Our society operates on laws and social norms. They were created to reduce chaos and to build the modern world we live in. However, similar to being at the mercy of our caveman tendencies when we aren't in caveman days, we often make decisions based on what everyone around us wants us to do, rather than doing what is right for us.
If you are navigating your professional life by these seven norms, you are setting yourself up for one type of success: normal. For those of you who want to break barriers with your impact and your career, take note of the alternatives:
- Social norm: caring what others think and keeping up with the Joneses
Alternative: You have to let go of what others think in order to get connected to your true self. Jennifer Crocker, University of Ohio psychologist, did a study and found that college students who made decisions based on what others thought had higher levels of alcohol and drug abuse and had lower grades than those who didn't base their decisions on what others thought. If you are making career decisions based on what others think, those influences may be steering you in the wrong direction.
- Social norm: blending in
Alternative: As adolescents, we would do anything to avoid standing out. Emotional immaturity equals lack of confidence. However when it comes to maximizing your career potential, standing out is what it's all about. In order to come up with innovative, new, and game-changing ideas, you have to be willing to be different and be yourself.
- Social norm: doing what everyone else is doing
Alternative: It's easy to do what you see everyone else around you doing. In fact, how many times do you see people follow in the footsteps of others because they don't know what else to do? Set yourself on a path that feels right and is not done in absence of knowing what else to do.
- Social norm: getting advice from your friends or family
Alternative: Your family and friends may love you, but they are not able to be objective. This is especially true when something that is right for you may take you far away from them or alter your normal routine with them. Try seeking advice from people who are able to help you get clear on what is right for you or are doing something that you know you want to do. Friends and family, whether they realize it or not, are too emotionally invested to ensure that their advice is not just a reflection of what they want you to do.
- Social norm: going to graduate school
Alternative: Getting a graduate degree or PhD is a no-brainer for people who are absolutely clear that it's a requirement for their profession of choice, for example, doctors, lawyers, and professors. However, if you're considering graduate school for another career path, it's worth questioning why you are making this decision. Too often people continue their education because they don't know what else to do. Make sure it's the right decision, and explore other ways to educate yourself and further your level of expertise. To really rise to the top, it's not about getting the degree--it's about doing what is aligned with your top skills and passions.
- Social norm: taking the safe option
Alternative: Safe is easy, and it's something everyone will suggest. Safe is understandable, but sometimes doing something risky will have the best payoff. When I made the unsafe and radical decision to start my own business, my family was worried. Even I was a bit worried--it felt scary and exciting. But I recognized these feelings as validation that I was doing the right thing. You have to feel a mix of anxiety and excitement when you start new things and push your comfort zone. It is a sign that you are on the brink of greatness.
- Social norm: calming your wild ideas
Alternative: Most people that have experienced breakthrough success say that when they started, everyone they knew said they were crazy. What pushed them to move forward was the belief in themselves and their ideas. Jeff Bezos went on to create Amazon. Oprah Winfrey launched The Oprah Winfrey Show. There was no question in their minds that it was right for them. This is how you should feel if you are clear on your career goals--no matter how "crazy" they are.