“Normal” and “adaptive” are very different goals and often at odds. It’s easy to confuse the two, especially since they so often overlap. Surviving and thriving depend upon distinguishing one from the other.
“Normal” speaks to statistics. What do people usually do? How do they expect others to behave? What usually happens in practice? We can deduce “normal” from observation, though most people mistake their preconceived, unexamined mental models as “normal.”
“Adaptive” speaks to possibility, potential, and patterns. Does this behavior lead to positive results? Will this behavior continue to do so in this new environment? Will we survive at all if we persist at it? We can look at past results in order to make educated guesses, but only the real world and its future can determine what will and will not qualify as adaptive in the long term.
Normal can appear adaptive right up until it isn’t. Few if any of the “normal” career paths for past generations have adapted to the modern world. The very idea of “normal” loses its meaning as it diffuses across an increasingly connected and varied planet. The gulf between “normal” and adaptive widens as each advance in technology accelerates change. The more normal you appear, the less you stand out in a world that values commodification and devalues the commodity.
If you want to get ahead these days, or even tread water instead of sink, then you must pursue imminent truth instead of the abstract. Drop the fiction of “normal” as fast as you can. Instead, seek out your uniquely adaptive self and embrace it.