Standards are clear rules that we uphold. Things we expect and tolerate – anything that goes beyond that we don’t tolerate. We don’t consort with people, engage in behaviours, say things or engage in thoughts that do not meet our standards.
If you’re having a strong internal compass then you’re going to feel centered and grounded. You’re not going to be destabilised by what other people or life throws at you. Without standards anything can come in – there’s no protection from outside influences.
A standard really is rooted in a goal or vision. If we have no vision then how can there be standards for our conduct? Being lost and without a destination it doesn’t matter how we act and we’re mainly motivated by short-term gain and pleasure. This manifests in reactive behaviour – we start acting just like an animal. Is this making proper use of our intelligence? But what if you had a long term vision that enables you to act with a higher standard and with integrity. Coming from a deep place within that leads you in a direction that feels truly worthwhile to you and where you are aiming at contributing not only to your own but also to other people’s happiness. Now that is a really amazing place to live from because you are going to feel much more at peace with yourself. In contrast to just living day by day, trying to get by and trying to gratify your senses. Do you have a clear vision – a deeply meaningful goal for your life?
There are many people who have lived with a high standard for themselves and that have contributed to the lives of countless people. If we look at them we can gain valuable inspiration and motivation to seek and find a why for ourself. We can look at them thinking: “This person lived with high integrity and strong values. This person was honest and really contributed to others. Here is an example of someone who kept their promises and followed through despite all difficulties – until they succeeded. This person had a great character. I’d love to become more like this person!” Is there a person who’s qualities you really respect and look up to?
When we do this then we allow a seed to sprout within ourself. We start to develop the conviction: “I now want to hold myself to a higher standard, just like X did. I want to live in such a way. I want to be of high integrity. I want to be somebody who is kind and patient, even if others are mean to me. I want to follow through on my goals – until I succeed. I want to be somebody who really contributes to others.”
From this vision the specific standards for your life are going to spring. They are like signposts showing you the way towards your goal. Like the rails at the edge of the road telling you where you are getting off-track. You’re going to start putting up boundaries to what is not in alignment with your vision because it is this vision that you now hold dear.
We’ve got to put up boundaries towards situations, people and behaviours that are non-supportive. Boundaries are not to be feared as something that oppresses us – quite the contrary. Having absolute clarity about our values sets us free. It becomes so much easier to make decisions. We’re in alignment with ourself.
This can be boundaries for who you want to associate with. If you lack boundaries then you might have friends who are doing all kinds of unwise things like stealing, taking drugs or people who don’t really care about others and just look for their own benefit. If you associate with such people then you are going to draw this energy into your own life. You’re going to start behaving similarly. There’s the saying: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This has many reasons. We are social animals and thus are very dependent on our environment. We quickly adapt and get in sync with the people around us. Mirror neurons are a powerful proof of this fact. Just think about how quickly children absorb things from their surroundings. As adults we are still picking up ideas, emotions and habits from others – often without noticing it. This delicate fact makes it extremely important that we associate with people who are in alignment with our vision for ourself and our life. People who are also on or even further down the road that we want to take. People who inspire us!
Remember this is not about judging people (every person has positive qualities!) but rather about the qualities and character traits that we want to draw into our life. We might say: “I only interact with people who focus on staying positive and constructive.” That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to a friend sharing his or her problems – but if the majority of what they are saying is negative then it might be time to distance ourself from them if we want to promote our own happiness – even if that might be painful. If somebody comes into your life who is complaining a lot and focusing on negativity you know that: “I have a standard to only associate with positive people. I’m sorry. We don’t match.” There’s no hard feelings – you just lose interest in things that do not further your purpose and happiness. Now the other thing that will happen is that you will attract people who match the energy you are emitting. You’ll start attracting positive, optimistic and resourceful people into your life – because you are starting to embody these very qualities. This is another great reason for developing worthwhile values. If you become a person that is truthful, honest, kind and patient. Somebody who likes to share and contribute to the well-being of others then you will attract these kind of people into your own life. They are going to a great enrichment to your life.
With standards we now have a way to deal with negative behaviour of others and of ourself. We say: “I don’t tolerate negativity from myself and I don’t tolerate it from other people.” We can experience much more freedom because we have clarity – it is truly empowering.
You could establish a standard that regulates how much time you spend with entertainment. Maybe in the past you spend lots of time time at the computer playing games. Now I’m not saying don’t play videogames. What I am saying is that if you have a certain goal then there’s going to be certain cost to it and certain actions required. If you have ambitions to shape your life for a bigger purpose then every minute is precious. Standards, which are in alignment with your goal, ensure that your vision becomes a reality. They ensure you are going to grow into that person that you aspire to be. So that you yourself become someone that you respect. So you are proud of the way you are living your life. Now if you’re having boundaries concerning entertainment then you might feel: “I want to watch TV now!” But then you’re asking: “What’s my bigger vision for my life? What do I want to do in this limited time that I have available here?” Let’s be clear. You don’t know when your heart is going to beat the last time. No one of us knows this, only that it’s going to happen with 100% certainty. Everybody thinks: “I’m not going to suddenly get sick or die. Sure, other people may die – but certainly not me! I’m young. I eat healthy! I always exercise. I have solid health.” But then people just die. Young people. Healthy people. They get into accidents or suddenly fall ill and die. That’s not a fun thing and we don’t like to think about it – but it’s a reality. A reality that when we face it helps us to discard the unessential and focus on the essential. So I invite you to ask yourself: “How do I want to spend this limited time? What is the most important goal I am trying to achieve? With what standards to I want to live and how do I want to conduct myself?”
We may decide to stop eating certain foods because we realize that they lead us to low energy and even disease. We now reduce or avoid un-natural food that is highly processed – anything that does not occur in nature, has a long “ingredients”-label or worse: a very long shelf life. Food that is not consisting of natural ingredients and has very little micronutrients. We understand If we eat too much of these foods then we are not going to have the health and energy to achieve the goals that we want to achieve, to get to our destination. Equipped with this standard we are empowered to say no to those things that are detrimental to our success and happiness. Now when we see a certain food that we have a weakness for but we are able to say: “No. I have a boundary here. I’m not eating this food.” That’s either: “I’m not eating it at all”, “I’ll only eat it once a week” – whatever your rule is. This is such an empowering thing to do! When you have self-control then you gain freedom. Think about it. While indulging in habitual tendencies while making up excuses might seem like freedom – but in reality it’s the state of being a slave. A slave to laziness, confusion and a lack of direction in life. Once you know where you’re headed with your life then making decisions that seemed hard in the past becomes easy and straightforward.
You say that you’re going to deliver a certain result on a specific day and you don’t feel like doing it. But you have a standard: “If I commit to something then I am going to finish it. I’m going to do it.” I talk about this in my article/video “How To Master Consistency”. I share my process for changing my mental state and getting done what really matters. It’s possible to do this while feeling motivated and entering flow by having a crystal clear vision for the goal. Getting out of a trajectory of low energy, demotivation, depression to one where you’re feeling strong, empowered and clear and delivering and performing on whatever you want to deliver on is possible. It is made possible by having strong and clear standards. If we have a standard that: “If I say something, if I commit to something then I’m going to do it.” then that is a very strong internal motivation.
We’re always at the effect of our own behaviour. When I’m being angry with another person, like shouting at them, then I’m the first person feeling that. I’m going through these negative emotions. In order to shout I first have to generate that anger within myself and only then can I project it outwards. Within I’m already boiling and then the excess pressure is what goes out. I’m certainly feeling it. I’m directly experiencing this process that is happening in my body and mind. There’s a hormonal processes that happens when we get angry because it is a state of stress. If you were to get bloodwork done before and after getting angry you would be able to measure certain changes. Now you can imagine that if you’re getting really angry let’s say twenty times a day then you are not going to sleep well at night. You are the prime recipient and victim of your habitual negative emotions – even though your anger, resentment or disappointment may be “directed” at other people and you might think that “the other person is at fault”. When you go to bed in the evening you’ll experience the effects regardless of who was “at fault”. Thus it’s crucial to develop a sensitivity for how our emotions (also those we express “to” or “because of” others) affect our body and mind. Realizing this means understanding that cultivating kindness, patience, honesty and compassion towards not only other people but also ourselves is a great service to ourself.
Likewise we are the first benefactor of our kindness towards others. Sometimes people don’t realise this. They think: “Yeah I should be kind to other people. But some people just don’t deserve it!” Being kind to others is something that you do primarily for yourself – that others benefit from it as well is a nice bonus. If you don’t believe me then just try it. It’s really hard to feel bad when you’re being kind to another person. When you see a person who is in need and you help them it’s really hard to not feel good about that. Not to feel your heart opening with kindness. Like I said with physical consequences of negative emotions – it’s the same with positive, harmonious and kind actions and emotions. You have different hormonal responses and your brain chemistry is going in a completely different direction than before. How you hold your body begins to change. You can empower yourself with these values by cultivating them and you will easily get into much stronger states of coherence, calmness, kindness more and more often. These states enable you to perform at your best consistently, without the weight of habitual negative emotions pulling you down. Being kinder towards others you’ll also be nicer to yourself and more loving and nurturing regarding your own needs. It’s all connected and over time it’s going to become more and more natural for you to be kind in all your interactions – with others and with yourself.
Now let’s say you have a high standard of kindness as a character trait that you develop in yourself and that you expect from yourself. As a role model you could take somebody who is considered to be a very kind person. Jesus for example. You now set that standard and are committed to being a kind person (like Jesus). Now you go shopping and there you meet a person who is very mean to you. They bump into you and act as if it was you who should have paid attention – although you were standing still. Your initial reaction might be: “That’s so rude. I’m going to get back at this person and teach him/her a lesson!” But then you remember that: “Ahh.. I have a vision for myself and how I want to conduct myself. I want to be very kind to people. That’s how I want to behave because that makes me feel good and in alignment with my own values.” Then you’re going to act differently. You’re going to have a boundary against acting with negativity because you’re going to feel like it does not align with the image you have for yourself (your standards). The other person might still act with negativity, but that’s their responsibility, not yours. What you do is you take full responsibility of your own behaviour (recognizing that you are the prime recipient of your mental attitude and actions). Imagine you manage to stay friendly even though this person was rude to you. Now that’s going to be a very rewarding experience. Not only for you but also for the other person, who might just be having a tough day. Later on they might think: “I bumped into this person at the store and was really rude to them. I regret that. But they were just patient with me and kind. What a great person.”
Closing off let’s talk a little bit about honesty. This is really important to me. As I said: Each time we’re doing something to others we are also doing it to ourself. Each time we lie and twist the truth we are actually lying to ourself. Once we get into the habit of pretending we start losing trust in our own word and next we lose trust in ourself. This can really twist our mind. What we can do is start with ourself – by being really honest and truthful with ourself, by keeping our word and doing as we say and by staying with the facts even if it’s painful or uncomfortable. Not only will we start respecting ourself and get a very clear mind and begin trusting ourself more and more but other people will also pick up on this and they will realise that we are a person of high integrity, somebody who is honest and trustworthy. That’s such a wholesome and important character trait that you can develop. This is essential for achieving more peace of mind.
You can lie and be angry all day and in the evening you can sit down and concentrate your mind by doing some meditation. Sure, you can still achieve a certain state of mental peace. But what if you were developing these qualities throughout your day and throughout your life? If were being completely honest with yourself and with others, with nothing to hide. If you really developed your patience – for example when you enter the subway. You want to be the first person who gets in? Take a step back and let somebody else go first and just relax. See how that feels. Resist that urge to jump at your emotional urge. Resist that desire to be the first person, to be the most important person. See how that makes you feel! Or see how it makes you feel to make it a habit to contribute to other people. To give without expecting something from that person in return. To be kind even when other people are not being kind to you.
Now that’s “meditation” you can do all day, no matter if you are walking, standing, sitting or lying down. You don’t need to sit down cross-legged to cleanse your character. In my opinion this is much more effective and beneficial than observing your breath for twenty minutes in the evening. It gives you tangible long-term benefits. Even better – if you develop these traits then in the evening there is no need to sit down and “calm your mind” or do a guided meditation. Your mind is going to be clear and you will be reflecting: “I’ve been really honest. I was patient and didn’t give in to my urges. I acted in alignment with a higher moral standard for myself. I was kind to this person.” Simply recollecting these things your mind will become clear on its own. You’re going to feel unburdened and peaceful. This is how it happens. I’m not making this up – this is something I have experienced. The way we behave with others comes back to us – because it is with our own body and mind that we act. We can’t escape our intentions.
- Standards are amazingly important and helpful in shaping our lives.
- What drives standards is a strong why. We need a goal. Without a strong why there is no standard.
- If we don’t have a goal then we can look at people who are a great inspiration to us, who embody values that we want to develop in ourself. This can be certain leaders, activists and people of the past. People who held themselves to a higher standard and really contributed to others. Somebody you admire and who inspires you. This then helps you to plant a seed and make that seed grow into a vision for yourself.
- With that vision you will then give birth to standards. These are signposts that help you stay on track – to becoming like that vision you are holding for yourself. This vision that inspires you.
- Then you are going to set these boundaries that can give you freedom – because you have clarity and are grounded in your own values. The benefits are obvious: You are going to have more peace of mind, be in alignment with yourself and you’ll attract like-minded people as you develop values like honesty, patience, kindness and compassion. Now when going to bed you are going to recollect about your day and you are going to be pleased about yourself. Pleased about the way you acted and how you are growing into a person that you truly can have respect for. You’re feeling at peace.