Find Happiness – Break Free from Conventional Thinking

Conventional Thinking Myths

What if I said that conventional thinking is at best only a beginning, and often just leads to a dead end? Not only that, but what if I also said that it has a way of limiting our beliefs and closing our minds to the possibility of living an extraordinary life of true happiness.

Why would I say such a thing?

Because conventional thinking is based on widely accepted assumptions which may, or may not, be true. Either way, these assumptions are designed to channel you into the vast sea of normality. In fact, conventional thinking is custom tailored to make you normal.

What’s wrong with normal?

Well, there’s nothing wrong with normal if that’s what you want. But before you rally to the defense of normal, let’s stop and consider what normal really means these days. For example: Do you want a normal marriage? If so, then that means you are willing to accept a 50-50 chance that your marriage will end in divorce. That’s normal.

Do you want the normal amount of happiness? Well, that means there is about a one in three chance that you will wind up with depression, anxiety, or some other kind of happiness disorder. Are you okay with those odds?

How about a normal income? Keep in mind that there are plenty of people with a “normal income” who have lost their homes in the last few years because they can’t afford to pay their bills. Do you want to work full time and still not have enough money to live on? Sadly, that’s a pretty normal scenario.

Is that really what you want?

The socially acceptable concept of normal is built entirely on a foundation of conventional thinking. To truly think and live outside the box, we need to recognize who built the box in the first place. We need to acknowledge that doing things, and thinking about things, the same way everybody else does will not lead to happiness or help us achieve our dreams.

I want to encourage you to stop and consider some of the ways that conventional thinking actually limits your life and your happiness. But first, you need to recognize that conventional thinking is based on a certain kind of belief system. And this belief system has been instilled in us from a very young age.

That being the case, it’s perfectly understandable that challenging our accepted conventional wisdom, and the corresponding beliefs, might feel a little uncomfortable at first. After all, our long held beliefs are all tied up with our personal identity. On an emotional level, they are almost sacred. So, here’s what I propose…

Let’s do it anyway!

Regardless of our emotional investment in our current beliefs, and our acceptance of conventional thinking, if they are limiting us, then we need to look elsewhere. If they don’t lead to greater happiness then we need to find out what does. Let’s consider a few foundational myths and see if what we have been taught is really serving us.

Myth #1. The key to happiness is a good education. The implication here is that a good education will lead to a higher income, a more rewarding life experience, and ultimately, greater happiness. Well, it can lead to a higher income in some cases, so that part might be true. And if by “more rewarding life” we mean materially rewarding, then there could be some truth here as well.

We also need to admit that income and material possessions have very little to do with happiness. I have worked with plenty of unhappy rich people, and more money did not lead to greater happiness. In addition, there are tens of thousands of highly educated and qualified people looking for employment these days.

Now here are a couple of real myth busters. Of the truly happy people on earth, most are of modest means, living a simple life, and finding happiness in simple pleasures. On the flip side, the richest people I know are not highly educated in the conventional ways. They are very smart, but their learning took place off campus, in the real world.

Myth #2. Other people can make you happy. This one is instilled in us rather than taught to us, but it finds its way to our core beliefs none the less. I’m not saying that we can’t gain a lot of happiness through meaningful relationships, because we can. But in those situations we make a choice, conscious or otherwise, to find happiness in the value of those relationships. The other people don’t make us happy, we actually do that ourselves.

Believing the childhood fairytale of “grow up, meet the right person, and live happily ever after” creates totally unrealistic expectations. It anchors happiness to an external source and puts it out of our control. Buying into that myth sets us up for massive disappointment and heartache.

If we don’t take responsibility for our own happiness, we will never be truly happy. Instead, we will always be looking for that perfect someone to be responsible for our happiness. Not only is that unrealistic, but it’s also an unfair burden to put on someone else. Especially, someone you truly care about.

Myth #3. You have limits. Getting past this one requires a complete paradigm shift for most people. The concept of “I can’t” is the epitome of conventional thinking and the granddaddy of limiting beliefs. I’m here to tell you that 99% of all your limits are in your mind. We cut our teeth on the “you have limits” myth and it becomes the backbone of our entire core belief system.

Do you want to know why so few people ever realize even a tiny degree of their real potential? Why so many never experience true happiness, or find real meaning in life? Why you hesitate to reach out and grab the life you truly want?

The reason is simple. A very long time ago someone told you that “you can’t,” and you believed it. From that point on, conventional thinking has been reinforcing that belief. Here’s what I say to that.

Yes you can

Repeat after me, Yes I can. Yes, I can be happy. Yes, I can have the life I want. Yes, I can live up to my potential. Yes, I can absolutely accomplish whatever I set out to do.

How did that feel? Was it a little uncomfortable? Was the voice of your limiting beliefs saying “no you can’t” in the background? That’s the voice of conventional thinking calling you to step away from possibility and opportunity. That voice needs to be silenced, and I want to help.

Free yourself from conventional thinking

I want to help you think outside the bounds of conventional wisdom. In other words, outside the box. The box was created by conventional wisdom and something more is needed to go beyond it.

Reaching your true potential requires a different kind of wisdom. It means developing a completely different concept about what is possible and a whole new attitude about life in general. It also requires a different set of life skills in order to produce a higher quality of results. That is exactly what I want to explore with you.

How do you feel about breaking the bonds of conventional thinking?
Can you solved a problem using the same logic that created it?
The lines are open!

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Recreate Your Reality


  1. Gail @ A Flourishing Life February 23, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Love this post! There is no way of living a fulfilling life without challenging all our beliefs, and this post is such an inspiration to do so.

    So many of us live in a state of lack, so hearing the “yes, you can!” might be uncomfortable, but tells the truth – and creates so much possibility.

    I love the new focus of this blog! Actually, the box is only mind-created, so out-of-the-box is true creativity and freedom.

    • Jonathan February 23, 2010 Reply

      Thank you so much Gail, I know that “beliefs” are something you are passionate about, and I really share that passion with you.

      You are right of course about the box being mind-created. When I read that I envisioned a large crowd walking around and each person had a cardboard box stuck over their heads. Really, that’s about the size of it.

  2. Hulbert February 23, 2010 Reply

    Great post Jonathan. I agree that too many times we condition ourselves to settle for “the norms”. This is how my parents have raised me and this is what my friends believe in. I have lost some respect from my relatives for believing that it’s possible to make money and live a decent life without working for somebody else. But this is what I believe in because I know so many people that have done it before, and they were not any more gifted than I or any other normal person when they started out. Conventional thinking is going along with what the majority of people think and I think we should think for ourselves before giving into the pressure of what most people think is right.

    • Jonathan February 23, 2010 Reply

      Most people are raised that way Hulbert, and it not unusual to get some friction for breaking rank. Usually, that’s because everyone else in the extended family was also raised that way and it’s all the know.

      You’re on the right path my friend and I feel certain that things will work out according to your intentions. Keep the faith, keep learning, you’ll do great.

  3. Mike King February 23, 2010 Reply

    Cool outlook here Jonathan and one I can easily align with. Conventional wisdom fits the same category as common sense to me. It’s the perfect recipe for normal and complacent living which is no life for me. I’ll gladly take my own road, make decisions that most people laugh at and explore the skinny branches of life to breach the limits that the world wants to place on me.

    I’m looking forward to how you explore this further in full support!

    • Jonathan February 24, 2010 Reply

      Hey Mike, thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate your support. I love what you said, “explore the skinny branches of life.” That shows that there is always an element of risk in taking the road less traveled. That’s part of what turns a journey into an adventure.

    • Robin Easton February 24, 2010 Reply

      Geez Mike, I LOVE your comment. You’ve said almost everything I was going to say. And I felt SO happy that you not only live like this, but that you could reflect this back to me and Jonathan and probably others here. Beautifully expressed. Poetic!! Your life will be immeasurably richer for it. Hugs, Robin

      • Mike King February 25, 2010 Reply

        Thanks Robin and Jonathan for the comments back here. I have the fortunate privilege of sharing that phrase “explore the skinny branches” with many of my work mates as well. It is a phrase we had while all together on a training course that is designed to break your limiting beliefs and push your leadership skills into areas you’ve never gone. I now get to hear that phrase directed at me and from me at least every few days in my work. And, I love it as well!!!

  4. Bettina Schwarz February 24, 2010 Reply

    I really enjoyed this post! thoroughly appreciate it. And as these things tend to be, they come at precisely the right time – cosmically well engineered indeed ;) What do I mean? Well, it’s just the other night that a friend and I were talking about future prospects, career changes, happiness, income, relationships, beliefs (limiting or otherwise) … ok, so I have these types of conversations often and with a lot of people, but recently has been a little different because I’m taking some pretty “big” leaps at the moment and I must admit that at times it’s a little scary and those old patterns of thinking always seem ready to jump on in and undermine my new intentions and ambitions (self-sabotage – why do we insist on doing that?!) So your post has spoken into my situation and that’s beautiful.

    So – Thank You! :)

    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 Reply

      Hi Bettina,

      It’s a common scenario to have to re-wrestle with old thinking patterns when we are ramping up for a quantum leap. Even when we have moved past them, those old neural pathways still exist.

      The good news is, the more often we are able to override them, the less they bother us in the future, and the more accustom we become to taking the leap. It’s a kind of emotional / neurological adaptation process.

  5. Steve February 24, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, thanks for the great article. I think there is a balance here: sometimes, just to get through life, we need filters to organize all of our experience: schemas/beliefs, what have you. However, it’s far too easy to blindly follow ‘convention’ and to live for years captive to irrational beliefs/ideas. Examining long held beliefs is the root of innovation.

    • Jonathan February 24, 2010 Reply

      Hi Steve,

      I agree, balance is always important. The trick is to consciously create our own filters and beliefs based on a more aware and optimistic perception. As we learn and grow, it’s vital that our beliefs be fluid enough to adapt to changing levels of consciousness.

      We will always have filters and beliefs, that’s our nature, but we want to make sure that they are of our own originality, and that they serve us well.

  6. Armen Shirvanian February 24, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan.

    That part about what “normal” is reminds us that most of us are really interested in seeking above average, as “normal” is not so appealing.

    Myth #1 sure does have some relevance. I go by this item that I read somewhere, in that happiness is based of having a desired duty or function, and the ability and time to perform it. That could also make use of education.

    The point about limits is true. Who has limits? Some want others to have limits, but other than that, they really aren’t there. We just put them there in our minds because we think there has to be a ceiling in what we do.

    • Jonathan February 24, 2010 Reply

      Hi Armen, thanks for being here, we don’t connect nearly often enough.

      Of course, the “education = happiness myth” was referring to the institutionalized version. Which I have nothing against, but we do need to see it for what it is and not as an all purpose panacea.

      In reality, we are all in the greatest educational program ever. It’s called “The School of Life.” this is where we can learn the skills that lead to a happy and rewarding reality.

      As for the “limits.” Those boxes are ours. We can wear them, or discard them. It’s entirely up to us. The challenge is in getting that message through all those boxes.

  7. Steven Aitchison February 24, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan

    I would say this is one of your best posts this year and taking on this shift in focus, I believe, is a great thing for yourself and for your readers.

    I’ve never wanted to be normal, never have been and never will be. We are extraordinary beings, the trouble is we just don’t realise it yet, but when we ‘wake up’ and have the Neo moment, it’s just amazing.

    • Jonathan February 24, 2010 Reply

      Thank you Steve, I pondered this shift for awhile, but I was feeling really passionate about it so I dove in. I must admit that it’s very reassuring to get such positive feedback from such awesome people.

      Maybe if we work together we can raise the bar on normal and shake off the “oh so average” connotation.

      Wouldn’t it be great if the norm (normal) was exceptional? The potential is already there, as you said we really are extraordinary beings. The catch is that it always requires an individual effort.

    • Robin Easton February 24, 2010 Reply

      Oh I love this comment TOO! Oh there is just such a sense of FREEDOM here and solid knowing. Good for you Steven. Yes! It sure is your path. I’m right there with you. Hugs, Robin

  8. jonathan figaro February 24, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, A good education is essential. Too bad formal education isn’t considered good, right? Well get post my friend! Keep up the good work. I would love to work with you one of these days. Been a long time fan!

    • Jonathan February 24, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jonathan, thanks for your kind support.

      Like you, I also value “a good” education. But I’ve often wondered why schools don’t teach subjects like: How to make wise decisions; how to communicate honestly; how to enjoy life and all it’s experiences; the value gratitude.

      I think those subjects provide more value and deserve more attention than most of what you’ll find on the average school curriculum.

  9. Doug Brown February 24, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for the good thoughts Jonathan. Conventional thinking is the stuff that come easily and rejecting it allows us to harness the power of true creative energy.

    We use a technique at Copeland when we brainstorm that you might find interesting…as it mines a similar vein.

    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 Reply

      Hey Doug, good to have you here. I read the post, what a great way to refine everyone’s input and to help them clarify their focus. Thanks for sharing that.

  10. Ganesh Rao February 24, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    I am new to your blog and I am already enjoying it immensely. I have to admit, this is your best post yet. More over it is very relevant indeed to most of us. Day -by-day I am more and more convinced that “FEAR” is the root cause for choosing to stick with conventional approach. Your timing of this post is so impeccable in terms of timing for me since I am just about ready to break the shackles of conventional thinking and explore all avenues in every context before making a choice. Thank you once again for such a wonderful article. I am totally with you my friend.

    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 Reply

      Hi Ganesh, so glad you found it useful. The fear connection is an interesting one. All insecurities are based on some type of fear.

      Very often, conventional approaches are built around avoiding what is feared rather than moving toward what is beneficial. We become polarized around protecting ourselves from some sensationalized imaginary or exaggerated fear.

      Then we imagine our course will protect our sense of security, which is actually false security to begin with. It becomes a personal version of the whole “homeland security” mentality.

      Is it any wonder people have limiting beliefs?

  11. John February 24, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Your words here are so true:

    “Of the truly happy people on earth, most are of modest means, living a simple life, and finding joy in simple pleasures.”

    And to attain that simplicity and happiness you most definitely must think and act in unconventional ways. The reward for that choice–and it is a choice–is an unshakable appreciation of life is not at the mercy of circumstance, economy, or politics.

    Good stuff :-)


    • Robin Easton February 24, 2010 Reply

      Oh wow! There are some awesome comments here!! What you wrote here John is soooo powerful. I know this is Jonathan’s site and post (LOL!!) But I couldn’t help but comment here. Hugs, Robin

    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 Reply

      So right John, when conventional wisdom says that consumerism is the key to a meaningful life, then to attain that simplicity and happiness you most definitely must think and act in unconventional ways. Somewhere along the way things certainly managed to get turned around.

  12. Robin Easton February 24, 2010 Reply

    Okay, now for my own comment! :) LOL!1 Sorry I invaded the comments here Jonathan. I am just LOVING the response from all these free thinkers. I find it thrilling.

    I LOVE this post for all the reasons we’ve talked about. And I am so glad to see you making this exciting adventurous leap toward Life and yourself. I just can’t imagine you living any other way. Like Mike says, when we walk the skinny branches we really come to know who we are and what Life is about for us. Uniquely for us. We develop an intimate relationship with Life, one that comes from living outside the box. I am so so excited for you and for all of us. Because you not only set yourself free but you set us free as well. It’s brilliant.

    I really look forward to reading more from “Out Side the Box” and getting to know this powerful part of you. YOU! I can’t even begin to tell you how much you are going to give others by listening to your heart. This post alone brought tears to my eyes and set more of me free, Jonathan. I am sure that I am not the only one here who feels this way. I can’t encourage you enough. Walking this path you will shine like you were born to shine. Hugs, Robin

  13. Jonathan February 24, 2010 Reply

    Hi Robin, I’m kinda speechless at the moment. Just feeling really good soaking up your incredible enthusiasm. There’s enough energy here to power the next NASA mission. Feels like the sun on my face when the clouds part after a storm. You know the moment, when you close your eyes and let the warmth embrace you.

    Everyone, your feedback and comments have been absolutely heartwarming. Thank you one and all for your kindness and support. I am really energized by your encouragement. It means more than I have words to express.

    I think we should sign Robin up as chief comment reply officer. What do you think, will that work?

  14. ZuzannaM February 25, 2010 Reply

    Thank you Jonathan for the inspiring article-There is many possibilities these days to improve ourselves. There are resources there for a grab. One needs to go out and reach for them. I believe that to go with the flow we need to adapt to a change that is happening on an ongoing basis. Happiness is the inner thing so we need to do our best to feel the happiness and live life fully…Great post!

    Warmest wishes,

    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 Reply

      Thanks for your ongoing kindness and support Zuzanna. You are very appreciated.

  15. Josue Cano February 25, 2010 Reply

    Thanks Jonathan.

    I really needed to read that today. I was down as I’m in the process of establishing my line of garlic salsas to sell and having to comply with codes is frightening because they can shatter your dreams and I’m in the process of turning that dream into reality.

    Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can.

    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 Reply

      I know what you mean Josue. They try to take the fun out of reaching for your dreams. Don’t let that happen. Just jump through their hoops and move on.

  16. Lana February 25, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, I love the direction that you are taking! It is exciting and feels like You. And that really all that matters. You know that I am also in the process of changing the direction of the blog. I actually go as far as changing the URL too and I feel really great doing it.

    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 Reply

      Hi Lana, just read your new post. You’re on fire girl, I love it. It’s that kind of focus and resolve that makes amazing things happen, so fasten your seat-belt and hang on.

  17. Phil Bolton February 25, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan –

    I like this post a lot. I think your third normal myth is really pervasive in the world. I start from the position that everything is possible and it is so empowering to have that belief. I also resonate with your assertion that the happiest people often lead uncomplex lives and have unconventional approaches. Great post with lots to think about. Thank you!


    • Jonathan February 25, 2010 Reply

      That’s a great place to start from Phil, because from that mindset everything really is possible.

  18. Nea February 28, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan I love love love this article. I’m all for thinking outside the box, expanding awareness, and living an unreasonably awesome life. Woo hoo.

    • Jonathan February 21, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Nea, if we think the same way as everyone else, we naturally produce the same results as they do. Why settle for ordinary when life can be extraordinary?

  19. Abel Khoza January 22, 2011 Reply

    Hi friends, I’m so grateful to know that there is a group out there that thinks like I do. It feels good indeed not to be normal even though you lose friends in the process but as soon as they realize; then you gain respect for thinking out of the box

    • Jonathan February 21, 2011 Reply

      Hi Abel, so glad you enjoyed the article.

  20. Marc Luber August 30, 2011 Reply

    Great post Jonathan! There is no such thing as “normal”. I think what makes it hard for people to think outside the box is that as little kids, we are taught to see the world as black and white. There are good guys, there are bad guys. There are criminals, there are superheroes. We don’t really learn about shades of gray until we get older (if at all). That black and white way of thinking can be very limiting…and lead people to conclude “this is what is right so it’s what I need to do”. Suddenly they start believing all of the myths you listed and then running down a path that doesn’t fit them. So doing what you suggest is key: think outside the box and create your own reality and your own “normal”. Great post!

    • Jonathan September 7, 2011 Reply

      Hi Marc, I think it is interesting that some businesses, usually those that stay way ahead of the curve, tend to encourage creative thinking that extends beyond the norm. They recognize that innovation comes from outside the box and they value that quality. We can learn something from that approach.

  21. Galen Pearl August 30, 2011 Reply

    I especially appreciated what you said about education. My kids, for various reasons, are not headed for “graduate degrees in ivy league schools.” I don’t see this as limiting their future success or happiness at all. In the US today, when folks think that everyone has to go to college, and to the very best college you can get into, there is a lot of life sucking pressure and unrealistic expectation. Thank you for pointing this out.

    • Jonathan September 7, 2011 Reply

      Hi Galen, and sadly, much of what they learn has little or no value outside of their educational curriculum. How different the whole experience would be if they nurtured creativity instead.

  22. Stuart September 1, 2011 Reply

    I’ve never been classed as ‘normal’ in my life, ever. At school, I was the ‘loner’, the ‘nerd’ who could count the number of friends he had on one hand. Today, I’m the ‘wise young man’, who makes people wonder where he gets his inspiration from. Either way, people haven’t ‘got’ me because I haven’t played up to normal social conventions. I’m my own man, and I have been comfortable with this for a long time.

    • Jonathan October 3, 2013 Reply

      Hi Stuart, being comfortable with who you are is a great personal asset, well done.

  23. Sheila September 1, 2011 Reply

    “…if they are limiting us, then we need to look elsewhere.” So true. If you’re not getting the result you want in your life, it’s time to do something different. Great article!

    • Jonathan October 4, 2013 Reply

      Thanks Sheila, it’s amazing how often keep believing and doing the same old thing and wondering why their results never change.

  24. Gordon August 9, 2012 Reply

    Great article. I’ve been preaching for years on the point that other people can’t make you happy. Everyone is responsible for their own. Take it from one who is about to turn 60, being an unconventional person living in a conventional world can be tough. You will be dismissed by most folks because you don’t “play by the rules”. But don’t let them take away who you are. Live life on your terms. That’s the only way to be happy – what ever that means to you.

    • Jonathan October 4, 2013 Reply

      Well said Gordon, I agree and thanks.

  25. John October 11, 2012 Reply

    In my opinion, nobody’s normal. Everyone has a story to tell. It’s the time one takes to open up and tell that story. So this post falls in line with my own set of beliefs regarding normal and abnormal.

    • Jonathan October 4, 2013 Reply

      Hey John, you are correct, there is no normal because it’s a term you get by trying to average out the behavior or habits of a group of individuals. So, it is actually a collective concept, but it does give us some insight into widely practiced behavior and group patterns.

  26. Paul October 4, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jonathan, thank you for this post.

    What I find particularly useful to help me think out of the box is to connect to my creative passions as much as possible. The strength lies with being able to be consciously aware of the assumptions that do not support us in life, whilst having the confidence to make choices which give us the best opportunity for personal growth.

    We can either follow the herd of sheep or break the fence when needed to allow ourselves to walk our unique paths. Having taken the creative path myself I have naturally fenced myself from media source which attempts to contribute towards the conventional way of thinking.

    Since starting my creative flow project (which shares the belief that we can pursue what we desire) I have stopped watching TV or reading newspapers and placed myself in a world of pure potentiality. I believe that true wisdom comes to us intuitively, especially when we give ourselves positive mindset intentions to pursue our dream life goals. Nice one Jonathan :)

  27. Gavriel October 7, 2013 Reply

    It often seems that when the majority thinks something is true, then it really isn’t. Thinking outside the box has done so much for me, in terms of health and diet, understanding life and the universe, and now getting me started on the path to financial independence :)

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