For a month or two or more, the phrase echoing through my mind has been, “Raise your standard.”
It started as a mere hum, and then when I turned towards it developed into a murmur. When I examined it more closely, it ripened into a distinct imperative. Now, though I continue with my normal ways, it follows alongside me, marching as a relentless command. It’s infiltrated my pulse, it compels my spirit, it beckons to me night and day.
It’s such a provocative thought, with more than one insinuation. “Raise your standard” can mean to demand a higher level of excellence, of course, to expect more or better from yourself and others. Additionally, it can mean to display more prominently your personal banner of identification, an ensign proudly proclaiming who you are.
Initially those two interpretations seem like they should cast my mind’s latest mantra in very different lights, but for me, they have welded together to become something greater, a lamination of logic & lucidity, painting a bright bulls-eye on my future: this is what you’re aiming for, this is the target you’ve set for yourself, this is excellence.
Historically, I’ve not been a rise-to-the-challenge type person. This type of goal would not provoke me to do better, but rather send me scurrying away in premature defeat. In the past, I’ve frequently given my all only to discover that it wasn’t. enough, that I wasn’t enough. Trust me when I say that discouragement accumulates quickly. Consequently, I find myself reluctant to push forward towards a challenge that may prove insurmountable. I’m not proud of this, but my mindset is too often, if I’m not sure that winning is in my future, why bother trying? And yet, now, the rise & fall of my breath seems inextricably attached to “Raise your standard.”
It’s not familiar territory to me, but neither is the concept completely alien: I’ve encountered this idea before. When I decluttered my family’s wardrobes I inadvertently discovered that just eliminating the least attractive elements of clothing increased our appearance dramatically. I didn’t have to buy us new clothes, just remove anything the items that were ill-fitting or in disrepair, and suddenly we all looked much better.
Also, when I’ve changed my eating habits in order to improve my health, I’ve found that if I just limit (to zero) my intake of simple carbohydrates, my level of wellness increases dramatically. The same is true with my productivity, avoid the time wasters and suddenly I finally that accomplish so much more. I reduced my number of boyfriends and my marriage is so much more fulfilling. (Kidding!) Anyway, I don’t have to do more to do better, I just have to prune away that which isn’t beneficial. When I let go of negative attitudes, insecurities, the need for approval, and my own inertia, I am good enough.
Maybe this is the concept of Less is More merely spelled out with different words, but it is a concept that I am going to choose to embrace.
Raise your standard.
Be proud of who you are, and decide that who you are is excellent. Reveal the most excellent version of you who by systematically removing the least excellent aspects and then highlighting the rest. You don’t have to become something you aren’t, just achieve the very best version yourself. That’s all anyone can do. It’s a worthy and achievable goal.