Monday, March 15, 2010

Set high minimum standards

"Life gives you the minimum you are prepared to accept... so set high minimum standards!"
Grant Soosalu

Here's something I'd like to share with you. It's an insight that has made an enormous difference to my life over the years. And whilst it may appear to be a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) I do think it's worth bringing to conscious awareness and using as a life enhancing thinking tool.

Dreams vs Minimum Standards

You know, it's vital for success to have dreams, goals and outcomes. I've blogged before on the power of dreams and outcomes here. If you want a great life, you absolutely have to aim for the stars and dream BIG dreams. These things are important!

And... there's something that I've discovered in life, and it's encapsulated in the aphorism I coined and shared above. In the everyday cut and thrust of our busy lives, in the paying of the bills, working full time jobs, running a house and family, getting the car, the dog and the mortgage serviced... life tends to give you the minimum you are prepared to accept. If you are willing to work for $10 per hour, guess what... you'll end up earning around $10 per hour. If you are prepared to let people push you around, guess what... you'll end up being stood over and pushed around. It's inevitable.

On the other hand, if you are truly prepared to only accept $200 per hour, to never be pushed around, to really set high minimum standards, then life falls into line and delivers on that. At least, that is my experience and it's backed up by the experience of those I've shared this rule and philosophy with. Every time I've decided that regardless of the outcome, I'm only prepared to accept a certain specific level of income, or particular behaviour or results, then I've amazingly gotten what I've expected and demanded. It almost seems like magic. It isn't of course, there is science and logic to why this works.

Most importantly, the take home message is...
Set high minimum standards in every area of your life!

Why does this work?

I think the reason that this insight is true is due to a number of factors. A key one is the self-fulfilling prophecy effect. Your beliefs and attitudes are expressed non-verbally in your behaviours and communications and picked up by other people who then act in ways that fulfill your unconscious expectations. There is a ton of research from the fields of cognitive and social psychology to back this up.

In one classic experiment, known as 'the late bloomers study', researchers Dr. Robert Rosenthal and Dr. Lenore Jacobson, gave children in an elementary class an intelligence test and told teachers that a small group of these children were unusually clever 'late bloomers', though in reality they were average. The researchers then returned at the end of the school year and tested the same class again, and not surprisingly, the children singled out as intelligent 'late bloomers' had improved their intelligence scores far more than the other children, showing that they had responded positively to the teachers unconscious beliefs and expectations.

"Psychological research shows that beliefs and expectations
are the strongest predictor of the future"

In a more recent example, a group of researchers from Iowa State University examined whether mothers’ and fathers’ beliefs about their children’s alcohol use had cumulative self-fulfilling effects on their children’s future drinking behavior. Analyses of longitudinal data showed consistent synergistic cumulative effects of parent's negative beliefs and these beliefs predicted the greatest degree of confirmatory behavior from children when both mothers and fathers overestimated their children’s alcohol use. The results show that beliefs and expectations really are powerful and send out unconscious messages that have real effects on peoples behaviours over time.

Another factor for why the rule works is that much of life involves negotiation, and people and society tend to be good at working out your bottom line and offering that to you. If you are time pressured or feeling a bit insecure or distracted by all the other things going on in your busy life, then you'll tend to accept the initial offer, or at least, not hold out to get your ideal result. Thus over time you tend to end up accepting and receiving the minimum you are prepared to accept, rather than your ideal outcomes and dreams.

Living an enhanced life

The way I see it, to live an enhanced life, you need to design your life by creating clear and well-formed outcomes, that link to big dreams and inspiring purposes. You motivate yourself by having meaningful outcomes and goals and filling your life with intentions and behaviours that link to your highest values. You also absolutely need to work out what your minimum standards are in every key area of life and hold firm to those. Set in concrete, in your mind, what the minimum standards are that you are prepared to accept in yourself and others. Then stick to them.

Your goals, dreams and outcomes will set the direction for your life. They'll inspire you. Your minimum standards act like a platform and springboard. They'll be the base from which you support yourself to live a wonderful life and achieve your dreams and outcomes.

Your turn

Get specifically clear about what your minimum standards are for:
  • how much money you will work for
  • what sort of loving behaviour you want from yourself and your beloved
  • how fit you'll be, how much exercise you'll do
  • what sort of language you'll use both externally and in your internal dialogue
  • how you'll spend/invest your time
  • how much stress you'll put up with
  • how much pampering you want in your life
  • how much learning you'll do
  • what you'll eat and what body mass index you are happy with
  • how healthy you are
  • how successful you'll be, by your own definition of success
  • how you'll treat your friends and how they'll treat you

The more specifcally you can define what you'll accept and what you definitely won't accept, the more you'll find your life magically improving. You won't even have to negotiate about these things. People will read the messages in your life language and your unconscious responses. Life starts to get better and better as it delivers to your expectations and high minimum standards. And stick to those standards. Don't accept anything less!

"Life gives you the minimum you are prepared to accept... so set high minimum standards!"
Grant Soosalu

Yes, definitely dream BIG dreams and set lofty goals and outcomes; but truly, take the time to clearly and firmly set high minimum standards in your life, you'll find that they are incredibly life enhancing and will support your ongoing happiness and success.

Want to learn more, get a copy of my book: Avoiding the Enemies to HAPPINESS!

life enhancing wishes

PS Please note that setting high minimum standards is not a recommendation to indulge in perfectionism or to focus on unreasonable expectations and unobtainable standards. Research in Cognitive Psychology has shown that setting unrealistic goals can contribute to depression. So set achievable and obtainable outcomes and high realistic standards.

And here's the inspiring story of Sabriye Tenberken and how she set high minimum standards and goals to achieve her dreams:

My Path Leads to Tibet

The true and very inspiring story of how one young blind woman bought hope to the blind children of Tibet. As Sabriye says in the book "That day was the first of many where I simply refused to take no for an answer. I decided to find some way - there had to be one., I was sure - to help the blind in Tibet. On my own. And today, several years later, thanks to my persistence - or my obsession, you might say - i have developed techniques and methods that facilitate those very studies in Tibetan." Sabriye is a glowing example of someone who refuses to give in and who sets high minimum standards and then sticks to them.


  1. Grant,

    I have continued to mention your blog to clients. Of the ones that I have seen recently I know they have benefited greatly by your entries.

    Some of the feedback I have received is that it is great to have such a positive resource so easily available and what`s more its free!

    Best wishes,

  2. Hi Grant, As always yet another uplifting aid to living. I did have a chuckle at the postscript. I hope the work you are doing is as rewarding to you as it is to the readers.

    regards mark

  3. Hi Grant, thanks so much for reminding me of what i already "know". now to get down to focusing on designing the life on paper rather than having it running in circles in my head!! And so feeling like im running in circles everyday.
    Big hugs

  4. Thanks everyone for your kind, generous and supportive comments. I really appreciate your positive feedback.

    smilings, Grant


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