If you study the most successful and respected people in the world, you’ll find they all share a similar trait; they accept nothing but the best in everything they do. They expect the best from their employees, their friends, their family, and even themselves.

Why do you suppose that is? Are successful people all just a bunch of demanding jerks? Not at all. They just know that in order to be the best, you first have to expect the best. Setting high personal and professional standards is critical for success and yet most of us fail to do this simple, yet crucial, thing to improve the quality of our lives and increase our chances for success.

Most of us are guilty of letting our standards slip over the course of our lives. We begin accepting less than the best from everyone else in our lives and unfortunately once we do that, no matter how disciplined you are, and how hard you are on yourself, eventually that leads to accepting less than the best from yourself.

One of my primary goals in life is to live in such a way that the eulogist at my funeral will be able to stand in front of everyone gathered and say with confidence, “Mark gave life everything he had. He may not have succeeded at everything but he never held back. When he died, he had nothing left.” I believe the most powerful thing anyone can do to improve the quality of their life, be it related to work, a relationship, or anything else, is to decide that living life at any less than the very best you can is unacceptable.

Most of us don’t achieve all that we are capable of in life. A major reason for that is because at some point along our journey we make it okay to give less than our best efforts. We accept mediocrity.

In my short lived career as a teacher I witnessed the tragic effects that lowered expectations can have on students. Unfortunately we seem to have developed a system of education that has opted to lower standards to meet abilities rather than nurturing and developing the abilities in our students to meet standards. Rather than demanding more from our students, we lower the bar so that they can reach it without having to improve. Isn’t that crazy?

Imagine if other institutions in our world lowered standards rather than demanding that people meet them? Would you like to be cared for by a doctor whose medical school lowered their standards and allowed him to graduate even though he or she didn’t know everything that they should? Would you want a police officer to be hired in your city even though he or she didn’t know how to use their gun properly and couldn’t pass fitness standards? What if the International Olympic Committee worked that way?

Imagine this scenario: John from Canada can’t meet the minimum qualifying level for high jump. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) decides that rather than exclude John from competition, they’ll lower the standard so that he can compete. Great, now John has been included. How nice for him. Until he gets into competition and is creamed by the other competitors who, from the beginning, were better than him.
Now what happens if the IOC tells John that if he can’t meet the standards he doesn’t get to compete? What does John do? He has two choices: he can either quit (and certainly some people would choose this option) or he can push himself to improve.

Let’s assume that John chooses to raise his game. He trains harder, increases his focus, fuels his burning desire to get to the Olympics and four years later he comes back stronger, faster, and better. This time he qualifies and he does it on his own merit. Because he earned his spot instead of it being given to him, John gets a greater sense of accomplishment, and, when he gets to the competition, he’s better equipped to compete.

What would happen if we all lived our lives with those standards? How much better could you be at everything in your life right now, if you decided to adopt that kind of standard for yourself?

At the beginning of this chapter I suggested you not only demand higher standards of yourself but of those around you as well. Why? Because surrounding yourself with quality and motivated people working towards their own goals can only help you to raise your game. When you raise standards, more often than not, others will rise to meet them.

Ask the players who played with Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky or Joe Montana and they’ll tell you that playing with these great players, made them better. That’s why demanding the best from those around you is so critical.

Now don’t misunderstand me. When I say that you should accept nothing but the best from those around you I don’t mean that you should be unforgiving and expect perfection all the time. That’s not possible. We’re human. We make mistakes. We can’t expect that we’ll succeed every time. That’s not what expecting the best means.

Expecting the best means expecting the best effort every time. People will not succeed 100% of the time, but they can give 100% effort all the time, and if they aren’t, you need to call them on it, or find other people to associate with. By keeping our standards high, you’ll become all you can be.

Action Item
Perfection isn’t possible. Perfect effort is. This week take a serious look at yourself and those you work with, play with, and love, and evaluate the effort both you and those around you are making. If it isn’t 100%, it’s time to bump up your game, after all, a life lived half-assed, is a life half-lived.

Author's Bio: 

Mark is a motivational/inspirational speaker, a double-lung and heart transplant recipient, and a marathon runner. He uses his experiences on his journey from “Hospital Bed to Marathon Man” to inspire others to “Live Life from the Heart”. If you know someone who would benefit from hearing Mark’s message, contact him at Mark@MarkBlackSpeaks.com or visit his web site at Mark Black Speaks for information about his powerful presentations.