Here’s Why Raising Your Standards is the Key to Goal Achievement | Decision Making
Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards.
What Are Personal Standards?
Do you ever wonder what separates the highest achievers from everyone else?
There are, of course, many possible answers to this question. In fact, I’ve previously discussed the importance of self-belief and the value of asking effective questions.
Living with a sense of urgency also comes into the picture, as does avoiding the common unhelpful thinking traps that catch so many of us off guard.
However, there is something else that’s also of paramount importance. And that ‘something’ comes down to the personal standards you set for yourself and for your life.
Personal standards are mostly a set of behaviors that we choose to consistently indulge in.
These behaviors are built upon expectations you have of yourself in a variety of situations. They are in some respects performance standards. In other words, they lay down the benchmarks of performance for your life.
How to Recognize Your Personal Standards
Your personal standards are reflected in how you treat yourself and in how you treat others. What’s more, they are also reflected in how you expect to be treated by other people.
When you have high standards, you expect to be treated with the highest regard. However, when your standards are low, you will often accept things how they are. Furthermore, you may even allow others to walk all over you, which is a clear indication that you’re struggling with low self-esteem.
When you have low standards, you will often fall prey to other people’s influence. This happens because you fail to stand up for yourself — you fail to stand up for your principles and beliefs.
Your personal standards are, of course, intricately intertwined with your level of self-esteem. Therefore, to raise your self-esteem requires first raising your personal standards.
Your personal standards are also reflected in the promises you keep, in the way you dress and manage your life, health, finances, and environment.
Your personal standards are reflected in the quality of your work, values, and communication. In fact, everything you do and say provides others with insight into the personal standards you keep.
If for instance, your work or home environment is messy and disorganized, then that reflects the standards you uphold in this area of your life.
On the other hand, when your environment is clean and orderly, that sends an entirely different message about the personal standards you live by.
Did you know that within the first 30 seconds of meeting you, a person will often create a story about you in their imagination based on the way you dress, communicate, and move your body?
All this provides them with a ballpark indication of the types of standards you consistently uphold.
If for any reason this person senses that you live by a low set of standards, then they will modify their behavior and judge you accordingly. On the other hand, if they sense that you hold high standards, then you are more likely to win their respect and admiration.
Because your personal standards are reflected in so many areas of your life, they are, therefore, always “on show” for the public.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that you are always sending subliminal messages about how you feel about yourself, others, circumstances, and life — whether you’re consciously aware of it or not. And sadly, you are constantly being judged by other people based on those messages.
High Standards vs. Low Standards
Do you have any goals you desperately want to achieve?
Have you ever considered that in order to achieve these goals that you must first raise your personal standards in specific areas of your life?
Every goal you set comes with a variety of requirements that you must meet. These requirements are reflected in the personal standards you uphold in relation to that goal.
To achieve a goal, you need to live your life a certain way.
You may, for instance, need to discipline yourself to keep your environment in order; to improve the quality of your work; to eat healthier meals; to curb your spending habits, etc.
Every goal you set requires something from you. No matter what that is, you must first meet those requirements to have this goal in your life.
In other words, the requirements must be met in the form of the personal standards you uphold in relation to your goal.
Setting low standards will only take you so far along your journey toward your goal.
With low standards, you will struggle to put enough time, effort, energy, and resources into achieving this goal. In other words, the goal won’t receive the tender-loving-care it needs, and you will subsequently end up with subpar results.
When you set high standards, you immediately raise your expectations of what’s possible. You suddenly expect more from yourself, more from your actions, and more from others.
With a higher set of expectations, you are naturally willing to do more to get the results you’re after, which subsequently raises your standards of performance.
As a result, you attract more opportunities and exceptional people toward your cause primarily because there is more certainty behind your actions. As a result, you feel more confident about your goal and about the opportunities that present themselves.
It’s important to note here that when it comes to most things, the vast majority of people have deficient standards and expectations. And this is primarily why they don’t achieve anything of significance in life.
Their low standards lead to average results, which is, of course, very good for you. It’s advantageous because if most people set low standards, then by raising your own personal standards you gain an edge that can help propel you toward your goals.
Finding the Motivation to Change
Okay, so we now know that the personal standards we keep determine the expectations we set. They likewise determine the quality of our results and the overall quality of our lives.
Even with high aspirations and big goals, living with a low set of standards will prevent us from ever reaching them. So with that in mind, something must change.
We effectively must change. Or to put it another way, YOU must make an effort to change!
But what if you’re just one of those average people who continuously set low standards for themselves? How do you break free from this cycle? How do you break free of the standards that are keeping you stuck in mediocrity?
When it comes to change and transformation, there comes a point in everyone’s life when enough is enough.
You reach a point where the pain of putting up with your current life and existence becomes unbearable and pushes you over the edge. You just can’t bear living another day with sub-standard results. Subsequently, you set on a course to change things for the better.
The fact that you have finally acknowledged that something must change is an essential first step. However, the process of change may not be easy. In fact, it will be excruciatingly tricky if you don’t have the necessary leverage to make that change stick.
How to Raise Your Personal Standards
I’m going to assume that at this stage you’re kind of feeling as though your personal standards don’t quite match your personal goals. If this sounds like you, then you will find the following process of some value.
This five-step process will show you how to raise your personal standards so that they meet your goals and objectives.
With a higher set of standards, you will start to think differently about the goals you are pursuing. This will subsequently transform your decisions and take you down a more optimal path of action.
What then tends to happen is you begin to expect more of yourself in every situation. As a result, your behavior changes, which subsequently impacts the results you realize in relation to your goal.
Step 1: Gain Clarity
Your first step is to clarify what it is you want to achieve. It’s after all impossible to set standards if you don’t know what you want. Ask yourself:
What do I want to achieve?
Whom do I seek to become as a result of achieving this goal?
What traits would I need to cultivate to achieve this goal?
What new behaviors would I need to adopt?
How would I ideally like to live my life having achieved this goal?
If you’re finding it difficult to answer some of these questions, then imagine for a moment that you are limitless.
In other words, let’s think about this goal and consider what might be possible if there were no barriers nor limitations. Ask yourself:
What could I potentially achieve if I had no limitations?
What could be possible if…?
It’s crucial at this stage not to view your goal from the limited perspective of your current reality. Instead, envision your goal from a future perspective of your desired reality.
Step 2: Assess Your Reality
Your second step is to assess your current and desired reality.
Your current reality is the life you are living at this very moment. Consider what kind of life this is and the types of behaviors that define your actions and results in the present moment. Ask yourself:
What standards do I currently uphold?
What standards do I have for myself in various situations?
What behaviors and actions do I partake in within these situations?
What standards do I have for the roles I play in life?
The roles you play may include being a friend, parent, teacher, employer, employee, leader, sister, brother, etc. Consider for a moment:
What standards do I have as a parent, friend, teacher, etc?
What goals do I want to achieve in each of these areas of my life?
What will I accept and no longer accept of myself when partaking in these roles?
What expectations do I have of others when I’m partaking in these roles?
What rituals do I partake in within each of these roles?
Within every role, you play there will be a set of standards you uphold and a set of expectations that you have for yourself and others. Consider this for a moment, then ask yourself:
Are these standards mine?
Did I set these standards myself?
When exactly did I set these standards?
If I didn’t set them, then who set them for me? When?
Why did I adopt these standards as my own?
It’s important to acknowledge that the origin of some of your standards may not have come from you.
You might have, for instance, modeled them while observing your parents at home or your peers at school. Possibly you even modeled them from a television role model you had as a child.
No matter who you modeled them from, you have, as of this moment accepted these standards as part of your life. You have accepted them despite the fact that they may not be serving your best interests.
Given all this, it’s time to ask a couple of very challenging questions:
Given the goals that I would like to achieve, are my current standards hindering me in any way?
Are my current standards preventing me from doing my very best in these areas of my life?
Take a moment to consider your goals and the roles you play.
Now honestly ask yourself whether or not you are doing your very best in each of these areas of your life.
If the answer is a resounding “yes” then there really isn’t much that you can change by yourself. What you should do instead is gain more knowledge, resources and/or support.
With the right knowledge, resources and possibly with the right coach by your side you can work on upgrading and optimizing these areas of your life.
Although if on the other hand, you answered “no,” then this indicates that you have untapped potential in critical areas of your life. All you need now is a little commitment to back your desire and actions.
Given what we now know, let’s address your desired reality. This is primarily where you would ideally like to be within each area of your life. Ask yourself:
Where could I potentially do better?
Where could I potentially be better?
What standards do I need to set in each area of my life in order to be the person I envision myself becoming?
What standards do I need to set in each area to achieve my desired goals?
What will I accept and no longer accept of myself, of others, and of circumstances in each area of my life?
The standards you set for yourself will depend on the kind of person you desire to become and on the goals you would like to achieve in each area of your life.
These are the two factors that will lay down the foundations for the personal standards you live by.
Step 3: Find Inspiring Mentors
Your next step is to find suitable mentors. These will be people who are currently living to the highest of standards in specific life areas that you desire to focus on.
The purpose here is to use them as inspiration to help you raise your own personal standards.
Let’s say for instance that you have a friend who is very health conscious, active and fit. This friend of yours has certain standards that they uphold each day.
Your task is to get a sense of what they expect of themselves in various situations, as well as an idea of the healthy rituals they partake in.
Ask this person what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in this area of their life. Then commit yourself to modeling these standards to improve your own health and well-being.
Your task is, therefore, to go out there and find mentors for each and every area of your life where you desire for growth and improvement.
Your mentors will provide you with the insights you’re looking for to help you achieve your goals.
Step 4: Set Clear Standards
It is now time to set some clear standards and expectations for each area of your life. In other words, you must identify a set of standards you will follow. These standards effectively become the rules you live by.
You could, for instance, take one of your life roles and set standards for what you believe, for what you expect, for how you behave, work, and live. Ask yourself:
What will I now believe about myself within this role?
What will I now expect of myself within this role?
How will I now behave while partaking in this role?
When it comes to raising your personal standards and making them stick for the long-haul, you must be willing to create small rituals that will help you meet these new expectations. Ask yourself:
What new rituals must I adopt to live these standards?
What little things must I do each and every day to live these standards?
Where will I partake in these rituals?
When will I partake in these rituals?
Why is it important to partake in these rituals?
The rituals you create must lead to new decisions, actions, and habits that will help you successfully maintain higher personal standards over the long-haul.
Step 5: Utilize the Pain and Pleasure Principle
The final step of this process is to utilize the pain and pleasure principle to help instill the motivation you need to follow through with these rituals, and subsequently live your life by your higher personal standards.
We will not go into any details here as I have already written an extensive article on this topic. Please see The Pain and Pleasure Principle for more information.
Guidelines to Help You Raise Your Standards
Raising your personal standards is unlikely to be an easy, uneventful process. You will need to break old patterns of behavior and develop new rituals and habits that will provide you with the impetus you need to make positive changes in your life.
Given all this, the following guidelines and suggestions might be of some value.
Become More Mindful and Self Aware
Mindfulness is the key to self-awareness. When we are mindful and self-aware, we put ourselves in a position where we are better able to understand ourselves and our personal tendencies.
With this awareness, we are more in-tune with our decisions, behaviors, and actions.
To raise your personal standards, you must first have the necessary self-awareness to understand where things need to improve — where you’re not living up to the very best of your ability.
This knowledge and understanding will provide you with the impetus you need to make the necessary changes to move your life forward in more optimal ways.
Develop Appropriate Rituals
As previously discussed, rituals are the actions that support the personal standards you set for yourself.
However, for these rituals to be most effective, they must help you prepare, plan and think ahead. In other words, they must keep you moving forward while progressively encouraging you to raise your standards and levels of performance.
To develop appropriate rituals, consider each of the personal standards you have set for certain areas of your life, and ask yourself:
What more could I do in this area of my life?
How could I improve upon what I’ve been doing?
How can I do this better than I did it yesterday?
What rituals could help support this development?
Remember that your rituals don’t need to be complicated. For instance getting out of bed at 7 am and exercising for 10 minutes could be an excellent ritual that can help get your day started on the right track.
It’s important not to overcomplicate things. Keep things simple and straightforward, and most importantly progressively develop these rituals over time.
Exercise for 10 minutes, to begin with, then increase that to 15 minutes and 20 minutes over time. Baby steps are the keys to your success.
Set Performance Standards
As you partake in specific rituals, measure your performance over time.
For instance, measure how consistently you performed these rituals over a period of a week. Then the following week, set new performance standards and try and outperform last week’s version of yourself.
Again, this all comes back to taking baby steps. Incrementally take time each week to raise your personal standards and tweak your rituals accordingly.
Progressively over time, these small tweaks will make a big difference to the way you conduct yourself in various life roles.
Learn from Mistakes
We are all human. And because we’re human, we often fail and make mistakes.
The standards you set for yourself and for your life will not always be attainable. You will fail time and again and ultimately make mistakes along the way. And this is perfectly okay.
Learn from these mistakes and make adjustments to your personal standards and rituals as necessary.
At times you may find that no matter what you do you will be unable to attain your lofty standards. In such instances, take time to gain more knowledge and/or practical experience in specific areas of your life.
More knowledge and experience under your belt can provide you with the necessary confidence and motivation you need to perform at a higher level moving forward.
Also, remember to build on your past successes.
What worked for you in the past, worked for a reason. Build on that experience to keep improving and raising your personal standards.
If in doubt, follow a simple formula:
Expect more from yourself each time, and you will get more out of yourself each time.
And if you don’t, then take a step back, reflect on what worked and what didn’t, then make some adjustments, and move forward once again.
Sometimes to move your life forward, you will need to take risks.
At times things might just be progressing a little too slowly for your liking. You’ve raised your standards. However, they are just not high enough to make a significant difference in your life.
In such instances, take a chance on yourself and shoot for the stars.
Challenge yourself for a week by significantly raising your personal standards while building supportive rituals. Then go all-out that week doing all you possibly can to reach those lofty standards.
There are, of course, no guarantees in life, but there is a chance it may provide you with the impetus you need to move things forward in a better way.
Unless you take the risk, you will never really know what you’re truly capable of.
Don’t Make Comparisons
Comparing your personal standards with other people’s standards is a dangerous game.
Remember that most people have very low standards and expectations of themselves. That is why the vast majority of people live ordinary lives.
Comparing yourself to how other people live their life, is often not going to get you your desired results.
Another trap you will want to avoid is lowering your standards to match societal norms and expectations.
Society as a whole is the domain of the masses. And the masses lead an ordinary existence. If you have higher aspirations for yourself, then you cannot compare yourself to the masses.
You must instead look at ways you can separate yourself from the masses. Do, however, be careful as making comparisons is rarely helpful, even in such instances.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself with your best self.
The only comparisons you should be making is to past versions of yourself.
Improve upon version 1.0 of yourself, and then upon version 2.0 of yourself. Then just keep progressively moving forward. In fact, acknowledge that…
I create my own standards…
I do not accept mediocrity…
I will not be ordinary or average…
I know I can do better, and I will do better…
I will not settle for less than my very best…
Performing at your very best will always ensure that you are improving and moving forward — just as long as you learn from every experience and use those lessons to improve on your past performances.
Don’t Get Complacent
Complacency is something that often affects even the highest of achievers. They just get comfortable with how things are, and no longer set higher performance standards for themselves.
When you consistently meet specific standards of performance, keep setting ever higher standards for yourself. This will ensure that you always have something to strive for that’s slightly out of your reach.
It’s like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey’s nose. The carrot is always slightly out of reach. However, it’s enough to keep the donkey motivated and moving forward up the mountain.
Don’t Lower Your Standards
When faced with adversity and setbacks, it’s easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. It’s just easy to acknowledge that things are just too hard.
As a result, you will be tempted to lower your personal standards. Subsequently, you will begin to settle for the easiest path.
This is not a time to settle for what’s easy. This is a time to learn from your experience and make adjustments moving forward.
Remind yourself that the process of raising and meeting your personal standards ain’t easy. It’s a difficult path. And consequently, it’s a path that many people do not choose to take.
People will often just settle. They will accept how things are because they’re not willing to do the work to get to a better place.
However, you’re different. You chose this path on purpose, and now you need to work this path with purpose until you attain your lofty goals.
Learn from adversity, learn from setbacks, and learn from the problems you face. But be very careful not to lower your personal standards just because you are looking for an easy way out.
You’ll never achieve your goals if you choose to take this path.
How to Lower Your Personal Standards
There will, of course, be times when it’s actually helpful to review your new personal standards to get a sense of whether or not they are working in your best interests.
You might, for instance, be doing the very best you possibly can in a particular area of your life. However, your very best is just not good enough. Your personal standards are just too high and seemingly unattainable.
This can, of course, be somewhat disheartening. But in such instances, you shouldn’t be ashamed to lower your standards for a specific period of time.
Lowering your standards temporarily can help give you the self-confidence you need to move forward in a better way. Here’s how to do it.
Gain More Knowledge
At times we can’t reach the lofty heights we set for ourselves because we just don’t have enough knowledge or experience in specific areas of life.
In such instances, it’s important to step back and gain the necessary knowledge and experience before pursuing those lofty goals once again.
Avoid the Perfectionist Trap
At other times it’s essential to lower your personal standards when you sense that you’re getting caught up in the perfectionist trap.
In such instances, you are spending too much time trying to make things perfect when “good enough” is actually all you need.
Setting high standards that force you to pursue perfection will inevitably lead to disappointment.
Perfection is unattainable. There will always be something you could do better.
Allow for Mistakes
It’s also helpful to lower your standards to allow for mistakes and temporary setbacks.
We are all human, and we fail at times. We make mistakes. But failure and errors help us learn and grow from every experience. They are of tremendous value for our psyche and for our development in each area of our lives.
Reaching your lofty goals will, of course, take time. In fact, it will require progressive steps that could take many weeks, months or even years.
And with every step you take you grow a little more confident and familiar with your journey toward your goal.
In fact, treat every step as an experiment that helps you to learn, grow, and develop yourself in a new way. Allow yourself time to experiment and make mistakes. That’s after all what life is all about.
When it comes to personal standards, it’s important to start small and progressively work your way up.
Set higher standards that will keep you challenged and focused, but be cautious not to consistently set standards that are completely unattainable at this very moment along your journey.
In the future with more knowledge and experience — what seemed unattainable today will become attainable tomorrow.
Yes, it’s important to raise your personal standards but raise them progressively over time to keep your motivation levels high.
Like the donkey with the carrot, keep the carrot dangling close in front of your nose, but just out of reach.
The goals you have for each of your life’s roles will surely not be achieved in one big step. These are things you work on consistently day-in and day-out.
A new decision or action here, a new ritual over there, and before you know it your goal will be within your grasp.
However, this process takes time because both growth and maturity take time. And as we all know, growth and maturity come along with experience, and experience comes as a result of learning from your failures and mistakes.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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