Instead of Goals, Raise Your Standards!

Instead of Goals, Raise Your Standards!

One of the most foundational principles in operations management is standardization. The more standardized a process is the more efficient it tends to be over the long haul in terms of time, money, and energy. In manufacturing, where products are mass produced, standardization is vital to maintaining high quality, eliminating waste (LEAN), and preventing defects (Six Sigma). While production goals are important, setting and maintaining standards is the lifeblood of nearly every company.

Every new year, we set personal goals. A good thing. High but achievable goals to push us toward a better version of ourselves. The reality is most of those goals fall to the wayside within about 2 weeks. Perhaps it’s time to try a different approach. Instead of goal setting, let’s set standards. Much like a good manager does for an organization, setting personal daily standards then holding yourself to them is likely a better approach to positive change than a lofty goal.

Let’s first discuss the difference between goals and standards. Standards are rules and guidelines; benchmarks that are the minimum level of effort and achievement expected daily.  They are the norm.  Goals are a result of some concerted effort; a place or level of proficiency above where you currently are.

So why the delineation?  Well, it’s very easy (even fun) to set goals…especially lofty ones!  The problem it most people don’t possess the standards capable of achieving those goals.  They don’t do the daily minimums necessary to get anywhere other than where they currently are. 

If you do the same things you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten

People that are healthy and fit don’t do anything out of the ordinary…for them. Working out 4 times per week and eating healthy is their standard.  It’s their way of life.  It’s not a goal.  It just is.  Because they maintain high standards, they are positioned better to achieve greater goals. 

We like to refer to work ethic.  People who work hard, have a high attention to detail, and stay on the job until it’s finished have a good work ethic.  It’s not a goal or level of proficiency they strive for.  It’s their standard approach to work and precisely what separates them from contemporaries.

The most successful people on the planet have daily standards we like to call rituals.  Tony Robbins performs kapalbhati breathing every morning.  Tim Ferriss, someone who has painstakingly documented the rituals of thousands of successful people, makes his bed first thing every morning. Oprah meditates then hits the treadmill. Jocko Willink credits his success from consistently rising at 4:30am everyday.  Steve Jobs habitually wore the same shirt as a way of reducing the number of extraneous decisions in his day.

So, the million dollar question to ask yourself is “What’s my standard?”  Forget about goal setting or some monumental thing you want to achieve.  What is your daily standard and is it good enough to get you where you want to go?  Start by raising your standards and holding yourself hard to them. 

This may mean some drastic changes in your life.  Insisting to only surround yourself by positive people; removing the time, energy and emotional vampires.  Clearing out your refrigerator and refusing to put anything in other than fresh, whole foods.  Putting an hour on your calendar for the gym everyday and not allowing anything to bump it.  These aren’t goals, they are your daily standards.

Good leaders set high standards then manage people them.  It is done through the various hats a leader may need to where: motivator, mentor, educator, coach, counselor, etc.  Great leaders know it is our standards that allow us to do greater things.  Not the goals we set.  

You want greater things? Raise your standards!

Everyday Is Training Day – Reap What You Sow