“Tell me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” “You are the company you keep.” “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” It’s a maxim that spans thousands of years and countless cultures in one form or another. I think most of us would also agree it’s true. One of my favorite versions is “Take a picture of the 6 people you spend the most time with; there is your future.” Over the years though, I have discovered a problem in applying this statement to one’s own life. And truth be told, this problem is likely why the above statements are so true. The problem is that when we’re in the midst of that company and the environment it creates, we have a tendency to think that it is “normal.” When you see and accept a situation as “normal”, there is neither much thought given, nor any real effort made to break out of it. Sadly, as a police officer, I have seen it many times. I see people who are living their lives in a highly destructive manner, and yet they make no effort to break free of it, even when they’re not happy. I can’t help but think that it’s often because that is the life that is modeled before them, and that is what they see as “normal.” I can empathize. Many years ago I was in a dysfunctional relationship. But the heart of the problem was that I simply couldn’t see that it was so. It’s hard to recognize such things when everyone around you is living the same way. It seems so normal. For me personally, it wasn’t until I got out of the relationship that I saw how monumentally broken it was, and I immediately felt embarrassed that I had let it go on so long. Why do I write any of this in our newsletter? I’m not suggesting that you’re in a dysfunctional relationship (although if you have hints and/or subtle feelings that something isn’t right in your life or relationships, you need to pay attention to those feelings and consider them carefully.) I’m using an obvious example to illustrate a more subtle idea. Regardless of whether or not you’re in a dysfunctional relationship or a destructive environment, you should look at what you’ve always considered, defined, and accepted as “normal.” It could very well be that you’re making yourself unhappy, unfulfilled, or you’re settling for less than you’re capable, simply because those around you told you “this is how it is supposed to be.” I’m not suggesting you do something different just for the sake of it, like teenagers dressing funny simply for attention. But many of the happiest and most fulfilled people I know are considered different or even odd by their peers because they couldn’t be bothered with being “normal.” They orchestrated and created their life the way they wanted it.