​After facilitating a workshop for staff at the ANNIKA Golf Academy™ in Florida, I enjoyed a three-day skills improvement workshop with seven fellow golf enthusiasts. The first day, our instructor, Charlotta Sorenstam, showed us a new grip. I really struggled with it. I was looking around, hoping I wasn’t the only one having trouble and noticed something weird. Only two of us were actually even trying to change our grip. Two were defaulting back to their normal grip and not saying anything. The rest were giving the instructor all kinds of reasons NOT to change their grip. It was like listening to an inventory of “I can’t.” Did they really invest all this time and money just to stay the same? Or did their normal grip trump their investment in improvement? That’s the power of normal.

What Is “Normal”?

Normal is your comfort zone; a limited, well-defined psychological area where you can function effectively without experiencing uneasiness or fear. Step outside the boundaries and you feel uncomfortable, stressed. Your comfort zone can be so strong that you will go back to it, even when it is not really comfortable. We have all heard the stories of people being released from prison only to re-offend in order to get back to the one place they feel comfortable. Life outside is too hard, too confusing, too stressful. Normal in some ways is their enemy, because their normal is keeping them from living a full and free life.

The Power of Normal

The power of normal is exponential. The more you groove a normal, the deeper it gets and the more powerful it becomes. When you are young, every road you travel is new. With each new road you explore, you leave behind only light tracks. Go down the same road again, however, and the track gets deeper; go down many times and it becomes a rut. You don’t even have to hold on to the steering wheel anymore; the rut holds you in place. When there is no rut, you have to pay attention and hold on to the steering wheel just to stay on track. Your normal can be a rut that holds you in place. It has power over you. It defines what you believe, where you stand on issues, how you relate to others. Your normal not only has power over you, it controls you. It can make you believe that your normal is “the” normal, and anyone who does not share it must be abnormal. You need to figure out what is normal for you in order to understand where normal could be your enemy.
By becoming aware of your normal, you see how it impacts not only your behavior, but also your behavior toward other viewpoints. As with any kind of personal growth, this requires self-examination. You need insight in order to act to correct your “enemy normal”.

How Did I Get Here?

You can begin to challenge your personal or team normals by learning how they form. For example, I don’t like onions. So when it comes to ordering pizza, it is normal behavior for me to order mine without onions. How did this normal behavior or belief come about? Was I born not liking onions? Not likely. What is likely is that somewhere along my life experience, I had a negative experience with onions. I transformed that experience into a thought—I don’t like onions—which became a belief, which became my behavior, which became my normal. Now I act in accordance with that belief. The following illustration may provide some insight on how normals are created.

Putting Normal to Work

For over 40 years, The Pacific Institute® has successfully helped individuals and organizations understand how their normals form by teaching them how their thought processes work. Once you understand this, you develop the power to change those normals (personal and organizational) that aren’t working for you, while strengthening those normals that are.

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