A person’s sense of what’s normal in their life comes from the collection of decisions that they make over time. Sure, we all make some choices that are outside of our norm, but over time, it all averages out. We define ourselves by the choices we make on the whole.
A person who chooses to exercise a lot is going to have a different sense of “normal” than a person who does not, for example. A person who chooses to be very careful with their money is going to have a different sense of “normal” than a person who does not.
Looking at it from that perspective, it’s pretty easy to think that we all make up our own sense of “normal.” But is that really true?
If you ever investigate buying an item because someone on television is using that item, you’re letting that person on television influence what you think of as normal.
If you ever look around your block at the houses and yards and cars and clothes that everyone has and then judge your own house and yard and car and clothes by that standard, you’re letting your neighborhood influence what you think of as normal.
If you ever choose what you’re going to wear or what gadget you’re going to buy based on what coworkers or friends will think of you, you’re letting those people influence your idea of normal.
Our sense of normal is influenced by almost everything around us. It influences us and alters how we make many of our decisions.
At the same time, I think it’s fair to say that everyone reading this site has some desire to make better decisions. We want to have a better normal than we have right now.
So, if the things around us influence our sense of what’s normal and we want to (ideally) have a better normal, it makes complete sense to surround ourselves with things that reflect that better “normal” that we want to have.
If you look up and down your block and see people spending money in nonsensical ways, why are you living there? What values are they contributing to your life? How is this affecting your sense of “normal”?
If you spend an evening with your friends and are regularly baffled by their behavior and choices, why are you hanging out with them? What values are they contributing to your life? How are they affecting your sense of “normal”?
If you find yourself interested in buying things that you saw on television, why are you watching television? What values are being contributed to your life by television? How is it affecting your sense of “normal”? The same thing is true of web surfing, for that matter.
Over and over again in our lives, we get to choose what we surround ourselves with. Our friends. Our neighbors. Our entertainment. These things constantly provide us with cues as to what is “normal” for our own life and, like it or not, we take in a lot of those cues.
If you feel like you’re “hooked” on spending or there are parts of your financial life that are just out of whack, spend some time looking at where you live, who you surround yourself with, and what you use to entertain yourself. All of those things are giving you big hints as to what you should think of as “normal,” and if you feel like something’s amiss, one strong first step is to look at changing some of those sources. Look for new social opportunities. Stop visiting the same old websites and stop watching the same old television shows. Consider moving to a less affluent area.
If your “normal” life is unsustainable, you need to change what is “normal.”