Today I’m going to talk about why you need to have high standards and low expectations.
The big problem is that most people have it reversed. They have low standards but high expectations. In other words, most people will accept all kinds of bad behavior from other people (low standards), but then they’re pissed that they’re being treated that way (high expectations).
If you want a happy and fulfilled life, you’ve got to identify your standards and stick to them while you balance keeping your expectations low. Usually when I first talk about this concept I get push back, but give me until the end of this post and then see what you think.
Identify Your Dealbreaker
To figure out your standards, you need to first identify something called your dealbreaker because your standards stem from your dealbreaker.
Everybody has a dealbreaker but few people actually consciously think about it. Your dealbreaker is really your core. It’s the one thing that, if it’s not there, you have mentally left that job, relationship, or situation.
For example, it might be respect. If you don’t feel respected, no matter how nice someone is to you, you won’t feel the love. It might be laughter – no matter how much you like a job or a person, if you aren’t having fun and laughing, it just doesn’t feel complete. Your dealbreaker is a VERY important thing to identify. No one can tell you what your dealbreaker is, but you know. Trust me, you know; you’ve just probably never identified it before.
One of the best ways to recognize your dealbreaker is to think back to past relationships, especially a job or a romance. Now, think of the thing that really made you break up or leave that situation. Maybe you hadn’t left physically yet, but it’s when something happened or was said that made you check out at least emotionally, if not physically.
Think of your relationship right now. What’s at the core of any unhappiness or dissatisfaction? Yes, you could name a million things: “he doesn’t pick up his socks,” “we never have sex anymore,” “he only wants sex,” “she never stops nagging me,” or the ever-popular, “he always leaves the toilet seat up.”
These things become a big deal not because of what they are individually, but because of what they represent at their core. I mean, are you going to leave your husband of 15 years because he doesn’t pick up his underwear? Really? Think about it. As you’ll hear me say over and over, it’s NEVER about the underwear, or the toilet seat, or the dishes.
It’s about something this reminds you of, fundamentally, that you need and aren’t getting.
Maybe it’s feeling disrespected or disregarded. Maybe you feel minimized or affronted in some other way. Whatever it is, it’s important that you identify it because this will help you figure out what’s really eating at you, so you can fix it.
Figuring out your dealbreaker will help you tremendously, because it will help you focus on what’s real for you and what’s truly important. Instead of wasting your energy on the broken gutter that never gets fixed, you’ll be able to focus on (and hopefully repair) what’s really broken for you.
Identifying Your Standards
As I said earlier, your dealbreaker and your standards are intimately connected. Your standards should all flow from your dealbreaker, or your core. So, let’s say that your dealbreaker is appreciation. Think about what kinds of standards would flow from that. Your standards are what show up in your life day-to-day and let you know that your deal breaker is being honored.
Let’s say, in this case, your dealbreaker is that you feel appreciated. So, a standard might be that your children are polite and always say “please” and “thank you.” That would show appreciation. Another standard might be that your partner actually tells you what he or she appreciates about you often. This is how you know if the standards you’re setting are really the top, important things that you need in your life: if, when they happen, your dealbreaker is honored.
It’s not a standard that the cap be put on the toothpaste. It’s a standard maybe that folks clean up after themselves consistently. You want to be careful to make your standards not just reflect “things you like.” Otherwise, you’ll end up with 100 standards you’re trying to track every day. Your standards should be at a higher level than just “things you like to see happen.”
Now, when the cap is left off the toothpaste or someone leaves their towel on the floor and you start to feel like the maid and get pissed off (because your family isn’t showing their appreciation by cleaning up after themselves) you want to stop and think: “I know that my partner left their towel on the floor again, but do I really feel like I’m not appreciated? In my life, overall, do I feel appreciated?”
What you might find is that, 80% of the time, you feel appreciated in many ways in your relationship and this is just part of that 20%, and that’s to be expected (we’ll talk about your expectations more next week).
The bottom line: No one can be perfect which means it’s impossible for your standards to be met 100% of the time.
I want you to think of the big picture and not focus on the small picture. You want those high standards and low expectations. Again, are you expecting all kinds of things from your partner but accepting all kinds of unhealthy behavior from them instead?! Those are some low standards with high expectations and you’re going to end up resentful, frustrated and disconnected.
Real Life Example
I have a standard that my partner treats me lovingly. That’s a great standard, right? So, here’s a secret: He doesn’t do that 100% of the time (yes, my man is amazing, but he is human). I can think of a time he came home from work in a bad mood. He was preoccupied and annoyed and definitely didn’t treat me lovingly. He was brusque and distracted. So, my standard wasn’t met.
However, because I keep my expectations low, I wasn’t upset. I know that there will be times when he’s not the wonderful man I fell in love with (even though I’m sure I’m always perfect and the woman he fell in love with – but I digress). There’s no way he can be loving 100% of the time, so I don’t expect it, so I’m not upset when it’s not there (OK – I’m not upset most the time – hey, I’m human too). The point is that my standards are met the vast majority of the time.
There are three important things to think about when you’re standard isn’t met:
- Don’t take it personally if your standard isn’t met occasionally
- Give a mulligan when you can
- When your standard’s not met, and it’s happened more than once, remind your partner of your standard.
Remind your partner (in a kind way) of your standard when it’s not met, and problem-solve and communicate with them, so you can get what you need as consistently as possible.
How to Identify Your Standards:
Your standards are important. They’re so important that you don’t want to dilute them by having 50 of them. I’m really talking here about a top 3 to 5. The fewer, the better.
So, now you have to identify your standards. You’ve got to figure out where you
draw the line. For many of you, that line is WAY too low. For many of you (I say with love), you’ve got crappy standards and that’s why you’re upset. Being respected is a standard. Wanting socks to go in the hamper is not.
If you want to be happy or at peace in your relationships, and I mean all your relationships, you’ll need to set your standards high and keep your expectations low.
Next week we’re going to do a deep dive into your expectations, so stay tuned!
If you’re ready to get clear on your dealbreaker, standards, and expectations, enter your name and email below to download the free worksheet.