There’s a quote by one of my favorite motivational speakers, Tony Robbins, that goes something like, “if you took away all the money in the world from everyone, it wouldn’t take long for the successful people to get it back in their hands. Not because they’re manipulative, and believe me, some are manipulative, but because they have a standard”
While you may or may not agree with what Tony’s saying, I think there’s a lot of merit in taking a look at your personal standards and the potential power that you can access by setting high standards. But before we delve into this topic, I think it’s important to pinpoint a concrete definition for what we mean we say “standard”. We have to make sure we’re all talking and thinking about the same thing, right?
I believe that your standards, are what you expect out of yourself. Your standards are your baseline. They show up when you say, “I will accept no less than this much out of myself today,” and then live up to that statement. I also believe that your standards can be dynamic; that they can change as your grow and evolve as a person.
So why is this so important? Don’t we all have a set of standards that we live by? Don’t we have a general sense of what we want out of ourselves? Of our goals and schemes and preferences?
Sure, we do.
But if you ask me, that falls completely, terribly, utterly short of what is actually needed to make your dreams to reality. It comes down to taking an active vs passive stance on standards. Most people take a passive stance on their standards. They have a general idea of what they expect out of themselves and go through their day trying to accomplish whatever tasks demand their attention. They are reacting to the oncoming challenges of life. “Oh, I have this project at work? Better get that done!” “Aw man, I gained a couple pounds, better hit the gym.” In most cases, this is just the brain attempting to maintain homeostasis – a biologically wired tendency of the body to attempt and stay in a consistent condition. In English? The tendency to remain STAGNANT! This is hardwired into our biology. It’s an asset to us when we have to survive, the body and mind seek out consistency and stability over chaos and variability – a caveman would have a better chance of surviving in a tranquil meadow than an unpredictable jungle.
But this evolutionary impulse hamstrings our potential to grow and, ironically enough, evolve!
Well in our cushy first-world lives there is an immense amount of stability relative to how things were in the past. There’s no tiger sneaking up on us, trying to have us for dinner. We don’t have think about our next source of clean water. And we don’t have to worry that much about the cold, or the heat, or the weather because we have things as basic as shelter, or a friggin jacket. If we didn’t have these now basic amenities, homeostasis would be an invaluable survival instinct. However, since we don’t have all of these dangers stimulating us and pushing us to develop ourselves, there is almost NO immediate consequence to remaining in a stagnant state! The worst part is, there IS a consequence, and it’s a slow death, like a poison. It may not be painful, but it eats away at your time and your potential until life has passed you by and you wonder what happened to that dream you were once passionate about. There is no conscious, proactive action in the direction of their dreams!
“What happens to a gazelle when a lion’s not chasing him? What happens is… nothing. The gazelle doesn’t do anything, it stops running.”
– Eric Thomas, AKA The Hip Hop Preacher
I believe that’s an accurate metaphor for most of us in this day and age. Gazelles were born to run. Us as humans, we were born to grow and prosper. Without the “lion” to chase us, we fall short of our destiny.
That’s where our standards come into play.
Michael Jordan said that “You have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself that you go out every day and live up to that.” You are competing against yourself.
When you take an active role in setting your standards, you place evolutionary pressure on yourself. You create a lion within yourself – that lion is your passion. It’s constantly chasing you down, pushing you to grow into the best version of yourself. You decide, “I’m going to do this much, every single day, no matter what.” You’re no longer looking outside for the stimulation to excel, or hoping that someday, you’ll become the person you want to be. You are hunting elusive prey, not expecting your goals to suddenly pop into your life, proactively going after your dreams. The drive is from within. When you actively decide what your standards are, they will guard you against the little things that chip away at your dreams; things like compromise or complacency – settling for less than you envisioned for yourself because of fear. When you lose motivation (because motivation is a fickle mistress), you don’t stop striving towards your goal because your of your standards. You get out of life, what you expect from it. If you expect extraordinary things from yourself, you will achieve extraordinary things. Dream big, hustle hard.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 NIV