Of Bars and Standards

Something Joanne Lurie said on Twitter earlier today reminded me again of a realization I had about a week or two ago. It basically revolved around two things: how people set standards in their lives or fail to do so, and how there’s this negative perception relating to having standards. What she said was, “I don’t hate myself enough to put up with this”. That just shot me right back to a conversation I had a while ago with a friend and so, here’s a little blog article about what I think about the stuff we put up with and why we seriously need to set standards in life.

I’m going to start off with a noted exception to what I’m about to mention after this. Sometimes amazing things happen in life. We all have times when great fortune befalls us, just as great tragedy does as well. This isn’t about those times, this is about the normal phases in between.

You’ll never hear me use expressions like “the universe is telling you”. So let me say this:

Life, overall, at the best of times only grants you what you find acceptable.

Not what you wish you had, not your dream come true, not your ‘one day when’ ideal or even that thing you could probably have if you put a little bit more effort into getting it. No, life grants you the thing you would settle with. So if you’d like to date an ambitious, successful person but you don’t really want to be alone right now and you’re okay with an ordinary, less driven person, you’ll end up with an ordinary, less driven person. If you want to look like a ripped, shredded fitness athlete but you’re okay with the way you look now, you’re bound to end up not looking much different from how you look now. It’s not that you don’t have drive to get there, it’s that you still leave room for the possibility of less and the knowledge that you’d be okay with it if you don’t quite get it 100% right. You won’t be ecstatic or the happiest person in the world, but surely not the most miserable either. You’d be okay. And that is probably the most dangerous thing in this world to be.

People who settle are people who are okay with their lives, who live in comfort zones. They’re the 8-5ers, who get an average income, live in an average house, have an average relationship and overall are just okay with life. Maybe they’ve suppressed or long forgotten the desire to have more, maybe it surfaces every now and then, leaving them discontent with their lives but they keep telling themselves that realistically, this is as good as it’s going to get. I know this feeling because I lived this life for a long time, most people I know live this and know it as their only reality. I really don’t want to go on a self-help, life coach trip here, the whole notion of that makes me cringe. One Tony Robbins is enough for this planet. I must say this, though, for the sake of the topic. Something shifted my frame of mind a little while ago. I woke up one day, looked around me and realized this was not good enough. It was definitely not bad by any standards, but it was not enough, and I no longer wanted to settle for this. It’s not saying I’m ungrateful, it’s saying I’m proud of what I’ve done to date, now let’s push for even better. The moment that shift happened in my head, I decided with complete dedication that I would not accept anything but a certain standard for things in my life. This determination manifested and compelled me to make every decision I made one of completely focused intention, with an end goal in mind. Usually we all just do what we do because of what we feel like or want in the moment, or because we have time to kill and might as well go watch a movie or play some games, go for a drink, that sort of thing. But something shifted in my mind. I started to see that successful people all have a similar mentality, that you don’t accept anything but the standard you’ve set for yourself and suddenly the greys of the world become a bit more black and white. People either respect your choices and standards and deal with you accordingly, or they can’t handle it and walk away.

This is where the attitude and negative perception part comes in. If you’ve ever been or known someone who is extremely focused on achieving a goal, you’ll know they talk, think and live very aligned to that goal. A gym fanatic will sit there and eat his grilled chicken breast and broccoli while everyone else has KFC and looks at him like he’s mad. He says no thanks to an invitation to go drinking because it will affect his training. He ensures that he eats right and gets enough rest, all because he’s determined to build the body he wants. People don’t like this, usually. That kind of discipline makes them very uncomfortable. I suspect it’s probably because they become even more aware that they themselves don’t live very disciplined. Usually a strong, well matured person would say they respect your standards and won’t attempt to bend your will or influence your stand on the matter. A less mature person will almost unfailingly take offense to your stance and insult you or tell you you’re being stupid, or that you’re no fun, you’re boring. The list goes on. They find fault with you for not being willing to just eat any food, party all night or slack off and bunk work or school. The same thing goes for people who are very determined to only date a certain type of person and won’t settle for less. Don’t confuse personal standards with shallow greediness here, though. A woman who won’t date a man because he doesn’t drive a Lamborghini, earn millions and live in a mansion, is obviously on the wrong level in any case. We’re talking about the standards of character and drive in another person, not what they own.

But I digress. We put up with a lot of things that we never should. Things no healthy, self-respecting person would put up with. We do it so thoughtlessly and then we wonder why life isn’t amazing. Why were aren’t getting those things we wished we had. Things seem to stagnate and never change and we can’t figure out why. We endure jobs that make us miserable, walk in there on Mondays and spend the entire day whining about how much Mondays suck. But how many people actually challenge themselves to change their situations? One of the biggest problems people seem to have is that they never go beyond saying “what if?” or trying to find a solution. They tell themselves this is it and don’t bother trying to achieve more. But what they don’t realize is they’re basically insulting themselves in the process. Let’s say you have a crappy job, where you feel unappreciated, you get yelled at, and yet you just carry on with it day after day, month after month, year after year. How is this not you insulting yourself? Or if you’re in a relationship where you’re not being treated equally to how you treat your partner. Maybe you are treated with disrespect, maybe you’re ignored, maybe you just feel like this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. How is staying and accepting this relationship not you insulting yourself? You’re basically saying you’re not worth anything better. You are, by continuing to accept this way of life, saying you don’t deserve more and you deserve exactly what you’re getting. Why? Because you’re still okay with it, at least enough so to not put your foot down and say “to here and no further”. Remember what I said earlier about life only giving you what you’re okay with?

To really change anything in your life, you need to raise the bar and absolutely refuse – vehemently and passionately – to allow anything less than that in your life. I know it sounds harsh and maybe even a bit crazy, but ask any person who achieved great success in anything, you have to be a little insane to reach a big goal. Nobody who ever achieved greatness did it without people standing on the sideline calling them insane. Stupid. Boring. Yet in the end, those people ended up having to bite their tongues as the person they shot down ends up achieving remarkable success in life …meanwhile they are still sitting on the fence, complaining about Mondays sucking and how life is just not that amazing, it’s just okay.

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