Being normal is an overrated concept. No one actually fits the definition, since we all have our own, so no one is really normal. We’re all just somewhere on the continuum of abnormality. Some of you are much higher on the spectrum than others (you know who you are), but we’re all in this crazy, non-normal environment together.
And that was even true before the apocalypse. Look at us now… normal is such a distant memory, I’m not sure we’d know it if we could touch it. And since we can’t, there’s no since in lamenting its loss.
Since, even when things were normal… they actually weren’t. Follow me here, I promise I’m going somewhere.
There’s lots of talk these days about “returning to normal,” and “getting back to normal,” and “I can’t wait until it’s normal again.”
Therein lies the problem – it was never normal to begin with.
By that, I mean that if normal is (according to Webster) an adjective, then:
nor·mal | \ ˈnȯr-məl \ Conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern:
characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine; “normal
working hours” “under normal circumstances” “It was just a normal, average
day.” “He had a normal childhood.”
“Conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.” Actually, we’ve never had much of that, if you really think about it. The organizations we serve, well, they’re always trying to grow and improve – to get better. All of that requires change, which by definition, doesn’t fit the description of “normal.”
According to that definition above:
- Change isn’t normal.
- Growth isn’t normal.
- Our families aren’t normal (Welcome to the dysfunctional zone).
- Our hobbies aren’t normal. (Ever hit the exact same golf shot twice? On purpose?)
All in all, “normal” is something of a myth; a bill of goods we’ve bought into so we can complain when things start changing and we have little control over the change.
Ahh, now it’s starting to make sense. We’re ok with change that we can easily predict and/or control – that seems normal to us. We’re ok with change that provides us a benefit, even if we didn’t see it coming – that seems normal also.
What we don’t like, and what we view as total out of the normal, is change that we neither control nor benefit from, especially when it’s taking us to places unknown. That intense discomfort we feel inside, that absolute lack of control or expectation, has us wishing for the “good old days” when we could see that predictable, expected, beneficial change coming down the highway.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of the obvious, but this apocalypse took us so far from our comfort zone that we long for the days of old – the days of comfort – not really the days of “normal.”
So, when we find ourselves pining away for “back to normal,” realize what we’re really asking for: constant, never-ending change that we either can control, reasonably expect, or personally benefit from. You know, the stuff we used to have.
This is significant for leadership. From our perspective, things were normal before March 2020. Lots of changes – some good, some bad; some expected, some “what the hell…!?” But it was our normal. Then.
The apocalypse hit – now we had new normal. Masks, physical distancing, hospitalizations, elbow-bumps, vaccines, handwashing (does it bother anyone but me that handwashing was a new thing for so many?). These things became our regular pattern; things that were considered usual, typical, or routine. You know… normal.
Today, and going forward, we have normal again. It’s the Now Normal. Different from the pre-Covid normal, which wasn’t really; different from the pandemic operations normal, which wasn’t really. We have our Now Normal, which isn’t all that normal. But it’s a more comfortable set of changes… a more expected routine or set of activities.
And we seem to be pleased it’s coming our way, though I’d caution that all normal, including this Now Normal, have their share of “oh shit” experiences.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you…