The Reality We Must Accept Before We Can Improve Our Life

Written by on December 5, 2016 in Accountability, Self Awareness with 32 Comments

personal standardsBe honest. Have you ever gone on a strict diet or worked out like crazy just to fit into a particular outfit for a special occasion such as a wedding or school reunion?

How about this one … have you ever found yourself suddenly scrambling to clean your house when you learned visitors were coming?

You may be surprised to learn that both of these are examples of personal standards.

Standards are basically a set of unspoken rules we live by and are reflected in the way we treat ourselves and others, as well as the way in which we expect to be treated.

Most of us give little thought to our personal standards, but we all have them, and they determine the quality of virtually every aspect of our lives, from our profession to our appearance and relationships, to finances.

What this means is that no matter how tempting it may be to point the finger at others, fate, or bad luck for unsatisfactory conditions or relationships in our life, the reality we must accept is that these circumstances are a direct reflection of our personal standards.

Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. ~Anthony Robbins

Recognizing Your Standards

If we have the courage to be honest with ourselves it really doesn’t take much effort to interpret individual standards based on our behavior in different situations.

Revisiting the two examples from the beginning, the first says that the rest of the year what we are (or are not) doing in terms of fitness and nutrition is our acceptable standard, but that is no longer good enough when a situation arises where the opinion of other people is going to be involved.

The second and all-too-familiar example of scrambling to clean for visitors says that our acceptable standard for other people is higher than what we are willing to accept for ourselves and our family.

Here are a few more examples:

  • If you are habitually late, that means your standard is that it’s acceptable to be late.
  • If you routinely have a messy home, it’s because you have a standard that says a messy home is acceptable.
  • If you repeatedly fail to keep promises or finish things you start, you have a standard that says not fulfilling commitments is acceptable.
  • If you never miss your morning run or visit to the gym, that says you have high standards when it comes to prioritizing your health care.
  • On the other hand, if you never make time for your emotional and physical needs, then you have a standard that says ignoring your health and well-being is acceptable.

So where do these standards come from?

Our standards begin forming in early childhood with family, school, and peer relationships (fueled by our desire to fit in and not be thought of poorly by others) and eventually society and the media, collectively influencing the way we look, feel and spend our time.

Raising Your Standards

Is there an area of your life that you want to improve? Would you like to improve the quality of the time and attention you give your loved ones? Do you have bad habits, such as chronic procrastination that you’d like to finally rid yourself of once and for all? How about your financial situation?

Once you identify a behavior or area in your life that needs attention, the first step is to honestly evaluate where you are now, why you have accepted these limitations and clarify what you want to change.

For example, an area you may want to evaluate is your personal and professional boundaries. Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships, minimizing stress and having time for the things that really matter.

If this is an area that needs attention in your life, take some time to define your physical, emotional and spiritual limitations, determine which areas need attention, and then give yourself permission to begin gradually replacing unacceptable habits with new more powerful rituals.

Create Specific Measures for Improvement

Using the example of boundaries, let’s say you are a home-based entrepreneur and one of your biggest frustrations is that friends and family think nothing of stopping by to chat or drop off their kids assuming you’re available because you’re at home.

Keep in mind we teach people how to treat us. If you want others to treat you as a professional, you need to establish professional standards for yourself. One of the biggest mistakes I see work-at-home entrepreneurs make is failing to set – and communicate – office hours.

While few entrepreneurs I know actually work set hours, establishing “formal” hours of business will not only serve to establish boundaries for your availability to family and friends, but it will present a more professional image to customers.

You can still remain available to clients by simply establishing an “after hour meetings by appointment” policy.

What you put up with, you end up with. Raise the bar on your standards. Click To Tweet

Expect Some Push-Back

Be prepared; because other people wield an enormous influence on your standards and when you begin raising the bar on what you will accept in life you can expect a certain amount of push-back from those around you.

As with any habit, maintaining personal standards requires self-awareness and vigilance because it is human nature to want to be liked and accepted … and so first we tolerate and then we accommodate.

Ultimately, you are the only one who can determine where to set the bar for your personal standards but keep in mind that the people we surround ourselves with will contribute to either raising or lowering our standards.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success if found in your daily routine. ~John C. Maxwell

Rituals: The Power Behind Your Standards

The key to creating meaningful change, including raising your personal standards, is found in your daily rituals.

Rituals are where the real power is because it’s the little things we do day after day that create the small victories that build momentum.

In my next post, we’ll dig deeper into personal standards by taking a closer look at what rituals are, how they’re formed, and how you can use them to improve the quality of your life.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.


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  1. Yes, this is very familiar to me. We do all have rituals, don’t we? Now that it’s the holiday season, this becomes even more apparent to me.

    Since the new year is coming, it’s a really good time to think about our rituals and if they are serving our needs or are they important to someone close to us so we feel pressured to keep certain standards?

    I hadn’t really thought about this, Marquita. I look forward to your next post!

    Deborah A. Ten Brink recently posted…Are Your Daily Choices Based On Love Or Fear? [Video]My Profile

  2. Sue Bride

    My mother constantly cleaned and tidied up. Her life was ruled by it. She did the same in her father’s house after her mother died. I decided that I wasn’t going to be like that. I have my own standards and clean when needed. One speck on the floor can be picked up. The whole floor doesn’t need vacuuming when it was done the day before! Christmas is a time I fall into her ways and absolutely everything needs to be perfect. It’s summer here and the time the sun shines brightly and shows up specks on windows, and the weeds in the garden run rampant.
    Sue Bride recently posted…11 Practical Methods to Increase Creativity For BloggersMy Profile

  3. William Rusho

    I think raising your standards is similar to geology, which is time and pressure. If you need to increase your standards, you first must put in the effort to do it (this is the pressure).
    For it to take effect, you must be consistent (time). Once these two occur, then your standards become habit, and always done, this is why it is called Standard.

  4. Hi Marquita ,
    we all have out standards and habits which we learned from childhood.Good to be aware of them. I had often to let go of some standards in my life when in another environment,but being aware of this helps to get flexible . The only, I think good habit, I could keep everywhere was to keep my exercise,eating natural food and keep clean around me. This needed to keep boundaries. You did bring all very good together and good to be aware of this ,
    Thank you
    Erika Mohssen-Beyk recently posted…How To Enjoy Life Better Without Expectations In 2017My Profile

  5. Edward Thorpe

    Hi Marquita,

    Outstanding piece. Worthy of a stand alone paper. Looking forward to your thoughts upon rituals.

    Someone taught me to live with the idea to celebrate all accomplishments, as in there’s no small accomplishments. Your statement ‘Rituals are where the real power is because it’s the little things we do day after day that create the small victories that build momentum’, made me think of this… Powerful! Thanks, Edward
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…I’m So Sleepy I Could Cry Like A BabyMy Profile

  6. Suzie Cheel

    Funny to be reading this after I made a chart with things to be cleaned and sorted in the house so the universe knows we are ready and open for a move to a new home. i have standard raising along with letting go to do her – thoughtful take action post love it xxx

  7. Stella Chiu

    Hi, Mariquita

    I love the concept: if we want to improve, we first raise our standards.
    Totally agree with that we must understand and accept our own limitations before we can raise our standards.

    Stella Chiu

  8. Joyce Hansen

    Well, this was sure an eye-opener. I never considered the standards I was operating under in different aspects of my life and business. I guess I’m going to go back and re-evaluate everything. This should make for a nice end-of-the-year cleaning for both the mental and the physical house.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…Is the Fear of Success In Your Future?My Profile

  9. Reba Linker

    You’re speaking truth here, Marquita. Tough love at its best. Great post!
    Reba Linker recently posted…How to Manifest FreedomMy Profile

  10. I like how you state the opposite of a thing because it impacts me even more. So yes, standards certainly make a difference in the choices that I make on a daily basis. I think I’ll hunker down (as my grandparents would say) and figure out what are the basic standards of my life. Build on that for 2017.

  11. Erica says:

    I think that it is important to confront that you create your own standards. I so often talk to people in my own business who feel victim to their situation. And, as you say, it is important to acknowledge that we create our own situations. For instance, I talk with so many people who say they don’t have time for lunch. These people fail to recognize or take responsibility for the fact that they let their lunch time be taken from them. We get what we create.

    Now I just need to create a new standard of cleaning up my house mid-week. I always leave it for the weekend!
    Erica recently posted…Health Trends: When It’s Better To Not Be TrendyMy Profile

  12. Dave

    It’s amazing how a fact has just dawned on me with your words, Marty. Expectations are put upon us by others. yes. And we set expectation upon ourselves. Nothing revolutionary yet. But, it’s the expectations that we put on ourselves that drive (in a way) the expectations that are put on us by others.

    It makes me think about how my personal standards affect not only me, but people around me, what they expect from me, and how they act as a result of that. It is both scary and exciting to know how our personal standards can have such an influence in ways we may have never imagined – in our professional, friendly, and familial relationships.

    Thanks, Marty, for taking the time to share your thoughts that always move me toward enlightenment 😉
    Dave recently posted…IlluminateMy Profile

    • I completely understand Dave! Case in point, as someone who was always driven to go above and beyond expectations when I worked for others, more often than I want to admit I found myself being taken advantage of. In one case, a manager kept piling on a little more, and a little more, and so on, until I suddenly realized I was basically doing her job! Then she announced that she was going to cut back her hours so she could spend more time at home with her young son – and I knew that all along she had been grooming me for that move. The funny thing was, fate stepped in and within a week I was offered a fabulous job with another company! I will never forget sitting in front of her when I gave my notice – she just stared at me and said, I hate you! She later apologized – sort of – but I learned a very valuable lesson from that experience and I have a feeling it’s one you’re learning as well. 🙂

  13. Sushmita

    Like always love your post, Marquita!
    Your posts are full of value they help me either to find my way ahead or show me I am on the correct path.
    It is very easy to point fingers at others like fate or bad luck is easy, but working on ourselves is difficult.
    Believing in ourselves and working it out is the key!
    Thanks for being the support one needs!
    Sushmita recently posted…What is important to sell a product? It’s Marketing or its Quality?My Profile

  14. Phoenicia

    Another great post Marquita!

    I agree with all you have said in your post – I may not stick to everything all of the time but I know your principles to be true. It starts with us, change starts with us. We cannot continue as we are and expect miraculous results – it simply will not happen. Change can be painful, unsettling, unnerving even but we need it in order to see things happening in our life.

    Your illustrations are wonderful – rushing to clean a house due to guests arriving! If one had high standards for themselves and family, one would not need to panic as their home would already look presentable. I am a great believer in setting standards, especially tidiness and cleanliness in the home. We have few visitors but I insist on a spotless kitchen and bathroom.

    I am also particular on how I spend my time. My mornings are for reading/listening to the word, praying and then working on my blog/networking on social media. I catch up on personal/church admin and calling/texting people during my commute. Unless there is an emergency I do not make/take calls on weekday evenings – this is family time and my downtime!
    Phoenicia recently posted…Savings: how much of a priority is it for you?My Profile

    • I’m so glad you found value in the post Phoenicia. You brought up an important point when you mentioned that you may not stick to your standards all of the time. Standards aren’t about attempting to achieve perfection, that’s something entirely different. We all experience life-interrupt-us from time to time, but you remain aware of your priorities and return to them again and again because, in the end, a standard is a habit. Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights my friend, always appreciated! 🙂

  15. Joy Healey

    Hi Marquita,

    Very interesting….. I have to confess to my house being rather untidy – although clean, because I have lady who comes and cleans for me!

    BUT that’s probably because the personal standard I was brought up with was that “business comes before housework”. My parents had a small business, and I could always get out of helping round the house, by helping in the business 🙂

    I’m not necessarily saying that’s “good”, just that it worked for my parents and works for me. I thought it was interesting how I had inherited their standards. (Or perhaps I just don’t like cleaning LOL)

    Joy – Blogging After Dark
    Joy Healey recently posted…Being A Webinar Presenter, What NOT To DoMy Profile

    • Well, as I reference in the article Joy we do inherit many of our standards from family so it really isn’t surprising that you would feel the way you do about business vs cleaning. More importantly, there’s no need to justify it to anyone as long as it works for you. The point is to be aware of our standards. Thanks for sharing with us!

  16. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! I just loved your post my friend and that last quote “Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become” One of my all time Favorites!
    So now let’s see “setting personal standards!” Wow how this is a subject I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to. especially when it comes to establishing “formal” hours of business as you say!

    Yikes this Is Something I need to get in place ASAP! No one has repect for my time and yes this is all my fault.. Time to take control.

    Thanks for the sharing this much needed lesson.
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…How Satisfied Are You With Your Life?My Profile

    • I’ll tell you Chery that I learned the value of setting office hours the hard way when I worked as a life and small business coach. With hundreds of people expecting to have access to you 24/7 life can quickly get out of control. I inherited more than half of those clients from a fellow Entrepreneur who suddenly retired due to health reasons and when I realized how she’d let them run over her I was surprised she was still alive!

  17. Ravi Chahar

    Hey Marquita,

    There is always a positive side of accepting the reality of the life. People really need to know what they are doing.

    Expecting the push-back is normal, life has ups and downs and you can’t control it.

    The only thing which can be done is to face the reality.

    I used to diet to have an amazing physique but it had some consequences.

    We all do something crazy.

    Thanks for such an interesting article.

    Ravi Chahar recently posted…22 Mesmerizing Habits of Great Entrepreneurs You Should Develop.My Profile

  18. Terrific post, Marquita. You’ve touched on a topic that most of us don’t think about but instinctively understand — our personal standards. I think we have to purposefully examine our personal standards and not just slip into bad habits, like the ones you mention. I struggle with a weight issue — if I want to be healthier I should lose some weight, not just for the next wedding I’m attending, but for myself. I don’t know why we treat others better than we treat ourselves. ‘Tis a puzzlement.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Does the President-Elect Possess the Qualities of a Global Leader?My Profile

    • I hear you Jeannette, and wish I could answer the question of why we so often treat others better than ourselves. Part of it is the desire (need) for approval and to be liked, but I can’t help but believe it’s more complex than that. I don’t know if there are any studies that have been done but it’s a good subject to explore for 2017. 🙂

  19. Great food for thought Marquita as always..Your article surely highlights some of the areas of my personality that needs some changes.Effective timeblocking and constantly being aware of the need to overcome these defects indeed sounds like the key to me.I am always up for taking that step, that can help me become a better me…Eagerly awaiting for your next article.
    Priya Prabhu recently posted…Doing spiritual practice in the current eraMy Profile

    • I’m glad you found value in the article Priya! The thing I really like about focusing on standards is it is a great way to gradually improve our lives. In fact, I’m working on a sort of mini-movement for 2017 that I’ll be sharing with everyone in my last post of the year on December 19th. 🙂

  20. Love this post, Marty. My father had very high personal standards for punctuality, cleanliness and the achievement of success. I am so glad I leaner from him to have high personal standards. They have truly impacted my life.

    I think that by ensuring our homes are clean and tidy on a daily basis, we keep our minds and our doors open to visitors, the world, and new ideas. I am rather insulted when I visit a home or place of business and it is so untidy that I cannot find a place to site.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…exploring MontreuxMy Profile

    • I had to laugh at your comment about a place being so cluttered there is no place to sit because I’ve BEEN there. You know for a little over a decade I was a life and small business coach and worked with many first-time entrepreneurs. More than a few times I visited someone’s home and found chaos and no place to sit – which gave me a pretty good indication of this person’s chances of growing a successful business. Thanks so much for sharing and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  21. Mark

    This is such an important issue M!

    And thank you so much, for brilliantly putting it into the proper context.

    Because as you’ve pointed out, outside pressures, especially from really close friends, family members, spouses and or significant others etc, can often cause us to tolerate or excuse things and tolerate things we wouldn’t normally allow.

    Your excellent post gives us the much needed mental fortitude, to finally set the proper boundaries and stick to them!Thanks!
    Mark recently posted…How This Major Marketing Mistake Constantly Hurts Small Business Owners!My Profile

    • I’m really happy that you found value in the post and topic Mark. As I’ve been working on the second of this two-part series I’ve come to realize that this is where I want to focus my attention in 2017. I’ll be talking more about that in my last post of the year in a couple of weeks. 🙂

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