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While I'm not one to advocate many personal development hacks, there is one "hack" that I think everyone should use: have high standards for yourself. Having high personal standards will almost immediately force personal growth and will help you live up to your potential day after day. It's also really simple to execute.
Be Ruthless With Yourself
If you're anything like me, although you enjoy improving yourself (mentally, physically, whatever), you probably view yourself as a work in progress. As such, you may not think very highly of yourself. While being humble is certainly a great trait, it's often misused. Simply being humble and viewing yourself in a negative light won't help you achieve personal growth — if anything, it will slow your development. By constantly thinking down on yourself, you're conditioning yourself to accept lower standards and mediocrity — the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish. If you'd like to become a better person, you need to constantly push yourself to achieve more, behave better, and learn to consistently outperform past versions of yourself.
One foolproof way to aggressively pursue personal growth is to hold yourself to a high set of personal standards, then ruthlessly strive to live up to your own expectations. As you continue to strive towards your high personal standards, you'll make quick gains that would have come slowly otherwise. I've found that when I'm under pressure (from myself) to act or live up to a certain standard, it's much easier for me to accomplish my goals.
Develop High Standards
If you've never formally listed what your personal goals are, you should take a few minutes to do so now. Create a Google doc named Growth, and make a list of the following:
- Traits you'd ideally like to have.
- Ways you'd like to behave.
- People who you respect.
For instance, if you'd like to always live up to your word, you may want to write something along the lines of:
- Honour my commitments, regardless of external factors.
- Carefully think things through before agreeing to do things.
Or, if you'd like to improve in a more physical way, set specific (and difficult to reach) goals:
- Have 50cm biceps, 100cm quads and 150cm chest measurements.
- Run 2km in five minutes flat.
- Squat 450kg.
By clearly stating your goals and ideal behaviours, you set a clear precedent for yourself to follow and live up to. From this point on, refer to your list frequently to remind yourself what you're aiming to accomplish, and why it matters to you.
Note: Keeping a list of people who inspire you is important because it motivates you to be more like those people you look up to so much.
Once you've clearly defined the person you want to become, working towards your ideal self becomes that much easier. Respect yourself for striving to reach difficult goals, and think highly of yourself as you work to better yourself. Having respect for yourself makes it easier for you to make difficult decisions. We're all defined by our actions, and those of us who have precise, measurable goals and a sufficient quantity of self-respect can more easily make the tough decisions that either push us forward or pull us back.
What will you do when you're sitting at a restaurant with your friends and you're offered that sweet dessert? Will you eat it? Is that what you'd ideally do? What would future you do in this situation? Which decision will push you further towards your ideal self?
Set high standards, ruthlessly pursue your goals and respect yourself.
Achieve great things, my friends.
High Standards [Randall Degges]
Randall is a programmer, entrepreneur, speaker and author. During the day he's busy building APIs as the CTO at OpenCNAM, and at night you can find him writing open-source software, publishing technical books, and sharing his thoughts on his personal site.