Your standards are the current that control your life. Whether you realize it or not.
You have a standard for everything you do, whether it is buying a new shirt or working on your career. There is a certain threshold where things pass from unbearable or frustrating to acceptable. Standards form the basis around which we determine our daily needs.
Being aware of your personal standards and their impact on your life is a crucial stage of self-awareness. High standards often lead us to work longer and harder on the task but can also lead to greater doubts and frustrations. Low standards are much easier to meet and be content with, but you risk limiting yourself from doing anything above average if you only try to hit your low standards.
You Have Standards for Everything You Do
That is right…everything. Your clothes must fit you to the extent that you determine. Your coffee, tea, water, and anything else you consume must meet certain standards of taste, texture, nutrition, and much more. You may not think about these standards much because they’ve become so clear to you. You know how you like your coffee, and you may have a few go-to outfits that make up your current wardrobe. These decisions don’t require you to consider their place in your life because you already made that decision a long time ago.
What about your work though? At what point do you switch from thinking it was a bad day to thinking you were productive? What amount of work do you expect from yourself each day? The answers to these questions can be an essential part of planning your day, especially if you work at home or have the opportunity to determine your hours. When you know what your end goal is, you can create a schedule that maximizes the most important parts of life.
I have come to enjoy spending time with my brother and parents each night. I do my best to avoid doing any work after 6pm. This means that if I’m in a position of choosing between starting earlier or finishing after 6, I’m going to choose the first option. I know what I want and I’m able to plan my day around that.
Standards Separate Average and Great Performance
The people that reach the top of their fields almost always have higher standards than those that coast along through their careers. These different standards can be seen in many different areas of performance. High achievers often expect to spend more time learning, practicing, and creating the skills needed for a job. They often choose to sacrifice opportunities in other areas of their life to focus on their goals. This may mean putting relationships on hold for a while or spending less time socializing with friends. These changes are welcomed because they understand the value they are gaining from the tradeoff.
High achievers also expect more out of themselves. When they reach the point that most people decide is good enough, high achievers keep going. While most authors might write 2 or 3 pages a day for their novel, Stephen King aims for and usually hits 6 fully developed pages. He has developed higher standards than most writers which have led him to better results. Your standards are a key determinate in the quality of the work you produce.
Talent and skills can bring you a long way toward mastery, but they also require hard work and persistence to develop something that stands out from the rest. This means holding yourself responsible on bad days. Whether you attain your goal or not will be determined by how disciplined you are on the bad days. Most people can write a pretty good article or study for a test when they feel like it. It’s those days when they feel unmotivated that determine whether they will stand out from the rest.
Standards Include A Choice
Luckily, most standards allow us the opportunity to change them through conscious effort. We are given some control over how we adapt our standards to our emotions and personalities. If you’re feeling burnt out, you may slightly relax your work standards for a while and create more time for family and friends. If you decide you want to master something, you can raise your standards to include more time for learning and practice.
Along with choosing standards that match your personal values and desires, you must create a schedule that matches those standards. Stephen Kind can write 6 pages a day because he has practiced day after day for years and he gives himself a lot of time to do it. Anybody expecting to write 6 good pages in an hour a day would be setting an unrealistic goal for themselves. For someone just getting into writing, 6 pages might take 10 hours. When examining a standard to shoot for, you must find time in your schedule to give yourself a fair chance of hitting that standard. If you can’t find the time, it’s a surefire sign that you need to lower your standard to something more manageable.
Create Standards that Reflect Your Interests and Values
The standards you set for yourself should always be based on how much you value the activity. The most important activities require the highest standards. This ranges from the effort you put into important relationships to the time you set aside for relaxing walks. Don’t let yourself or the people around you convince you to put energy into something you don’t find important and you can function without. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with the Jones’s when you’re happy with what you have. It might feel like you’re missing something when you take a different path than others, but that FOMO will be long gone when you’re living a life that lets you do the things you enjoy day after day.
Use Your Standards to Create A Better Future
Understanding your standards and shaping them in a way that improves your life is a responsibility you have to yourself. It’s a matter of prioritizing your life in a way that allows you to live happily and free of regrets. The truth is: you probably won’t get everything you want right away, but you can prioritize the most important things.
Standards are often the source of great joy and great misery. You must learn how to change your schedule to match the standards that you currently have for yourself. Then, if you still can’t meet certain standards, you have to be willing to downgrade. Getting more family time might require less focus on career achievement. You might have to change your spending patterns as well. These are just a few of the compromises people often have to make to live their best life.