Every day we are faced with choices to make. From the simplest of tasks to the daunting and laborious. Decisions that can bring a smile, cause a frown or produce tears. Each one, however great or small, is a stepping stone that shapes our character and supports us in making the next decision. After facing multiple disappointments it’s easy to feel defeated or let down. It can become more difficult to be patient, to trust or even to hope. If you are like most, you will carry on. The little holes and gaps of life get filled in by whatever we allow. Thus the question: Are you settling, or setting the standard?
While attending a continuing education event that included rigorous physical workouts, our instructor encouraged and pushed us beyond what we thought we were capable of doing. You could feel the angst in the air of those who moaned out loud thinking, “Lord, I can’t do that.” As the instructor emphatically challenged the crowd to keep going, urging “You can do it, you’re almost there,” “You’ve come this far, don’t quit” and “You can go beyond what you think you can—DO IT,” you could feel the energy shift with the increased momentum. By the time we were done, there was no denying the electricity in the room. The bar had been raised. He was setting a higher standard, and many, to their own surprise, reached that standard or at least got a lot closer to it than they thought they would. His was the voice of knowing. He had proved people could go beyond their own self-perceived limits. Why? Because he had proved it to himself.
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” — Coach John Wooden
Another example of setting the standard is when an owner of a company had to choose between consoling an employee or empowering them after they felt intimidated by a client’s inappropriate behavior. Fellow employees were already quick to say “Oh, you poor thing, how awful for you,” thus making the situation more daunting. The employer asked for clarification of the details, and determined the employee had done all the right things to diffuse the situation. The employer could tell the employee still felt “rattled” and had a choice to make. Should they be consoling or empowering? This would make the difference in enabling that employee to remain at work and finish their shift, or leave feeling deflated. The employer chose to remind that worker that they were a professional, dedicated to their craft, and that they’d handled the client appropriately.
Additionally, they were urged to immediately let go of any other negative thoughts. This incident was a misguided delusion on the client’s part, and in no way could affect the innocence and purity of the employee. The employee’s spirit was lifted and they had a new standard to embrace. Life and work could keep going—better than ever—because this person was reminded of their true nature and character.
Sometimes it’s way to easy to just agree with someone feeling defeated or deflated. Would you want to settle for that incomplete feeling, or raise your own standard of thinking to one that would empower you and push you forward? If it’s the latter, then you can be like the instructor or the employer who press beyond the limitations that are before them.
It helps to know who you are. If you don’t know who you are or what you stand for, you can start by writing down the top five things that you value. These will be the things you think about the most, do the most or spend the most time working on. If you realize you are spending time on things that are not important to you, you have some changes to make. Once you discover what is most important to you, it will become easier to use those as your barometer to measure your actions. What are you willing to do to set this standard in your life? What are you unwilling to do, or compromise?
Once you get your values nailed down, then you channel your energy and focus in a clear direction. It becomes easier to move forward within this standard and becomes more difficult to shake up or break down. You are proving the path one step at a time. Also, surround yourself with people who challenge you to be the best version of yourself. This will strengthen your resolve and your character. It is our duty and privilege to dig deeper, use wisdom and become the people we were meant to be. And I believe that is not a substandard version, but the highest version that becomes the standard.
“Sometimes all that stands between you and the ride of a lifetime is simply getting in the saddle and seeing what you’re made of.”