Have you ever really thought about the effect that your personal standards have on your quality of life? Your standards play a critical role in determining the quality of every area of your life. If you routinely have a messy home, it’s because you have a standard that says a messy home is acceptable. If you have been overweight for a long time, it’s because you have a standard that being overweight is okay, even if you might not be thrilled about it. If you would never even consider doing drugs, it’s because you have a standard against it. You have standards that determine the quality of the work you do, your personal hygiene, how you treat people, whether you are always late or on time, and pretty much any other area you can think of. If you are serious about improving any area of life, the best way to improve is to raise your standard of what is acceptable to you in that area.
How to Use Personal Standards to Improve Your Life
- Choose an area of your life that needs improvement. For example, let’s say that you have been overweight for a long time, and you finally want to do something about it.
- Get clarity about the standards you have for the area you want to improve. Do you have a clear standard for the maximum weight that is acceptable to you? If you are overweight, you probably have a vague range serving as your standard. When you reach the upper range of what is acceptable, you will become uncomfortable and begin to change your behavior. You might go on a diet or begin exercising until you are back at an acceptable weight.
- Set a specific and clear standard that is an improvement over your old standard. If your weight has been bouncing around from about 190 to 200 pounds for the last several years, set a new standard of weighing less than 185. It doesn’t have to be a huge change. Incremental improvements are okay. Make sure your new standard is clear and unambiguous. You should be able to determine right away whether or not you are violating one of your standards.
- Rehearse the new standard in your mind to lock it in. Standards work by giving us pain when we violate them and pleasure when we adhere to them. Link pain to weighing over 185 pounds and pleasure to weighing under 185. Think about how much better you will look and feel. Think about how much you hate being overweight. When the pain and pleasure associated with the new standard are real to you, then it will be truly a new personal standard for you. You will know that you haven’t conditioned the new standard enough if you consistently violate the new standard.
- Raise the bar a little once you have successfully maintained your standard for a while. If you have been successful at maintaining you weight at below 185 for a while, set a new target of weighing less than 180. Repeat the process of conditioning the new standard until it’s consistent.
- Continue to raise the bar until you are at your target standard. Maybe you have always wanted to weigh less than 165. If so, keep improving your standard until you are locked on a standard where only weighing less than 165 is acceptable to you.
The New Standard I Set for Myself
I set a new standard for myself for this blog. I realize that I will need to post consistent quality content on this blog if I want to be successful. My minimum standard is 4 new quality posts a week Monday through Thursday, and 1 weekly review post on Friday, for a total of 5 posts per week minimum. By “quality” posts, I mean posts where I put a decent amount of thought into them. I have consciously decided that I am not going to worry about being perfect. I will take my own advice that I gave in my Put Your Dream into Action post: Fail. A lot.
This is my minimum standard. I would like to begin exceeding this standard, even though it will be difficult because I will be working quite a bit of overtime until April 15 (yes, I’m an accountant). I also set another standard for myself which I have been violating since the beginning! Nobody said it would be easy. The other standard that I set for myself is to have all 5 posts done by Sunday night. I have not adhered to this standard yet, which tells me that I haven’t conditioned it to the point that it is really a personal standard. This brings me to an important point:
The most powerful standards are ones that you avoid violating at all costs.
These have the biggest impact on your life. If you can raise your standard and condition yourself to the point that your brain accepts it as a very important standard, your behavior is sure to be consistent with the new standard, and your life will improve.
What is an area of your life that could use a higher standard?