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It’s Time to Break Up with “Back to Normal”

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We’ve all been through a tremendous amount of change in the last year and a half, from toilet paper and Tiger King to racial injustice and geopolitical unrest. We’ve lost the sense of security that “normal” gave us in our individual lives, our communities, our country, even across the globe – it’s been a lot.

Craving a return to “normal” is a natural response. You wish things would just go back the way they were. You miss those “Before Times” when things were in a state of relative ease and quiet. I’m here to tell you that finding that version of “normal” is not only impossible, it probably wasn’t so great to begin with.

“Normal” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

I like to think of “normal” like an ex. You might mourn the relationship and the way it made you feel when times were good, but there were plenty of times that were not so good. Getting back together is off the table. We need to de-romanticize and break up with “back to normal.”

So, how do we get over “normal” and move on? First, let’s understand why “normal” feels so important. It’s all about attachment.

There are deep emotional connections between you and your memories. It’s why you are nostalgic for past experiences, people, places, and objects. You can even be nostalgic for trivial things, like a particular type of candy from your childhood that would not taste nearly as good to you now as it did then.

Life goes on, and inevitably some of those emotional connections are severed; the thing you were attached to is lost. When that happens, you stall and stumble while trying to reattach the connection, and unfortunately, that effort can leave you completely stuck.

What you need to do instead is release those attachments and acknowledge that the past is not the present.

There’s no going back

Deciding you’d like a better life than what you left behind doesn’t take away the anxiety created by venturing into the unknown.  “Normal” is familiar, comfortable, and known. Change, on the other hand, is uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and also inevitable. Knowing you can’t (and probably don’t want to) go back to the way things were, you have a choice:

  1. You can look around at your current circumstances and learn to accept your “new normal” as it is.
  2. You can take this opportunity to actively and joyfully create your “new normal.”

What do you want your “new normal” to look like?

Really take a moment to consider this.

Maybe you really liked elements of your pre-pandemic life. But I’m guessing there were things — choices, habits, patterns, relationships — that you’ve had a chance to reevaluate and would like to leave in the past.

What are the parts of life that you would really like to return to? Did you enjoy working in an office everyday with people around you? Attending concerts and events? Spending quality time with dear friends? Spending an afternoon in your favorite coffee shop?

How about the parts you don’t want to return to? Did you often over-commit yourself to work projects? Did you agree to social events when you would have rather stayed home and watched a movie? Are there certain relationships that completely drained your energy?

To create your “new normal,” you need to do new things.

Your experiences shape who you are and who you are becoming. You need to be intentional about how you operate and carefully consider what experiences and energy you welcome into your life.

Here’s an example. I became so burned-out last year because I was constantly on-the-go. I packed my schedule to the brim everyday with coaching calls, meetings, networking events, dinner with friends, errands – anything to stay in motion. I realized that I was keeping myself so busy because it was how I saw myself bringing value to the world. In other words, it was all in an effort to seek validation. I thought that if I did enough, it would make me feel like I was enough. I know now that it was an unwinnable game.

I needed to carve out space for the things that bring me joy, like coloring and painting. I needed to learn to live in the present moment. Part of my “new normal” is being aware of my own needs and putting myself first, instead of running around seeking validation from outside sources.

It all comes down to intention. You get to decide who you become and how you show up in the world, and there is tremendous power there. Don’t give up that power just to run “back to normal.”

If you build it, change will come.

Personally, I’m glad that I had an opportunity to take a hard look at my life, to choose what I want to carry forward and what I’d rather leave behind. I love the more intentional pace of life I’ve adopted since I was forced to slow down. Maybe you can relate.

The truth is, change is happening all the time, whether you like it or not. So don’t squander this opportunity to design your life and your “new (and better!) normal” in a way that best serves YOU.

What would you like your life to look like? What will it take to get there?

If you’d like help navigating the creation of your “new normal,” let’s talk. Your dream life is waiting for you!

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