized, and cheated emerge. We immerse ourselves in these dramas, often not realizing that we are making them up.
For others the workplace is boring, a necessary means to an important end (the paycheck). People go through the motions. Boredom is normal. At the other end of the spectrum, many people are constantly running. They attend one meeting after another and try to squeeze a little work in between the meetings. Work is stress and stress is normal.
My question to you is this: What is normal for you? Is your current normal acceptable? As you look at your life, your personal relationships, your career, and your areas of responsibility, what do you see? Do you see joy, fulfillment, and a sense of contributing? Or, do you see mediocrity, pain, and/or stress? Do you see prosperity and well-being? If your normal is mediocre or painful, are you willing to move forward?
“The fates lead him who will — him who won’t, they drag.” Seneca
Many people at this point start defending themselves. I am doing all that I can! The tendency is to convince ourselves and others of our powerlessness. There is nothing to defend. You may be doing all that you can. It’s less about doing and more about being. Who are you being?
If I feel that no one listens to me and that no one cares — if I feel that others are taking advantage of me, then how do I change what is happening? I can only change my response to what is happening. Our mental/emotional response to a situation is part of the situation. The question isn’t: Why aren’t people listening to me? The real question is: how do I react when it seems like people aren’t listening to me? What assumptions am I making about myself and others? How can I effectively communicate?
When you start looking at your assumptions you begin to realize that they are only assumptions. They are self constructed beliefs that you have made real. You have taken your assumptions and woven a story that has become your autobiography. Examples: You are the poor person who no one listens to; or, you are the unfortunate one who people take advantage of; or you are the rugged individualist who has to do it all yourself because you cannot count on others; or you are the demanding leader that has to use force in order to get anything done; or, you are the intelligent one surrounded by fools and idiots. These are all stories. We make them up!
The stories we tell ourselves have us blaming others, blaming ourselves, and feeling powerless. Our stories have created our “normal”. Your ability to move beyond normal depends on your willingness to recognize that you are writing your own story. Once you take responsibility and decide that your normal is not acceptable, you can decide what you want instead. You can set an intention for something new. You can reach higher levels of well-being beyond your current normal by replacing your assumptions with universal truths. Here are a few for you to consider:
1. It’s never personal. People do and say things based on their own needs and concerns. It’s not about you.
2. You are not a victim unless you think you are. Even then, you are a victim in your own story. Some people choose to remember old hurts by continually thinking and talking about them.
3. What you resist will persist. When we resist others we are not seeing them clearly. See others as important persons who have needs and concerns just as you do. Do what you can to be helpful.
4. You cannot fix or change others. The best you can do is to help awaken that deeper part in another. You do this by listening to them, and by awakening that greater wisdom within yourself. This expression of your Inner Being will inspire others, and they will learn from you.
5. You have impact on others. You choose whether that impact will be uplifting or not. Your ability to see the best in others is uplifting. That part of you that criticizes and blames does not uplift.
6. You are the creator of your own reality. Taken to the maximum, there is no blame. When you assume this level of responsibility you are powerful and free.
7. That which you focus your attention on will grow in importance. If you are focused on that which you don’t want you are perpetuating what you don’t want. If you are focused on thoughts that bring you joy, peace, and feelings of success, you will create situations that reflect those qualities. Your focus comes from your intention. If you do not intend to be unhappy, stop focusing on unhappiness. If you intend for joy, find reasons to be joyous.
8. There is a deeper part of you that is a wellspring of wisdom. You find this wellspring by looking for it. For some it is found in prayer or meditation. For others it is found in contemplation, study, creativity or art. Others find it through the rituals and beliefs of religion. Follow the spiritual path that calls to you and allow your inner guidance to flow forth. Your personality, of itself, cannot know what will make you happy.
“You make yourself and others suffer just as much when you take offense as when you give offense.” Ken Keyes, Jr. Are you ready to leap beyond normal? Challenge the assumptions that keep you there. Many people get fed up with unhappy conditions and instantly leap out of the condition. Do it first in your mind. The real leaping is in changing the way you see things. Once that is accomplished, your actions flow naturally.
“Remember this: Every decision you make stems from what you think you are, and represents the value you put upon yourself.” ACIM
Nothing is permanent in this world. Things come and go. Your wealth, your well-being, and your joy are all within you. Your experience of the outer world of things and conditions merely reflects how you see yourself. It’s your story and you can tell it any way you like. You change your story by intending a different story. You set the intention and then you align your thoughts and actions with it. It takes courage to move beyond normal and results are often not instantaneous. With intention and persistence you can navigate new pathways to greater joy and fulfillment.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. Begin it now.” Goethe
I am thankful to the friends and leaders in my life who live successful stories. They inspire me to rewrite my own story.