My washing machine always gets a chuckle out of me (good thing when you're doing lots of laundry, right?). Take a look at the dial. There's a setting for "normal." Apparently the manufacturer assumes that we, as intelligent consumers, identify, understand, and collectively agree that a certain kind of dirty laundry is normal.

Personally, I am not sure what "normal" laundry is. What's more, on my machine I have a choice between two normals: heavy and light. Think about it. I live in an urban setting and work indoors. Naturally my clothing will encounter a whole different kind of dirt and wear-and-tear than that of someone who lives in the country and works out in the elements. My "heavy" could be that person's "light." And yet both of us would consider our laundry "normal."

The humble washing machine illustrates a larger point. Ultimately, the word "normal" can be vague--or even useless--when used to set a standard for just about anything. The only exception I can think of is of is standardized blood tests, but then I'm not so sure about that, either.

When it comes to health and wellness, the notion of being "normal" can be confusing and even downright counterproductive. Is my normal the same as yours? Well, I'm a female, five feet and one inch tall. Are you? Probably not. If just sex and height can create a wide range of "normal," imagine the variation multiple details can produce!

It concerns me that I hear the question, "Am I normal?" several times a day in my busy New York practice. Worrying about what's normal can be exhausting and ultimately meaningless for a patient. What's more, there are dangers in pursuing normalcy above all else.

Danger #1: "Normal" thinking locks in habits and excuses that prevent change.
It's just human nature that we tend to think of change as risky. By the same token, we routinely treat things that have happened as long as we can remember as safe and risk-free--or "normal"--even when they are not. Regarding the status quo as "normal" lets you accept it whether it's in your best interest or not. This is a trap! Instead, examine your "normal" honestly. You might discover that you are performing tasks or thinking about yourself and others in a ritualistic, outdated, or even dangerous way.

Robert discovered this firsthand. His "normal" meant looking forward to a cigarette after work. It was his way of celebrating the end of each workday. After making the decision to stop smoking, he soon became aware of faulty thinking and actions and began my nonsmoking acupuncture/mindset treatment. By looking at his triggers, we were able to change his thoughts about what comprises an end-of-day activity and help him to successfully transition to the nonsmoking world.

Danger #2: Ideas of what's normal often come from a mindset of lack.
These notions can grow from doubts that what you have--or are--can measure up. Too often, when patients ask whether they're normal, what they really worry is that they're somehow less than adequate. And in many cases, it's an ungrounded fear. Life isn't a competition.

In my office, I saw this concept of lacking evolve into self-growth. Amy took a good, hard look at her weaknesses as a coach and vowed to turn them into successes instead of feeling sorry for herself and focusing on all the others who were making more money. After two NET sessions, she realized the importance of the unique qualities and attributes that she brings to the people she helps. Only then did her coaching career accelerate. Amy discovered success didn't depend on being "normal" by meeting an outside standard but on celebrating and embracing her own uniqueness and applying in her coaching practice.

Many of us would benefit from taking a page from Amy's and Robert's books. It starts with taking stock of the thoughts and actions that you are tolerating as normal or just not noticing anymore. Challenge the normal! Complete self-care involves recalibration combined with a real examination of who you are, what you want, and where you are going right now. After all, what was normal last year--or even yesterday--could be outdated today.

Start today. Examine your routines and habits honestly. Be on the lookout for the "same old" ways of thinking and feeling that have gotten a deeper hold on your everyday life. What practices or attitudes need adjusting? Then take charge and do it. Your happiness and wellness are worth the effort.

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Roberts Mittman, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., M.S., is a nutritional and lifestyle consultant, holistic mindset mentor, and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. Using natural, drug-free techniques, Roberta opens the door to complete mind-body health. Roberta believes in empowering individuals to be their own best healers. Ready to take that step? Call 212-686-0939, or visit online at