Unlocking your productive potential; reshape your standards to fit your goals

non-conformity perceptions productivity standards viewpoint warrior spirit

We all have predefined standards.

In our daily lives we all have standards of what is fun and easy, or hard and boring. After years of either personal experience or cultural reinforcement we believe that movies are easy while work is hard, and shopping is fun while class is boring. But all of these adjectives that we use to describe the emotions and mindset associated with these activities are completely relevant to standards we control. Think about it; fun, boring, easy, hard, exciting, stupid. It's all relative, and it's all dependent on a variable that can be changed. Change the standard and you will change the emotional association. Hard becomes easy, boring becomes fun. Sometimes it's not that black and white, but you get the idea.

Stop blindly following your embedded standards.

We think one activity is fun while another is hard because we have programmed ourselves, or been programmed by others, to believe it is so. We believe that spending an hour on our friend's Facebook wall makes us happier than responding to those old work emails. But does it have to? If we stop for a minute and resist our initial emotional attachment to these activities, we realize that we can control how we feel. These activities are blank slates upon which we instill value and emotion. Facebook is only fun because we decided it should be. Old work emails are only boring because we decided they should be. And if it is, in fact, our internal values that we are portraying onto activities, then we can change our association with them. If we can find a way to believe that working is fun and wandering aimlessly for an hour on Facebook is boring, why can't it be so? By thinking critically and objectively about the activities we choose to pursue, we can empower ourselves to change our personal standards.

Standards are shaped by a string of consistent decisions.

You don't have a true expectation after you do something for the first time. It's only after many repeated experiences that we shape standards for a certain activity. And each experience is built on decisions that we make. Each time we sit down to work we decide whether we want to work on something easy or something hard. If make enough repeated decisions to put off anything that's hard, procrastination becomes a standard in our work activity. And because that standard is based on multiple decisions you can't change it with a single opposing decision. You can't sit down one day and work on a hard project and expect that your standard of procrastination has been broken. You have to make that decision to take on the hard project repeatedly, just as you did so many times with the easy one. You can't build a standard with only a few decisions, so you can't expect to rebuild a new standard with only a few decisions. Realigning your standards is a serious undertaking, and true, meaningful change takes time, and repeated dedication to your goal.

Believe in your goals and you will find the strength to change your standards.

It might sound like an intense idea, and it is, but it holds immeasurable potential and yields unbelievable satisfaction. Imagine, instead of finding ways to procrastinate, you find ways to be productive. Instead of fighting to do less, you fight to do more. All you have to do is realign your standards and expectations for the activities in your life. And yes, it is possible, as long as you stay dedicated to the change you initiate.

In my own life I believe in and apply this theory daily. About a year ago I decided I wasn't satisfied with how much I was reading, so I set a goal of reading 50 pages a day. The first month I made myself read 20 pages a day, and each month I increased my target by 10 until I got to 50. Now I read 50 pages a day. Of course there are some days I don't read at all, and some days I read less than 50 pages. But the point is not to relentlessly harass myself when I don't meet my target. The point is that I now have a new standard of what I should do. Now reading 50 pages a day is the norm, not the exception. I feel right when I read 50 pages a day, and I feel a little wrong when I don't. I reshaped my personal standard to align with my goal. However, I had to implement this change in small steps to make sure I did not become burnt out or disillusioned with my goal.

Don't make this harder than it needs to be.

It may seem impossible when you first start out, and the beginning is always the hardest part because you haven't accomplished anything yet. But if you set easily-achievable targets for yourself, and ease yourself into the transition, you will be able to reshape your own standards in any way you choose. However, it's important not to set the bar too high, or take on more than you can handle. If you set targets that are hard to accomplish, you are setting yourself up for failure. Set yourself up for success by acknowledging that any step, no matter how small, towards your goal is taking you closer to success.


Anything of importance is built on patience and dedication. As long as you clearly identify what you want, and your goals aren't unreasonable, there is nothing to keep you from it but yourself. Standards and expectations run through our mental process almost constantly, we just choose to accept them instead of question. Believing we are not responsible for our standards is much easier than realizing we have the power to change them. But if we decide to take control and realign those standards and expectations, we can accomplish anything. The potential is always there, we just have to decide to fulfill it.