Maybe you’ve heard the expression that you get out of life what you expect.
Meaning that your mindset and standards play a big part in your success. But how can you reprogram yourself to get the most out of life?
Upgrading your life comes from a clever mix of practical action alongside deep internal shifts.
This article will reveal exactly how to raise your standards.
15 effective ways to raise your standards and upgrade your life
1) Ask yourself what you truly want
The first step in improving your standards is getting clarity.
You need to figure out what your priorities are in life and what you truly want. The truth is that many of us end up settling for what we think we can get.
In fact, it can be surprisingly uncomfortable to even admit to yourself what you want, because deep down we’re often so afraid that we can’t have it.
But just remember one man’s unrealistic is already another’s reality.
Some exercises to help you figure out exactly what you want to include:
- Wheel of life — to take an honest look at how your life is right now, and where there is room for improvement.
- Play the “what if” game — Journal these questions: “What if money were no object what would I do?” “What if I could be anyone I wanted, who would I be?” “What if I could have any relationships I wanted, what would they look like?”
- Consider the end of your life — “If I knew I was going to die next year, what would I wish I had done, seen, achieved, or been?” As morbid as it sounds, the finality of death (even just imagining it) can draw out more truth and honest reflection.
2) Ask yourself how you want to be treated
Self-respect is going to be your best friend when raising your standards. And that means some clear boundary setting.
What are your expectations? Know the rules of your club. You need to get crystal clear on the behaviors you will and won’t accept in life. Then hold yourself and others accountable to this.
It can help to think of times you have felt uncomfortable in the past, and how you may have allowed others to overstep.
When people don’t abide by your deal breakers there needs to be consequences.
The truth is that boundaries aren’t always easy to uphold. It may mean learning to become more assertive. It may mean removing yourself from certain situations and leaving behind certain people.
If you particularly struggle with boundaries and often find yourself being taken advantage of, then it’s also a good idea to work on your self-esteem.
The reality is that nobody can cheat you if you don’t cheat yourself. And if you want to raise your standards you cannot cheat yourself.
3) Decide what you will say “no” to
When we say yes to anything new in life, it’s going to mean saying no to other things.
That can include certain opportunities that are no longer right for us, certain roles you currently play but have outgrown, certain behaviors that are pulling you down, and certain habits that are doing you no favors.
Saying no is very powerful. But it can be uncomfortable for a lot of us. Particularly when it requires saying no to a person or people.
We can quickly burden ourselves with the expectations of others. But you are only one person, and you cannot do it all.
Neither can you grow and rise above where you currently are without letting go of what no longer serves you.
Grab a pen and paper and ask yourself, in order to raise my standards, what (or who) will I need to cut out of my life?
4) Confront your silent self-limiting beliefs
Our self-limiting beliefs are basically the negative stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world around us.
As psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor John Sharp said in his TEDx talk:
“It’s the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are and how everything always plays out.”
They can be slippery little suckers to pin down because most of the time we’re not even aware of them. And instead, they silently pull our strings.
They’re the thoughts we’re so used to hearing that they feel like home to us.
For example, let’s say you want a new job. Your limiting beliefs may kick in and start to question “who do you think you are, people like me don’t get roles like that”.
Or let’s say you were let down by someone you trusted in the past. And you end up believing that everyone will betray you eventually.
Figuring out what your self-limiting beliefs are is your first step to confronting and overcoming them to create a new and improved “truth” to live your life by. One that serves you rather than holds you back.
5) Work on positive self-talk
So if these negative stories are silently feeding us false information, their preferred mode of communication is usually negative thoughts and self-talk.
That voice in your head feeding you tales of woe and doom is your inner critic. And he/she is a total ass.
Sadly, I’ll level with you. It’s unlikely that you’re going to completely ditch your inner critic. It has a habit of popping up uninvited.
But your inner critic doesn’t have to be in the driving seat of your life, they can just be an annoying passenger.
Plus you can turn up the radio so you don’t have to listen to them jabbering on. Ok, enough with the analogies.
Aim to counteract your negative self-talk, with positive self-talk. Do this by:
- Questioning and critiquing the negative thoughts. Don’t be so quick to believe your own thoughts. They lie.
- Distance yourself from that voice in your head, and realize it’s not you.
- Treat yourself like you would your best friend. Try to notice when you say unkind things to yourself.
6) Cultivate a better mindset
The hardest thing I ever committed to in life has also borne the most fruit and proved to be the best investment I ever made.
And that is shifting my mindset.
I used to be a bit of a pessimist growing up, but I misguidedly labeled this as being a “realist”. The problem was it was making me miserable and holding me back.
So I set about making sure my glass was always half full.
Having a growth mindset is one of the keys to actively raising your standards, as highlighted in Forbes :
“Adopting a growth mindset is not just essential in your life, it’s critical. Those people with a growth mindset understand that knowledge can be acquired and intelligence can be developed. With a growth mindset, people focus on improvement instead of worrying about how smart they are. They work hard to learn more and get smarter. A “growth mindset,” thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities”
7) Find your motivation
The journey ahead might not be plain sailing. To weather the storms you will need to tap into your own source of motivation.
This can come in plenty of forms. Read self-help books, listen to motivational speakers, and turn to whatever positive resources motivate you.
Finding your own personal “why” is also essential. This is about digging deeper into the real reason why you want to raise your standards.
For example, you might think you want to raise your standards at work to earn more money. That’s a great start, but why?
People are driven by emotions, so find the emotional motivation that lies beneath. What are the consequences for you?
Maybe you want to earn more money to give a better life to your children, maybe you want to feel the safety of never having to worry about money again, or maybe you want to be rolling in dough so that you can help others and give back to your community.
Find your “why”. Write it out. Remember it and return to it when you have harder days.
8) Learn something new
If we want to raise the standards we need to be forever learning.
Learning changes your brain chemistry, makes you better at handling change, boosts your confidence, and generally makes you a more well-rounded and interesting person with more to offer.
It might be a course you want to take, a skill you want to develop, or a hobby you feel like trying.
It matters less what you learn, and more that you are expanding your horizons.
Learning is a great opportunity to follow your curiosity and get creative. Both of which are incredibly helpful in raising your standards.
9) Focus on your next step
A lot of dreams and goals fall away because we get way ahead of ourselves. We think we need to have it all mapped out right now.
But when we imagine the end goal it often seems so far away, we can’t quite picture how on earth we’ll get there.
The good news is that you don’t need to know that right now. You just need to work out your next small step and start there.
That will lead to your next, and so on and so on. Improving your standards in life is about following the breadcrumbs.
Don’t let overwhelm derail you by asking yourself to have it all figured out. That’s impossible and the reality is that plans change anyway and you have to adjust along the way.
You don’t have to know step 101 right now, you just need to know your next best step and go from there.
10) Push your comfort zone
In the words of George Addair:
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.”
We are all fearful—every single one of us. But raising your standards will require stepping into that fear a little bit and trying to make friends with it. Or at the very least, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Ask yourself what you say “no” to out of fear? Many opportunities are waiting on the other side.
For years I stayed in a life I wasn’t feeling fulfilled with, secretly craving more. But I admit I was too scared to go and see what else was out there.
When I finally did (quitting my job and taking a one-way flight to the other side of the world— but that’s another story) I realized that the leaping was the hardest part, but then life sort of took over all by itself.
I guess my point is that you have to take risks in life if you want more.
Sometimes they may not work out. But rest assured you will pick yourself up again. But other times they will and the rewards might just change your life forever.
11) Lean on better habits
Turning to habits can help support us when we’re trying to raise our standards.
Because you can have all the dreams in the world but nothing will change if you don’t take action. And habits are the foundations which we build our world upon.
As the author of Atomic Habits, James Clear points out, the majority of our habits we don’t even think about anymore:
“By the time we become adults, we rarely notice the habits that are running our lives. Most of us never give a second thought to the fact that we tie the same shoe first each morning, or unplug the toaster after each use, or always change into comfortable clothes after getting home from work. After decades of mental programming, we automatically slip into these patterns of thinking and acting.”
Changing your habits is most likely going to involve a combination of installing a more healthy routine and trying to ditch certain “bad” habits.
12) Take care of your body, mind, and soul
Self-care is a lot more than just a hashtag on Instagram or lighting a candle when you take a bath.
It’s about how you show yourself the respect you deserve.
It is treating yourself with higher standards so that you can achieve higher standards.
That means covering all the basics like getting enough sleep, trying to eat well to nourish your body the best way you can, and exercising to stay as healthy as possible.
It’s about discovering practices and techniques that make you feel cared for, and not waiting for someone else to do it for you.
Self-care is multidimensional and is all about giving yourself what you most need to thrive.
13) Work on self-awareness
We cannot change anything in our life if we are not able to see it.
Knowing yourself inside and out is your best chance of changing yourself, your circumstances, and your standards.
That way you can get real about both your failings and strengths.
The research shows that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative.
This Hackspirit article on self-awareness can help to guide you towards gaining greater self-understanding and knowledge.
14) Live your life for you and no one else
Without sounding too dramatic, so many of us end up living in a cage without even realizing it. We get so trapped in our social conditioning.
We end up chasing after other people’s dreams without even noticing, only to later regret it.
Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware recorded the biggest regrets of her patients as they neared the end of their lives and this came top:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
It’s harder than we think to live life according to our own rules.
To do this, it’s a great idea to also get to the root of what is most important to you by defining your own core values.
These can be the guiding light on your own unique path. This free PDF exercise can help you with defining your core values.
15) Be sure to celebrate progress
Personally, I am not a big fan of prescribed goals under strict timelines.
Why? Because life has a habit of not working out the way we would like, and that’s ok.
Sometimes the hardships we stumble upon still end up being our biggest blessings. But it can be incredibly demotivating to set targets you don’t hit.
Instead, I prefer to check in on a daily or weekly basis and ask, what went right? What were my wins? Literally, write them down so you can see them and celebrate them.
This still allows you to chart your progress but without the pressure of rigid timelines that don’t always go to plan.
If you find goal setting more motivating, by all means, do it. But make sure your goals are realistic, clearly defined, and measurable.
Everyone is different. This will come down to the earlier point about having self-awareness of what works best for you. Some people prefer strict goals to focus on, while others will find them an unnecessary pressure.
But regardless, remember to stop and take notice of all your achievements along the way, both big and small. If you sent an email to inquire about a course or applied for a job— give yourself credit.
We are usually way too critical of ourselves. We need to remind ourselves of our effort in order to stay motivated.
You’re not going to improve your standards magically overnight. So you need to recognize and praise yourself along the way.