August 7, 2023

Meeting Your Standards

You don't achieve your goals. You meet your standards.
ā€” Source unknown

In a world besieged by setting goals and achieving the impossible, my first reaction was, "This doesn't make any sense at all." After all, I could think of countless examples where I "achieved" plenty of goals I had set for myself. However, when I stepped back for a moment, I realized that the purpose of this quote was not to be contrarian for the sake of being controversial.

What are "standards"?

Standards are the bar that we live by day by day. Examples of this include:

  • How much work is output at the end of the week
  • How often we exercise a week on average
  • How much you typically eat in a meal
  • How often you maintain your relationships
  • How much you spend a month

When you read the examples, some of you tried answering this question in some quantifiable form. However, some of you also probably found the answer a little elusive. For example, how often I maintain certain relationships is something I don't consciously calculate and often go by feel.

And it's at this moment that it dawned on me that "standards" are more or less invisible to us in our daily lives. They represent the guidelines we hold ourselves to with little to no enforcement from external parties.

Is "achieving goals" an illusion then?

When it comes to "achieving goals," I've always defined it as a way that inspires someone to elevate what they are typically capable of. Common examples of goal setting include:

  1. Be able to retire early
  2. Run a marathon
  3. Move to a new city

However, as I reflected on the quote, the brilliance and hidden wisdom hit me like a wave.

Many goals are only "achievable" once our standards have been elevated to meet the requirements.

Some of you may be scratching your heads when I say that, so let's talk about goal parameters.

What are the goal parameters?

When someone establishes, there are often implicit goal parameters that make a goal worth achieving. For example, let's illustrate this with the goals I mentioned earlier:

  1. Be able to retire early and have the health to enjoy the early retirement.
  2. Run a marathon and finish the race without severe injuries.
  3. Move to a new city and afford to live and make the most of the experiences it has to offer

However, most people don't often take the time to establish these parameters cause they're assumed to be "obvious" or "common." Yet, as we have heard from many cautionary tales of people making wishes to a genie, the parameters are critical to how our supposed goals impact our lives.

So, are there goals or not?

While the initial quote is a bit tongue-in-cheek in this regard, it's not so much that you "don't achieve goals." Instead, the emphasis is on lifting your standards to adequately fulfill any goals you set.

For example, for the goal of retiring early, I would argue that most people could do the following:

  1. Find the cheapest living option possible
  2. Live on next to nothing to minimize costs and save the most possible for "early retirement"
  3. Work as many hours as possible every week to increase their income

And if someone did that, I imagine many people could achieve the idea of "retiring early." However, early retirement is more than simply being able to "not hold a job" and "having enough in savings to cover your expenses."

If we follow the motivational quote, the goal of "retiring early" is contingent on the standards of your day to day living elevating to a point where it's actually sustainable for you to retire early. Anything less than that will only net a false sense of accomplishment and likely be a temporary and fleeting happiness.

Final thoughts

Remember that merely achieving a goal without raising your standards leads to temporary success and comes with substantial risks. Only by being more conscious of the goal parameters and elevating our standards can we create sustainable environments that allow our goals to thrive and naturally serve as milestones for our personal growth.