In the piece Top Reasons Why We Fail, I cited one of them as “lowering your standards because others would not raise theirs.” This is a common mistake we make especially when trying to be inclusive and project an image of compassion and care. Sometimes we pay a price for our compassion and care – and sometimes that price is not reaching our potential.
Any time we grow we almost unconsciously become indirectly exclusive (in that area of life) of the individuals who chose a different direction. For example, we still continue our education even if some of our friends chose to drop at elementary or high-school level; we continue to advance in our careers even if some of our friends chose to not advance forward professionally; and we also form relationships even if some of our friends decide to stay single. That does not mean we are better per se, it simply means we chose a different path.
The problem is, in some circumstances we don’t grow when we want to project an image of care and to belong to a certain social group. One of the best examples can be seen in the world of ultra-running where talented, determined, and focused athletes stay at a basic level, running “just for fun” or short events. Many times they feel that somehow they betray their social clubs, or running groups if they progress to longer distances or more elite races. The backlash from such groups can be strong when a member moves forward and many times such individuals are accused of being “elites” or “looking down on the rest” while the entire support offered to that point ceases to be rendered. Those in drug addiction recovery know this well – sometimes sobriety means “cleaning house”.
The truth is, we are all capable of MORE than we ever take on. We do recite “you can do anything”, shares our inspiration memes on Facebook, but seldom do we actually believe it. In the world of running, there are people running 5K (races), 13.1m (half-marathons), 26.2m (marathons), 100m (ultra-marathons), and many other longer or shorter distances. The athletes participating in each category feel strongly about their own capacities, but progression depends on raising standards. It depends on surrounding ourselves with those who also raise the bar and demand more. So why lower your standards when you can raise them? And there is always more… There is a World Runners Association which is organized to help, guide and oversee runs around the world. The example of the 4 athletes officially recognized as world runners speaks volumes about the importance of high standards. They talked to each other, they encouraged each other, they supported each other whenever possible and they accomplished what many even now cannot understand.
Tony Mangan, the 3rd athlete to complete a run around the world explains in the article Pushing More Than A Stroller how he dealt with difficulties, what strategies he employed, etc. Not surprisingly, his approach is very similar with that of the other athletes who succeeded.
Claire Nana offers in her book LEVERAGE: The Science Of Turning Setbacks Into Springborads a very simple exercise to figure out our priorities:
“Like values, priorities are often disrupted by setbacks. Sometimes this happens in subtle ways, such as learning that a project we were creating at work is no longer possible, and our focus shifts to other tasks of the job. And other times the shift is abrupt and jarring—such as losing a loved one unexpectedly, being fired without warning, or having a bad accident. In any case, setbacks make things that didn’t used to be important now strikingly important. Consider the case of an equine veterinarian who broke her jaw in a cycling accident and can now no longer practice. Before, her most important priority might have been building her practice, and now what takes precedence is rebuilding her health.
So let’s take a look at your priorities with what I call a priorities ranking. Start by listing the most important thing in your life, and put a number one next to it. Then write down the second most important thing and put a number two next to it. Continue with this list until you have listed ten items. Now step back and ask the following questions:
- Have any priorities become more important?
- Have any priorities become less important?
Once you have the answers, recreate the list, ranking the priorities as they now apply. Here again, where you go from here is up to you. What is important is that you have a clear idea of what your priorities are.” (Nana, 2015, p.109-110)
So no matter what you wish to pursue in life, no matter what your goal is, if you wish to grow – commit to demand more from yourself, and never lower your standards because others wouldn’t raise theirs.
Nana, A., (2015) Top Reasons Why We Fail, Psych Central
Nana, C., (2015) Pushing More Than A Stroller, International UltraRunning
Nana, C., (2015) LEVERAGE: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards, Amazon