We readily accept that the pursuit of growth requires us to raise our standards. But is it true? Here’s the case for why you should lower your standards.
If you want to change your life you have to raise your standards. — Tony Robbins
Spend enough time in the company of people who pursue personal growth and extraordinary achievement, and it’s likely that you will adopt the belief that growth comes from raising your standards.
If you’ve long identified yourself as an achiever, it’s also likely that your internal standard is higher than the standard that any one else would ever expect from you.
Both of these things are true for me. And they are true for my clients and thousands of people I’ve met over the years — many at Tony Robbins’ seminars and other events that attract growth-minded high-achievers. (As I type this, I wonder: are any achievers not growth-minded?)
I do believe that if we want to change our lives for the better — if we want to grow — then we must constantly raise our standards.
But lately I’ve been feeling like some of my high standards are keeping me stuck.
And it’s led me to contemplate whether it’s possible to set your standards too high.
Can Your Standards Be Too High?
To be clear, I’m not talking about perfection. Perfection is unattainable, and therefore the lowest standard of all.
This is different. It’s a drive to excellence that is so great, so never-ending, that failure to meet it causes pain.
It’s a refrain I hear repeatedly from my clients, and that I hear myself say:
I feel like I’m not living up to my standards.
I know I can do better.
This sit on the heart with heaviness that burns a hole in a person over time. It leaves an emptiness. It causes real pain.
And it paralyzes us from moving forward with anything. In a weird way, it can feel safer to offer nothing than to offer less than you know you are capable of giving.
If that’s resonates with you, then you’re playing small.
High Standards vs Good Enough
If you’re like me, you’ve heard many people proffer the age-old advice to go with “good enough.”
To me, good enough” feels in conflict with the concept of high standards.
How can you have both?
Is there ever a time when good enough is good enough?
Can good enough co-exist with high standards?
I’ve concluded that the answer is YES.
High Standards Can Keep You Stuck
Standards and expectations create judgments.
What is “valuable” content. What will truly serve people.
In whatever role you serve — content creator, service provider, coach, mentor, healer, speaker, salesperson — if you’re sitting in judgement of what you’re offering, you’re making it about you and not about your audience or client.
It’s not up to you to judge your offering. Let the audience judge it. Let them speak to you and tell you whether it hits the mark.
The only way they can do that is if you make the offering. And that means lowering your standard to go with “good enough.”
How “Good Enough” Can Co-Exist With High Standards
In reflecting on this, I realized that I often go with “good enough” in my rituals.
A big part of publishing daily has been the days when I go with good enough. My motto is published over perfect. I know I can go back in and revise it later.
For over a year, I’ve done a weekly live-stream broadcast, shot with my iphone, often with mediocre sound and lighting. But I’m delivering to people, where they are.
In every context, I’m playing the long game. The high standard is the commitment to the process, to showing up. That’s the standard to apply everywhere.
When to Lower Your Standard
It is hard to embrace what feels like a lower standard of “good enough.” It’s feels against what everyone in the culture preaches. It may feel incongruent with your identity at first.
Ideally, you would have high standards and serve effectively. But that’s not always possible.
If your high standards are getting in the way of your ability to serve your community, your audience, or your clients, then you need to consider:
Do I want to serve my clients/community or do I want to serve my high standards?
Remember: This is about the long game.
You can’t serve anyone if you don’t offer what you have. So whether it’s a blog post, a program, a shoddy video, or a PDF checklist, get out there with something. Take a step.
What’s the worst thing that might happen if you make the wrong move? At least you will learn something.
A step in the wrong direction is better than standing still
Action creates knowledge.
Lower the bar for now. Make it as low as you need to to help yourself take the first step out of the gate.
You will meet your high standard not by hitting the mark every time, but through your commitment to continually showing up to serve.
There is nothing I love more than to help other devoted creative service professionals get unstuck so they can serve at a higher level. If this resonates with you, join my emerging movement, The Ritual Revolution. More details coming soon!