Normal is Merely Average

June 26, 2016

In my last post, I wrote about the Ted Talk I recently heard given by Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage.

He states that the professional world works to help people become normal, (or worse,) but by using the term “normal” what we often mean is “average.” Average is that place where we don’t stand out. We’re like everyone else. We do the things other people do. At about the 4:45 mark, he says, “Normal is merely average.”

“Normal is merely average.” Shawn Achor

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Why is it we want to be like everyone else? Deep down inside, you understand you’re unique. When people create something, we try to make it repeatable. But our greatest appreciation is for the one-of-a-kind. Thousands of people line up on Antiques Roadshow hoping they have a rare collectible. We’re looking for the unique, rare, valuable.

Antiques Roadshow proves Achor’s point from this segment of the video. We’re looking for the rare, the exception or the one-of-a-kind. We long for a nostalgia and the unique.  And when we focus on rare enough, we’re tempted to believe rare is normal.

Our media talks about bad and negative news all the time because it is the exception. Yes, the exception. Most of the people on the planet lived their life yesterday. They raised their kids and they paid their bills. They did their jobs without stealing or cheating on their spouses. Most banks weren’t robbed. Most flights didn’t crash. Most of the time, most of what happens isn’t newsworthy. News, you see, is the exception, not the rule.

However, as Achor suggests, after a while, what we give our attention to will begin to transform us. Media of any kind is a very new invention. Most of us didn’t think much about the Internet at all 20 years ago. The television is still only 50 or so years old. Even daily newspapers weren’t invented until 500 years ago and they weren’t common until 200 years ago or less.

Our brains average out the inputs. If most of our inputs are negative, our average is negative. If our inputs are positive, our average begins to move toward the positive. Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage is next on my to-read list. I want to focus on the things I’m grateful for and the outcomes I’d like to produce. I can find out about the news any time I want. Rather than invest my attention in the negative, for the next few weeks, I will focus my energy on appreciating, creating and sharing the good I see.

I’m taking his challenge to journal and list 3 things I’m grateful for every day for 21 days. Today is my day 10. Join me?

Photo © aquir / 123RF Stock Photo

4 responses to Normal is Merely Average


    Shawn Achor is fantastic! I had the privilege of hearing him speak at a conference last month. One of my favorite quotes from that talk was about “activating the potential of others” – and I thought that would be a quote that you would appreciate, Mike!

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      I appreciate you and the comment. You’re correct. I do appreciate that quote. I think I heard him say something similar. I’m listening to The Happiness Advantage now. Thanks again for the comment. Mike…



    Terrific post Mike! A solid reminder for us to find out how to be more remarkable in our daily lives and ultimate life pursuits. Look forward to reading Anchor’s book!

    Liked by 1 person