You Don’t Have to be Normal

by | Jul 23, 2018

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~ Maya Angelou

We get pretty excited working with each unique individual, family, and business we encounter – and a lot of that is because you’re unique. We’ve never hoped to provide cookie-cutter, “standard” financial planning. Not only because we don’t think that is possible, but also because the best part of the work we do is uncovering the deep, heartfelt reasons why you are the way you are, and why you want what you want. Then we get to help you devise a plan to get there.

We can all get tripped up by external pressures. Pressures to define success with someone else’s words. Pressures to live the lifestyles our social and professional groups deem as appropriate. Pressures to be… normal.

Those pressures can be pretty tough to work past. We are humans – we like to belong, we like to fit in. We all want to be a part of a healthy community, but sometimes we make unhealthy sacrifices in an attempt to get there.

Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely – it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are. ~ Brené Brown

There are a lot of different beliefs about what being a successful adult looks like, and a lot of us have a Life Path Map in our heads. It might just look like this:

  • Graduate high school (late teens)
  • Attend post-secondary school to desired level and graduate (twenties)
  • Get high paying job (late twenties/early thirties)
  • Get married (late twenties/early thirties)
  • Buy home (late twenties/early thirties)
  • Have children (late twenties/early thirties)
  • Pay down debt (thirties)
  • Build wealth (forties)
  • Send children to university (forties/fifties)
  • Build wealth (fifties)
  • Retire (sixties)
  • Sail on a boat or build a cabin in the woods (seventies/eighties)
  • Die (eighties/nineties)

Each one of us has details that define each step, and your definition depends on where your social culture, socioeconomic status, and personal experience lands.

Post-secondary school may be trade school or academic. Whether a ticket or a seal or a bachelor’s/master’s/PhD is normal really depends on where you come from, where you’re going, and who you hang out with.

What a high paying job actually is looks different for everyone. The right time to get married and have children is different for everyone, but usually pretty defined for each person. The type of home you buy and how you decorate it differs. What kind of debt, what kind of wealth, and what kind of spending you believe is reasonable changes from person to person.

It’s incredibly difficult not to measure our own ideas of success on the values and actions of our peers, or those we wish to be peers with. What looks like the bottom, the middle, and the top, varies considerably, but each of us has a pretty good idea of what that looks like in our own circles.

If those ideas of success really do fit in with what makes you happy, then you’re in a great spot. Problems arise when you make choices based on what you think you “should” do, rather than what you’ve deeply explored and consciously decided to move forward with. If you have managed to do that exploration, and make some strong decisions, there’s another thing that’s hard: actually living differently.

Living differently is hard because you do end up explaining to people why you chose that path. More importantly, you have to explain it to yourself. You will run into the things throughout your daily life that are more generally accepted as normal, and you will have to remind yourself why you chose against them. Even if it would actually be pretty nice to have granite counter tops or a second car or a distant holiday or dinners out several times a week. But you chose that other thing that makes you happier.

What might that other thing look like?

It might look like Krysten and her husband’s decision to move from Metro Vancouver to the Okanagan even though it’s a distance from some of their closest friends and family. But, it cut their mortgage in half – because that became a high priority over living close to a major metropolis.

It may look like a decision to retire on a boat in Mexico rather than own a home in Canada and visit the grandchildren weekly.

It could look like Sandi and Seth’s decision to live in cottage country and have one of them become a full-time parent (the male parent, even).

It could look like a choice to live in a remote community with fewer job options and a reduced lifestyle, or to work relentlessly well into your 80s – because you like it. Or the choice to skip having children, instead choosing to work remotely, and travel around the world.

Or it could be that following the beaten path is exactly what will make you happy.

It doesn’t matter which path you take, as long as you have made the conscious decision to choose it. At Spring, we don’t think you have to adhere to someone else’s standards of what is okay. We don’t think that you have to follow the life path that someone else set out for you. We don’t think you have to be normal.

We do think that you can be incredibly successful at being the person you have consciously chosen to be. The person who has decided that these specific things (whatever they may be) are the things you want in your life. We think you can define success for yourself, and we think we can help you create a plan to get there.

Julia Chung