Standards are the behaviors you hold yourself to. As you raise your standards, your health, your work, your relationships, and your self-esteem improve.
When I was a young man, I had a bad habit . . . well, I had a number of bad habits, but right now I want to focus on this one: I was always late.
Rarely did I pay attention to the exact time. I didn’t wear a watch and this was well before the ubiquitous cell phone let me know the time at a glance. I was typically 10 to 15 minutes late for appointments, work, classes, etc., etc.
At the time, I worked for a friend who owned a janitorial business. He jokingly called my tardiness “Huskey time” and he automatically built 15 minutes into the schedule to accommodate my lackadaisical attitude.
My behavior didn’t cause too many problems while I worked for someone who was willing to adjust his schedule to meet my irresponsibility. I was also in school, but my professors usually overlooked it when I came in quietly and sat in the back of the class.
However, after I finished school and got a professional job, my unprofessional lack of punctuality began to stick out. I clearly needed to raise my standards.
What Are Standards?
What does that mean, to “raise your standards”? Standards are “the behaviors you hold yourself to in order to become a bigger person.” [CoachU] They are measures of character.
Some are obvious: Be honest. Don’t steal. Don’t kill. Obey traffic laws. Others are more personal, such as “I am always on time.” “I see the seed of good in every adversity”. “The obstacle is the way”(1).
Standards, Boundaries and Rules
Another way to think about standards is that they are boundaries you set for yourself. A boundary is a clear line about what behaviors you will and will not accept from other people. A standard is the clear line about the behaviors you expect from yourself. (2)
Standards differ from rules. “A rule is a prescription, a regulation, a guide for conduct or action. A standard is a choice you make about how you will behave or what you will have in your environment. Standards are the set of rules that you choose to live by.” [Leonard]
Standards, Character and Honor
Raising your standards builds your character — “the sum of your qualities . . . which distinguishes you from others” and is “your strength of mind and emotion” [Leonard]
Character includes Honor – “how you relate to yourself and to others”; Commitment – how well you keep your promises to follow through; and Integrity – “the qualtiy of wholeness that you maintain for yourself and your environment”. [Leonard]
To raise your standards, consider raising your boundaries. As you see what behaviors you have been tolerating from others, you may observe behaviors you have been tolerating from yourself that need to change.
Here are some ideas to consider as you begin the process of raising your standards. (And it is a process – not just “one and done”, but something you work at again and again.)
- “Choose the standards you are ready for, not the ones you think you ‘should’ have.” [Miedaner] Standards are personal. Don’t choose yours based on what you think will impress others. Choose ones that improve your own life.
- “Make a list of people you admire. Write down their top qualities, and think about the standards of behavior they hold themselves to. Now write down the standards you’d like to adopt for yourself.” [Miedaner]
While your standards are personal to you, you may see behaviors in others that you admire and want to emulate. You may decide to adopt these as standards of your own.
- Standards, character and honor go hand-in-hand. You may discover a standard you want to raise by contemplating Thomas Leonard’s list of honorable traits.
“I think of honor as the integration of fairness, conviction, courage, truthfulness, morality, loyalty, accountability, responsibility, commitment, and diligence.” [Leonard]
- “High Standards vs. Righteousness: When you have high standards, you enjoy holding yourself to high-end behavior. When you are self-righteous, you may do the same thing, but you are also rigidly judgmental of others.” [Leonard]
Remember the true reason you are upgrading your standards, which must be solely for your own improvement. You are not doing it to allow yourself to feel superior to others or to be judgmental toward them.
- “Any area you are not getting what you want is because you haven’t raised your standards.” [Robbins]
What standards must you raise to truly begin creating the life you want to live?
Suppose you want to raise your standard of how you wake up. Instead of hitting the snooze button over and over, sometimes oversleeping and being late for work, you want be the person who hops out of bed when the alarm goes off, maybe even before.
Deciding to raise your standards and become that person is the first important step. Once you decide, then you can put into place a system to help you make the change. Perhaps you go to bed earlier, to ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Maybe you move the clock over to the other side of the room so you have to get out of bed to shut it off. Or you could get “Clocky“, the alarm clock that jumps off the table and runs away so you have to chase it to shut if off.
Whatever standards you want to improve, the first step is to decide to do it. The “how” will come to you, once you know the “what” and “why”.
Here are some areas to consider as places to raise your standards. This is by no means a complete list, simply a way to begin the process. Start here, then add your own ideas for the parts of your life that need attention.
“Clearly, an average person is a not a healthy person,” says Prakhar Verma, writing in “The Mission” at Medium.com. “Your health and fitness have to rise above an average person if you want to live well and feel good in your body.”
Raise your standards above “average”. Consider the fundamentals of eating, moving and sleeping. What standard(s) could you raise to see improvements in your health?
“Being poor is a condition but poverty is a state of mind.” ~ Source Unknown Being wealthy is also a state of mind. Do you live from a sense of abundance or a sense of not being and having enough? Are you frugal, spending wisely and building an emergency fund to cover 3 – 6 months of expenses? Or do you indulge in impulse buying and go on shopping sprees as a form of entertainment? Could an extended illness or accident put you at risk for a financial crisis?
How about your career? One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received is this: “Take the job nobody wants and turn it into the job everyone would love to have.” It takes attitude, commitment and, frankly, some hard work. But you will be rewarded.
“We only get what we believe that we deserve. Raise the bar, raise your standards and you will receive a better outcome.” ~ Joel Brown What standard(s) could you raise to see improvements in your wealth?
Are you nurturing and building the relationships with those closest to you? Are you protecting yourself by putting some space and distance between you and the toxic people in your life?
It has been said that you are the average of the five people you are closest to. Research shows that the reach is even further than that. [Burkus] The influence of your social circle goes past your friends to your friends’ friends and to their friends, so it behooves you to choose your friends wisely.
“Surround yourself with people who accept you, respect you and inspire you to become better,” says Prakhar Verma. “These people will not be perfect but they should inspire you in one way or another.”
Raising your relationship standards requires you to give your attention, love, and time to those that are important to you. It can also mean “making sacrifices, caring for other’s needs, making others feel loved, and not taking others for granted.” [Verma] What standard(s) could you raise to see improvements in your relationships?
Personal standards include such things as thoughts & actions, growth vs. fixed mindset, upgrading your beliefs – anything that affects your self-worth and self-confidence. In fact, any of the concepts that lead you to the Excelerated Life could be areas for improving and raising your standards.
Do you have any old, unhealthy or negative habits? Raising your standards in that area could be the first step in disrupting and changing those habits. What standard(s) could you raise to see improvements in your personal development?
Decide To Raise Your Standards
The process of raising your standards is a kind of evolving . . . you won’t necessarily become a paragon of virtue overnight. Raising your standards should be a stretch, one that takes you just outside your comfort zone. You mustn’t make them such a huge jump that you set yourself up for failure.
However, raise your standards, build up your character, in one area and you’ll likely see improvements across your life. The key is to make small improvements consistently over time. Just as a tiny water hyacinth, reproducing by doubling itself every night, can eventually cover a pond (3), your small improvements in your character help you grow, imperceptibly at first, until one day you wake up a new man or a new woman.
It begins with a decision. Decide on the person you want to be, then lift your standards for yourself to become that person. When you raise your standards, your life improves, as more and more you embrace the Excelerated Life!
Dealing with the things you’ve been tolerating is one step in creating your Excelerated Life, a life of flourishing, of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
(1) The Obstacle Is The Way is the title of a book on Stoic philosophy by Ryan Holiday (see Resources). The title comes from a quote by emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
(2) I credit coach Talane Miedenar for my understanding of boundaries vs. standards.
(3) For more on the story of the water hyacinth, see Chapter 3: The Choice, from The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Burkus, David. “You’re NOT The Average Of The Five People You Surround Yourself With.” Mission.org. A Medium Corporation, May 23, 2018. Web. Jan 8, 2019. https://medium.com/the-mission/youre-not-the-average-of-the-five-people-you-surround-yourself-with-f21b817f6e69
Coach U, Inc. Coach U’s Essential Coaching Tools. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005
Holiday, Ryan. The Obstacle Is The Way. New York: Penguin Books, 2014
Leonard, Thomas. The 28 Laws Of Attraction. New York: Scribner, 1998
Miedaner, Talane. Coach Yourself To Success. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books, 2000
Olson, Jeff. The Slight Edge. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2005-2013
Robbins, Tony. “How To Raise Your Standards.” Robbins Research International,Inc.,, Web. Jan. 5, 2019.
Verma, Prakhar. “Upgrade Your Standards, Change Your Life.” Mission.org. A Medium Corporation, Dec 18, 2017. Web. Jan 5, 2019.