Don’t set goals. Raise your standards
I was listening to a podcast recently with Ed Mylett where he talked about not always focusing on merely setting goals, but to raise the level of your standards. Put in other words, the point he was making was if you want to raise your success levels in your life you need to raise your standards. He went on to argue that the only thing that separates a successful person from a non-successful person is their standards.
Think about that for a moment. I had to hit pause on the podcast right there and realize a few things:
- In order to become the person I wanted to become, my standards needed to change.
- My ultimate goal then is to have my identity (who I want to become) match up with my standards.
- Ultimately, this might be something I chase for the rest of my life. As I catch up to a standard I will set a new one to chase. Then rinse and repeat…
Matthew McConoughey said it best in his 2014 Oscar winning speech:
“My hero, that is who I want to chase. My hero is me in 10 years, and my hero is always 10 years away. I am never going to be able to attain that, and that’s fine with me because he keeps me with something to keep on chasing.”
You see, standards are meant to be chased, attained, and chased again. I believe what McConoughey said that we are never going to reach or attain the “ultimate goal” of (fill in the blank) because in life, there is really never a finish line – there is no ceiling in our lives. We should all look to raise our standards first, then set goals based on the new standards we are living in our lives.
So, don’t merely set goals – Set and raise your standards first
Answering the question “Who do I want to become in 10 years?” will help you start the process of setting some new standards in your life.
I will start with an often used example in the gym with a client:
- Clients goal: “I want to lose 20 pounds to feel better and be able to play with my grandkids for the next 10 years.”
- Clients standard: “I will become a person who works out and moves intentionally every day.”
Based on this new standard that is brought into their life of the “person they want to become” they are then able to define a new goal that will raise them up to that standard of living.
- New Goal: “I will workout and/or move intentionally 300 times this year.”
Now what happens to this person in a year? Will they lose the 20 pounds? If they raised their standard to move intentionally and workout almost every day over the course of a year, and track those 300 days, I would place a bet that the person they want to become (their identity) has shifted because of a new standard they set on themselves.
The ultimate goal is to have your identity of who you want to become match up as close as you can with your standard. In using the same example from above, this person also wants to have the identity of a person who does not reach for the chocolate or sugary snack. So, their standard now may be to drink a lot more water and eat foods that will be nutritious and help them reach their goal of 300 days of moving.
I will give one more example in my own personal life. About a month ago, my youngest son was asking me a question at the kitchen table, and I was so preoccupied with my phone that I completely missed his question. He then asked me (as a curious 9 year old should), “Papa, what is so important on your phone that you are always on it?”
Wow, now if that wasn’t a wake up call, I don’t know what is. This was my wake up call to change my standard for when I am home with my kids and setting standards with my phone around them. Here is the new standard I have implemented since then:
My kids will not see me on my phone, ever.
I know, a pretty high standard. But here’s the deal. My identity of who I want to become, the present father I want to become is much too important – way more important than that phone. I never want either of my boys to take second place to a phone, my work or my preoccupations with it. A couple things I have already implemented for this to happen is:
- I lock my phone in my vehicle when I get home – out of sight, out of mind.
- I turn my phone off in the morning when I am at home.
These two action steps have made it so much better for me, and I know that some of the quality time I have had I would not have had with my kids if I didn’t set a new standard.
Ready to set standards in your life? Here are 3 steps to start:
- See an area in your life you recognize that you want to make better and want to improve
- What is the standard that you will need to improve/set in your life that will align with that person you want to become?
- Answer the question “What would stop me from (insert new standard)?“
Step number three is probably the most crucial step. Take the time to write out all the things that will get in your way from achieving your new standard. For the person that is going to ultimately lose 20 pounds by becoming a person that works out more, willpower will be the hardest. They may say, “this morning’s drive to the gym will be 10 minutes there, 10 minutes back, then I have to shower, I might hit a red light…” So, having an action plan ahead of time could help this person overcome this willpower issue.
Having their workout clothes set out next to the bed, setting the coffee the night before, their gym bag ready – all of these things could help overcome the time objection that they place in their minds.
Things that would get in the way of me reaching my new standard of my kids never seeing me on my phone would actually be having my phone on me! That is why I hold it hostage when I get home and lock it in my car until they are in bed. That is why I shut it off in the morning (this has also allowed me to get so much more deep work done than any other time in the past, and maybe will be a great topic for another article!).
Remember, if you want to raise your levels of success, raise your standards. Also, remember that as you set standards and reach them daily, you can also reflect on what you have been able to accomplish and then set new standards. The cool thing about this exercise is that your standards will constantly change as you move forward in life.
Remember that the question to ask yourself is, “Who do I want to become in 10 years?” Then make sure your standards are set up in a way that you can chase that person 10 years from now.
You will soon realize that person who is your true hero…that person is you.