Your life is a direct reflection of the standards you hold—both for yourself and for others.
This is a nearly universal truth that applies to every aspect of your life. From your profession, to your appearance, your relationships and your finances, they’re all governed by the standards you hold them to. Most of the time these standards are set unconsciously, either adapted from the environment or indoctrinated into you by your family, and your standards are usually set far lower than what you’re able to achieve.
In the words of Tony Robbins, “If you don’t set baseline standards for what you’ll accept in your life, you’ll find it easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes and a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve.” It’s not difficult to see that this is the norm, not the exception.
Will you make the decision to stay in the norm, or will you decide to hold your life to higher standards and become an exception?
Identifying Your Standards
Finding out what your standards are for different areas of your life is a simple as taking the time to just observe that part of your life.
The best example is personal appearance. However you look at this moment reflects your current standards for your appearance. It doesn’t matter what you look like, and there are no judgement involved here. Once you start judging you get defensive and you begin viewing reality through a protective film. There is no right or wrong at this moment: it just is.
A sumo wrestler has strict standards for his appearance; he needs to be a certain size, and anything under that size is unacceptable. He doesn’t let his weight drop because it’s an ingrained part of his identity. It would be great to be bigger—in fact he has goals set to gain weight—but there’s a breaking point where anything smaller becomes intolerable. The same is true for rock climber, except a rock climber expects himself to weigh beneath a certain number so he can climb with ease. Lighter is better, but there’s a baseline he won’t deviate from.
If you’ve ever gained or lost too much weight, and immediately started taking action to reverse the process, you are experiencing the fundamental effect of your standards on your appearance. You will not let yourself deviate so much from your standards because it feels wrong and unacceptable.
Another good example is finances. How often are you late paying your bills? Is it OK to miss a payment here or there? Again, look at it without judgement at first to prevent yourself from getting defensive, and gather objective data about your income, spending habits, and financial responsibility.
How about your relationships? Think about how much time you spend with those you love, how others treat you and how you treat others. Is there a trend that makes you feel uneasy, defensive or the need to justify and explain?
Raising Unacceptable Standards
Chances are you’ve identified one or two standards that are abysmal to say the least. You may look at your finances and say “I should really save more”, but you never do because you see yourself as a person who has never been able to save.
If you decided instead, with 100% conviction, that you were the best money-saver in the world, you would achieve your savings goal and your standards would raise. Now you identify yourself as an awesome saving machine instead of a person with the inability to save. Because you made that fundamental identity shift, you took action to stay true to who you are (i.e. a money saving machine) and you ended up with a ton of money in your bank account.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick and easy way to change your standards: this is an internal shift and it can’t be faked. You may try to fake it for a while, but you won’t create lasting change, and eventually you’ll revert back to what your core beliefs really are.
It’s not easy, but we can facilitate this internal shift and it starts with changing what we perceive to be our identity. Let’s go with the savings example above.
First, identify the limiting belief about your identity that is preventing you from achieving your goals, and rewrite it so it reflects what you want it to be.
- Current belief: I not the kind of person that can save.
- Alternative belief: I’m a money-saving machine.
Then, find all of the examples that support this belief. Both in your actions and in your emotional response to the actions of others and/or facts.
- You have $5 in savings. You’re a money saving machine.
- You skipped Starbucks yesterday and put that money in savings. You’re a money saving machine.
- You talked to a friend who’s been able to save up $20,000 and feels so free. You want that feeling so badly. That’s why you became a money saving machine.
- The more money you have in savings, the more you can earn in interest without doing anything. That’s another reason you’ve become the most awesome money saving machine ever.
Make it clear what will happen to you if you don’t change this belief—make the consequences as visceral as you can.
- I’m going to end up in a nursing home by myself.
- I won’t be able to take care of my children in the event of an emergency.
- I’m going to lose my house.
Lastly, begin to act like a money saving machine in every way.
- Talk to an adviser or do research to create a plan tailored to your individual needs. Stick to the plan like white on rice.
- If someone asks you if you save, say that you do and you’re damn good at it.
- Stop thinking that you ‘should’ save money and think instead that you ‘must’ and ‘do’ save money.
- Pretend you already have $20,000 in the bank and identify all the things you’re going to do with the money you have saved up.
- Hang a modified bank statement on your refrigerator, mirror, rear view mirror in your car.
Pretty soon, you’ll really start to feel like a money-saving machine, and not long after that you’ll actually be a money-saving machine.
Again, the only way to raise your standards is to have an internal breakthrough where you feel compelled to change, no matter what. This feeling of total conviction coupled with a strong emotional desire behind your reasons for raising your standards will to make it impossible for you not to do so. You’ll know when that really happens because when it does, you can’t go back without losing a part of yourself in the process.