Personal Standards

“Without standards, there can be no improvement.” – Taiichi Ohno

 

What Are Personal Standards?

Our personal standards are a set of attitudes and behaviours that we choose to follow. They are mainly based on expectations that we, and often others, have of ourselves. They provide the benchmark of performance in our lives. Each and everyone of us sets certain personal standards for ourselves. However, we all differ in how high (or low) we set these standards.

It can be difficult at times to set our personal standards appropriately. If we set them too low, we risk diminishing our motivation and drive towards achieving our goals. On the other hand, setting them too high can result in disappointment and distress. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies we can use to become aware of, and evaluate, our personal standards. 

This module will guide you through two steps that will help you to: a) lower standards that are unrealistically high, or b) raise standards that are too low. Alongside explanations, you will be given practical tools you can use to complete each step and achieve your desired outcome.

Understanding Your MyMynd Personal Standards Score

Optimal

An optimal score suggests that you have high expectations for yourself and that you are highly motivated to meet them. You consistently push yourself to perform your best both at work and in your personal life. You may want to explore this module to maintain good functioning. 

Satisfactory

A satisfactory score suggests that you have fairly high expectations for yourself and that you are mostly motivated to meet them. You are not necessarily excelling either at work or in your personal life but are performing well enough. You may want to explore this module to work on those aspects where you are underperforming.

Moderate Concern

A moderate concern score suggests that you have adequate expectations for yourself but that you often lack the motivation to meet them and very rarely push yourself to achieve more. We recommend exploring this module to work on those aspects where you are struggling.   

At Risk

An at risk score suggests that you have low expectations for yourself and a consistent lack of motivation to meet them. You never push yourself which is likely to have had a negative impact on both your work and personal lives. We recommend exploring this module to work on those aspects where you are struggling and to seek help from your GP/listed helplines if needed.

It is important to note that having high expectations of yourself is not always a good thing. If your standards are unrealistically high and/or paired with high levels of self-criticism, you might feel like you are unable to achieve them. Your self-criticism influences how you perceive your personal standards and can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing. It is therefore important to understand how your results on the self-criticism indicator relate to your personal standards and vice versa. 

Examples Of Personal Standards

When setting our personal standards, we essentially decide a) what we aspire to and b) what we want out of life. Our standards help us align our behaviour with our goals and views and allow us to set a point of satisfaction, where we tell ourselves ’this is good enough’. 

Some examples of personal standards are: 

Loyalty

Health & Fitness

Self-Discipline

Gratitude

Morals

Authenticity

How Are Standards Different From Goals?

Personal standards and goal-setting are closely related. Think of your standards as the “why” you desire certain things or want to do things a certain way. Your standards determine what you expect of yourself. They are often fixed and do not change or bend easily.

Goals, on the other hand, are the “how” you aim to reach what you desire. They are set by you in order to achieve what is important to you or what you deem necessary. They can be short or long-term and are more fluid.

Why Working On Your Personal Standards Is Important

Personal standards are an important component of self-discipline and self-esteem. 

Setting high standards leads to:

Better Performance & Productivity

Higher Motivation & Self-Confidence

Stronger Relationships

Personal Standards And Self Criticism

Your MyMynd assessment results will also have given you information about your self-criticism. This refers to negative thoughts about yourself or, more specifically, about your ability to complete a particular goal or task.

Your personal standards largely influence your level of self-criticism and vice versa. Setting unrealistic standards and being highly self-critical can make you feel that you are unable to live up to those standards, resulting in perceived failure and self-punishment. 

In order to ensure good mental health, motivation and productivity, it is important to find the right balance between how high you set your standards and your level of self-criticism. 

Please consider exploring tools for improving both areas. 

How Can You Set Your Personal Standards Appropriately?

So, how should you set your personal standards?

As with a lot of things in life, it’s all about balance. Set yourself high standards, but be realistic about them and allow for mistakes. It is perfectly normal to realise that you have adopted standards that are not the most appropriate or self-caring; what matters most is how you go about changing them.

This can be done in two steps: 

Step 1: Awareness

Sometimes you will set your standards consciously, other times you will have adopted them from others (e.g. your parents) without realising it. By becoming aware of the expectations you have for yourself, you can take ownership of your life choices and aim for better.

Step 2: Changing Standards

You might identify yourself as someone with relatively low standards and be looking for ways to increase them. Alternatively you might identify yourself as having standards that are set too high and be aiming to make them more realistic. Either way there are various strategies you can use to improve your standards.

As it is helpful to first become aware of your standards and then find strategies to improve them, we recommend working through these tools in successive order.

Tools To Work On Your Personal Standards

Evaluating My Standards

Become aware of areas where you might have set your standards inappropriately. 

The Wheel Of Standards

A tool to help you identify which areas and standards are the most important to you.

Setting Expectations Worksheet

A tool to help you set realistic expectations for the standards you are unhappy with.

Changing My Standards

The final step towards changing your standards.

Evaluating My Standards

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Awareness

10 Minutes

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Written

This tool is a quick way to see areas where you could improve your standards and areas where your standards are high or even too high.

1. Use the worksheet in the Download Materials and rate your expectation levels across various life domains (using the 1-3 scale), with higher scores meaning higher standards in that area.

Note: you also have the option to add areas that are not considered or to ignore those that do not apply to you. It is about your life so you can freely decide which life areas are relevant to you.

2. Once complete, go back over your ratings and check whether you are satisfied with the state of your standards or not. If happy, place a next to that row. If unhappy, place an XTry to really listen to yourself and make the appropriate mark.

Note: it could be the case that you rated your standards in an area as low and that you are unhappy about that. Likewise, in another area your standards could be high, but you are not ok with that.

3. You have now identified and evaluated your standards. You are now ready to fill in the ’Setting Expectations’ worksheet which will help clarify what it is that you would like to change about these standards. If you are struggling to choose which standards to work on first, the ‘Wheel Of Standards’ tool may help you decide.

Wheel Of Standards

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Awareness

15 Minutes

Visual

This tool helps you identify which personal standards are the most important to you.

Everyone has expectations for certain aspects of their lives, but we differ in terms of which are the most important to us. For some it might be most important to be honest, for others it may be essential to be self-disciplined and organised. While it is likely that you will have many standards, it can be helpful to identify those that you value the most and prioritise your time and attention accordingly.

You can use and print the PDF in the Download Materials or draw your own wheel of standards.

1. If drawing, draw a circle and divide it into 8 wedges.

2. Label each wedge so that all the important areas of your life are represented.

3. Assign each wedge a score from 1-10 that reflects how important your expectations of yourself are in this area:

(1 = not important at all)

(10 = extremely important)

4. Fill in each wedge so that the size of the wedge is representative of the score you have given it.

5. Once you have filled in all of the wedges, take a look at the wheel as a whole and take some time to reflect:

  • Are there any big discrepancies between areas?
  • Why do you think this is?

6. Now, focus on the areas that are the fullest, i.e. that you have identified as being the most important in your life. For each area, use the table to write down what expectations exactly you have of yourself in that area.

7. Having identified these ‘high importance areas’, you can continue with the Setting Expectations and Changing My Standards worksheets, starting with the areas that you have just identified.

8. Once complete, you can move on to the areas you identified as less important in your wheel.

Setting Expectations 

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Changing Standards

20-30 Minutes

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After becoming aware of the standards you set for yourself, this tool can help you work on those that you are unsatisfied with. You need to have completed the ‘Evaluating My Standards’ worksheet in order to proceed.

1. Go back to the ‘Evaluating My Standards’ worksheet. Now start by picking either of these two: 

  • Areas where you put a 1 and a X
  • Areas where you put a 3 and a X

2. Now fill in the ‘Setting Expectations’ worksheet:

  • Area to target: note down the chosen relevant areas, where you would like to change your expectations in the next 3-6 months.
  • My new expectation: identify what you would like your new expectations to be within each chosen area. 
  • New behaviours to adopt: identify new behaviours that you will perform to achieve your goal(s). 
  • What will change for me?: if you successfully changed your standards and according behaviours, what will change for you in your life? 

3. You can repeat this on a second sheet for the numbers you have not yet done (1, X or 3, X).

Now you can transfer this information, step by step, onto the ‘Changing My Standards’ worksheet in order to gradually change your standards. If you are unsure with which standard you shall begin, you can use the ‘Wheel Of Standards’ tool.

Further Tips:

  • Gradual change: while an abrupt, far-reaching behaviour change may be desired (e.g., “I will increase my health standards by quitting smoking tomorrow”), research shows that new behaviours become permanent only through thoughtful, deliberate and gradual changes. 

Example: rather than increasing health standards by “cutting out all the bad food in my diet”, it may be more reasonable to slowly phase out certain bad foods, increase the percentage of healthy foods in your diet per week, or simply consult with a professional to formulate an effective food plan.

  • Measurable & attainable goals: new behaviours must be measurable and attainable.

Example: a person who no longer wishes to yell at others when they become angry lists “I will not get angry”. However, this goal is almost impossible to achieve and is difficult to monitor. In place, they may consider “I will take two deep breaths when I notice I am getting upset”. They can then list what will change for them by meeting this goal.

Changing Standards

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Changing Standards

20 Minutes A Week

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This is the last step in learning how to set yourself appropriately high standards. You need to have completed both the Evaluating My Standards and the Setting Expectations worksheets before continuing. 

1. Look back at the ‘Setting Expectations’ worksheet. Transfer your newfound goals (for areas rated as “1X” (standards too low) or “3X”(standards too high)) to the ‘Changing My Standards’ worksheet in the Download Materials. 

2. You can fill in as many sheets as you like, one for each area that you are trying to change.

  • Date: on regular occasions, review your progress to your goals. One possibility is to set a fixed time of the week where you will sit down with your sheet and reflect.
  • Progress to change: every time you review your progress, note down a number from 1-4, signifying how much progress you made.
  • Barriers: if you feel that there is no steady progress, list possible barriers.
  • New behaviours: reflect on the information you listed on the ‘Evaluating My Standards’ sheet. Are you sticking to the behaviours you identified useful for meeting your goals?
  • Overcome the barriers: if you identified any barriers, list strategies for overcoming these.

Further Tips: 

        • Intention: it is important to set your new standards intentionally. Be clear about why you want to change that standard and stick to ‘doing one thing at a time’. 
        • Short-term goals: big change takes time. It is often helpful to work on goals gradually, by doing one step at a time. Break down bigger goals into smaller ones, rendering them more realistic and attainable.