How deviating from the norm can lead to success


Kevin Mangelschots

Deviating from the norm can be beneficial to the individual at times, but it can also have vital liabilities. Deviation from the norm will be punished a lot of the time since others will see you as a threat.

Ultimately, though, we are all different. This means that sometimes, a deviation from the norm is to be expected and should even be considered normal behavior to stay true to ourselves. Whatever we do in life, we should always practice what we preach.

How can deviating from the norm lead to success?

A road with the word success written on it and an arrow pointing ahead to the horizon.

If you do what the average person does, then you will get average results. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, if you have lofty goals, then those will probably be hard, if not impossible, to reach when you’re doing what the average Joe does.

As a consequence, we can’t expect to put in an average amount of effort and expect exceptional results. Especially not if the goal requires a great amount of cognitive abilities. Then that most likely means that we need exceptional intelligence as well.

Deviating from the norms teaches us a lot about ourselves. It can teach us to take responsibility, to make our own decisions, and to learn from our mistakes to grow as a person.

All those things are invaluable to develop ourselves and to become successful at whatever goals we decide to pursue. No matter if it’s becoming a successful businessman, a great parent, or a flourishing ethical member of society.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What does deviation from the norm mean?

Deviation from the norm can be defined as not acting like the usual or what’s expected. It means that your behavior is different from that of the average or standard.

Doing something else than the average person is doing is typically considered abnormal behavior, and is not always tolerated and accepted in our society.

Advantages of deviating from the norm

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Close-up of parrot

Sometimes you’re right and the majority is wrong

It is a good thing to deviate from the norm if you’re absolutely certain that you effectively know something better. Be it by having more information, or because you are better at processing that information into a solid plan of action.

However, it’s hard to know when you’re right and someone else is wrong. It takes a lot of self-knowledge, introspection, intelligence, an objective outlook, and researching empirical evidence before you can even dare make such a claim.

Never assume you know better than the majority of people without a very good reason. And simply because you “feel” like you do isn’t good enough. You need to have some tangible evidence or reasons to believe that instead of a feeling that’s mainly subjective.

Developing the individual instead of the collective

But sometimes, deviation from the norm is a must if we are daring and willing enough to explore our path in life, in our own manner.

It’s technically impossible to always choose what the group does because every individual is different and has a unique personality. We have our own personal values, ethics, interests, and talents that we find important and worth chasing.

As a result, all of us have a different value hierarchy that makes for wildly different personalities. Due to these varying personalities, we will naturally have different ways of living our lives optimally.

Making personal mistakes allows us to grow

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Making personal mistakes might seem like a failure to a lot of folks. Some people might laugh at you, you might even regret not following what everyone else or most other people are doing since you’ve got to take the blame and responsibility because you made that decision.

But it is exactly in this failure that lies the key to growth. Since we often learn the most from the mistakes we’ve made in the past. The more hurtful they are, the more we learn in most cases since we tend to feel negative emotions more heavily than we do positive ones.

I think this is because pain gives us an incentive to learn. Because we want to limit the amount of pain we experience. And a lot of our brain’s task is to inhibit. To inhibit our emotions, to inhibit our reactions, and also to inhibit the amount of pain and negative emotions we expose ourselves to.

This ability to learn from our failures is automatically also its greatest risk. Because we deviate from the norm, we are more prone to making mistakes. Because we have an undiscovered path that we must explore ourselves instead of an already paved way by the majority.

And making mistakes can be incredibly painful. They can cause anxiety, or even worse, turn into fear, This may prevent us from attempting something on our own or something different from the norm in the future.

And that’s not a good thing, because ultimately what we want to be as an individual is someone who is well-developed, confident, responsible, and unafraid to be ourselves and make our own informed decisions.

Teaches taking responsibility

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Another thing that can scare us is that we need to take responsibility for the consequences of our choices if we make our own decisions.

When we follow the group, we at least have the peace of mind that “everyone did it” and “it was not my own decision” that led to a failure or mistake.

Owning your decisions is the responsibility that comes along with making your own choices. You can’t have it all, and you have to take the good with the bad. But, making mistakes does provide the unique possibility to learn and grow.

Possibility to accomplish something exceptional

You can’t accomplish extraordinary things through average means, which is exactly what most average folks, which is the majority, are doing.

When you deviate from the norm, you are daring enough to think for yourself and to expand your field of view. You’ve got to dream big if you want to accomplish something of value.

By doing what most people aren’t willing to do, such as putting in a lot of time, hard work, and introspection, one can attain their lofty dreams and create an exceptional life. And if it was easy, everyone would do it. Thus, the great and exceptional things in life would lose their value.

Disadvantages of deviating from the norm

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It’s easier to follow the herd than having to think for yourself

Following the herd is easier than making your own decisions and deviating from the norm.

There’s less thinking involved when you can mindlessly follow other people without having to think because the majority will generally make the right, or at least a decent decision that isn’t too detrimental to your well-being.

Having to think to a lesser degree is less mentally draining, and can thus free up valuable energy for more important things in our lives. Having to think all the time and making our own decisions isn’t easy indeed. And it can even be stressful at times.

Sometimes we’re wrong and the majority is right

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It’s not a good thing if you deviate from the norm if you think you know better, but you don’t.

Sometimes, people think they can deviate from the norm because they are more intelligent, more objective, and have access to more information. But in reality, it is their arrogance and ignorance talking.

This means that deviating from the norm is not something that should be attempted lightly, as there are multiple dangers in doing so.

Most of the time, following the group, can provide some real utility because there’s a big chance that what most people decide to do will also be right for you. Since most people are, or just about, average. This is not meant to break anyone down, but these are simple facts.

Can be held against you

Moreover, deviating from the norm and thus, the group, can be taken the wrong way by the other group members. Not following the group in addition to deviation from the norm will be punished sooner or later. Be it verbally, physically, or psychological abuse.

No matter how physically or mentally tough you are, we can’t win against overwhelming numbers. That’s why going against a group can lead to banishment, or in extreme cases, even death.

Power in numbers, it’s more dangerous on your own

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Not to mention the safety that the large numbers of a group provides. There is real power and safety in numbers.

The repercussions will probably be lighter when the majority makes a bad or wrong decision. Since a lot of people are doing it, there’s less focus on the individual level. That’s why going against the norm can make you stand alone, which means you don’t have the safety of the larger numbers that the group supplies.

Chances are also that the blame is “divided” among the group, and that not simply a single individual is targeted and focused for the fault.

You live an average life

This isn’t a disadvantage per se. For most people, living an average life is perfectly fine and might even be what they desire and need.

But some people have big dreams that simply aren’t attainable by average means. And that’s exactly why we have to go against the grain sometimes to reach those goals.

If we don’t, then we will live an average life. This can create stability, but can also lead to dullness, lack of excitement, and lack of personal depth in our lives.

Deviation from the norm synonyms

Deviation from the norm has many synonyms, such as:

  • Alternation
  • Abnormality
  • Deviation
  • Discrepancy
  • Change
  • Nonconformist
  • Going against the norm
  • Unusual

While the wording is different, the meaning remains by and large the same. Thus, these words are frequently used interchangeably.


Image of a hand holding a card with the word “conclusions” written in blue.

Making my own decisions has taught me a lot about my strengths, and most definitely my weaknesses.

That’s why I urge everyone to make their own decisions and to own their choices. That’s also why deviation from the norm is normal sometimes.

You will make some bad decisions, that’s inevitable. But, they will teach you a lot about yourself and incentivize you to grow.

Call to action

Make your own choices, and perhaps even more importantly, own your choices as a responsible and mature adult.

When you own your decisions, you learn to take responsibility for your actions. It teaches taking accountability, how to deal with failure, and perseverance among many other useful things in life.

We only have one life, and you make your own choices as an accountable adult. It’s not always easy, but then again, the best things rarely are.

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