How do you typically start into the day? Are you waking up full of energy having a to do list in mind already? Do you look at the possibilities the day may bring or are you focusing on all the problems that need to be solved? Do you ever pause and just assess how you are at that very moment? Or do you make your well-being dependent on the influences of the past, the circumstances of today and the insecurities of the future? Do you believe that you don’t have the ultimate power about your own life? That you can’t really influence your own happiness and success? That there are always external circumstances that are stronger than you are in the end?
You know what? In a way you are right. There are. We are born out of nothing. We couldn’t choose where and into what culture. We haven’t been asked about which parents we wanted and if we liked a small or a big family. We had nothing to say about our gender, skin color and other outward appearance. Even our name we didn’t have any influence on. Other people made a call on that and we just have to live with it, whatever that means. As much as we don’t have any influence on our birth, most of us won’t have a lot of influence on their death either. At a certain point in time it will happen. How? When? Why? Which circumstances? Nobody knows.
So we can determine that two of the most crucial events in our lives are totally dependent on coincidence. Some people call it luck or bad luck. Others call it destiny. Whatever it is called, we don’t seem to have much influence on it. There is a lot of insecurity to it. Most people hate insecurity. They try to find something to hold on to, something like religion for example or the belief in a proven system providing rules, values, standards and structure. The deep desire to have control and to be safe stands behind that idea. It is one of the typical IF – THEN sequences in the human mind. IF I behave according to the standards THEN I’ll be fine. IF I learn what I am supposed to know at a certain age THEN people will be satisfied with me. IF I get good marks THEN I will be able to study at a good University. IF I graduate from a respected University THEN I will get a good job. IF I have a good job THEN I will be able earn enough money. IF I earn enough money THEN I am successful. And so on and so on. It all comes down to the same very basic sequence:
IF I function according to the general social standards
THEN I will be received as being good and enough…
This is what most of us have learned growing up. You have to do your best. You have to respect the rules. You need to adapt. You need to follow a given path. You need to be normal. But why? Why do we think that between the two most crucial and totally coincidental events in our life – birth and death – we can control everything? And what happens, if we don’t?
All our life we seem to be busy becoming someone. But we keep forgetting that we are someone already. We are born as an individual. But from an early age on we are trying to be normal standard. In school, at the University as well as in work life we are measured according to certain performance standards. We are compared with each other and assessed against an average value. We are told that if we meet that average value, we are OK and if our performance is better than this average value we are just great. And by being good or great in that specific value system we are able to follow a certain career path and become someone. Someone successful and respected. Someone who is good enough.
Now, this is what our parents teach us in order to prepare us for the years to come. They want us to be able to adapt, so we have a chance to earn our livings and become successful – whatever that means. And, please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. Being able to adapt is one of the most important survival strategies – nature is the best example for that. What I am talking about is that many of us only have the common standards in mind when it comes to measuring success. But as individuals not everyone is able to meet these standards. We see that in early childhood already. Some children are too active, too shy, too loud, too intelligent, too creative, too whatever. They experience frustration at a very early age already, as they are always told that they are too something and therefore not meeting the standard. What they understand is, that they are not good enough…
The most difficult ones to satisfy are we ourselves.
Being grown-up these experiences have influenced most of us so much that we fully adapted to this kind of standard thinking. We might have found out that we are different, but very often we associate being different with something negative. For many of us being different means facing problems in day-to-day live. Not being able to fully adapt or adapting with a lot of pain. Out of the standard belief system we developed a kind of perfectionism. The idea is that if we are perfectly functioning according to the standard – if we are normal, we cannot be criticized anymore. We are safe. We are finally enough. But still there is this nagging feeling, as always trying to do what is expected by society and in the end by ourselves is very exhausting. And our perfectionism accelerates this feeling and tells us that we are still not good enough.
There are many people out there in business life struggling with this issue. You wouldn’t believe it. Many have learned to cover it up and try to live with it, so you wouldn’t recognize. Others are trying to find happiness in different areas, such as music, family, traveling, animals, arts, volunteer work etc. Some withdraw from society as much as possible and live with the conviction that they are somehow strange. But the funny thing is, that we all are somehow strange, because we are individuals. There is not one alike to another!
So we need to stop telling ourselves that we need to be ‘normal’. There is no normal. Everyone has individual characteristics, different features, an own portfolio of talents and therefore also an individual way and a very own approach. That does not mean that we shouldn’t work on ourselves and try to improve in order to become a better version of ourselves, but it means, that there is no need to change completely. We will not be a happier person by becoming normal. There is satisfaction in accepting who we are. We are growing by making experiences, not by following our own perfectionism that is based on standards that no individual will ever be able to meet.
The solution lies in finding our own way, even if it might not be the standard one. Most people who are admired of being creative, inspirational or influencing these days have definitely never been normal and meeting the common standard. They accepted themselves as being ‘different’, made peace with it, created their own standards and moved on… So let’s not be too harsh on ourselves.
Become aware of who you are and what you are able to do. Regard your personal characteristics as talents and make the best of them. Define your own standards and last but not least, create your own definition of success!