On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with your level of physical fitness? If you are not between an 8 and 10, what stops you from achieving a higher level?
You may lack time to work out or prepare healthy meals. Or you don’t know how to cook. Maybe your spouse is unwilling to support you with your fitness goals.
However, it doesn’t matter why you think you can’t achieve your fitness goals.
The real reason you are not where you want to be is you.
More specifically, you fall short of your fitness and health goals because of the personal standards you have set for yourself.
What are personal standards?
The way you lead your life is governed by your personal standards. From how you structure your day to the tidiness of your home, the level of health you experience, and the quality of your personal relationships.
Everything is a reflection of your personal standards.
Simply put, your standards are a set of behaviors that reflect your beliefs and sense of self-worth.
When you have low standards, your life circumstances will reflect that. When your standards are high, your life circumstances will reflect that too.
For example, when you have high standards for how healthy and vibrant you want to feel, you will make choices that lead to improved vitality.
And if your personal standards for health are so low that you don’t care that you feel sluggish, tired, and lack mental sharpness, you will continue to sit on the couch every minute during your free time, mindlessly filling your belly with non-food items clever marketers made you believe you crave.
Why you need to raise your personal standards to achieve your fitness goals.
Think back briefly to the original question about why you have yet to score between 8 and 10 on your fitness and health goals.
What fitness goals do you have that you still need to achieve? Are there some that you repeatedly fail to achieve?
If so, do you know why?
Because you are not (yet) the kind of person worthy of achieving those goals.
Harsh? Maybe. True? Definitely.
If you were the person who would accomplish those goals, you would already have achieved them. You would already be living by the standards that a person who has the health and wellness you dream of is living by.
You always get your standards.
That’s why it is vital to raise your standards if you want to be in better shape, have better health, or achieve some incredible feats of physical strength or endurance.
A 3-step process to raise your standards.
1. Know and understand your "why."
The most common mistake I see people make when they start their fitness journey is that they set the wrong goals.
Instead of taking the time for introspection and figuring out their deeper “why” for “getting fit and healthy” or “running a marathon,” they simply pick a goal because someone told them it would be cool or because societal norms have convinced them that this goal is worthy of achieving.
If you want to achieve any fitness or health goal, you must clearly understand why.
Maybe you don’t want to finish a marathon or sport a six-pack. Perhaps all you want is to get off your meds and be able to play fetch again with your kids or grandchildren.
Take some time to really figure out your why. Write it down. Then keep it somewhere where you can quickly access it at all times.
2. Be honest with yourself.
Before any change comes awareness. When you want to upgrade your fitness and health, you must first understand where you need to improve.
And that requires self-awareness.
You need to assess your current habits and identify those that contribute to your not achieving your goals. What routines do you have in place that you need to change?
Is your typical breakfast a bowl of cinnamon crunch and a double latte with 4 teaspoons of sugar, or is it yogurt and a piece of fruit? Do you drink soda throughout the day, or do you opt for water? What standards do you have for your bedtime routine? Do you pass out in front of the TV or follow a winding-down routine, including reading and meditation?
Your habits and routines are a mirror of the standards you hold. Assess them. Then improve them.
But don’t stop there. Instead, go deeper and assess your limiting beliefs around fitness and health.
What do you believe about a healthy lifestyle that might hold you back? Uncover those limiting beliefs and then work on changing them.
For example, I grew up with the belief that I was unathletic. I was relentlessly bullied in school because I was a failure in PE. At home, my stepfather made fun of me and liked to call me “the fat one.”
Even though I was never overweight and my lack of skills in PE very likely stemmed from my extreme social anxiety, I adopted the belief that I was utterly unathletic. I carried that belief until I was well into my 20s.
Through running and later strength training, I learned I wasn’t a hopeless case regarding physical fitness.
And when I discovered the wonderful world of personal development, I learned how to shift my beliefs and adopt an identity of someone who is physically fit and who loves to work out.
3 Set standards only for you.
When you set your new standards, you must focus on yourself. Ask yourself what you are no longer willing to accept and what you are willing to tolerate.
For example, when you decide to finish a marathon, you want to avoid staying out late every weekend and partying. Instead, you decide you are willing to tolerate staying up only until 10 pm on a Saturday to get your long runs in on a Sunday.
When you decide on your new standard of being in bed at 10 pm, you can not look at what your friends are doing and expect them to behave like you. Likewise, refrain from coaxing your partner into adopting healthier lifestyle habits with you.
You can not change other people, and trying to do so only takes energy away from you.
The energy that you need if you want to be successful in upgrading your life to achieve new levels of fitness and health.
If your partner or a friend joins you in your quest, that is wonderful, of course, and it can be a big help.
Having someone who holds you accountable can dramatically increase your chances of success.
However, you can not let yourself be sidelined because your loved ones aren’t on board with your new standards. Instead of trying to change their behaviors, be the role model and live up to the high standards you set for your fitness and health.
4. Avoid complacency.
In life, there is no standing still. If we look at nature, we see only growth or decay, but nothing ever stays the same.
All life evolves over time. And it is human nature to develop and grow.
You must work daily to live up to your higher standards. Changing your routines and habits to reflect the new normal you aim to live up to won’t be easy.
But it is your choice to live up to the challenge and develop better habits to achieve your goals or to retreat back into comfort and continue with the old routines and habits you know so well.
That does not mean you need to change everything at once.
In fact, for many of us, an “all-or-nothing” approach backfires because we can’t keep up with so many drastic changes at once and burn out. The wiser path is implementing small changes and progressively changing your standards over time.
If you have never exercised before and now try to implement a ritual of going for a 2-hour run each morning, you are likely setting yourself up for failure.
But if you started by going for a 20-minute walk each morning, your chances of keeping the habit would be much higher. Once you have completed your early morning walks each day for a couple of weeks, you could level up and add another practice to improve your fitness and health further.
5. Beware of lowering your standards.
You will encounter many challenges and obstacles when you decide to level up your fitness.
You decided to go for a morning run, but the weather has turned south, and it’s pouring down. You choose to go to the gym after work, but you get a call from a friend asking you to come over and talk because her boyfriend just broke up with her.
Your gym has to close for 2 weeks because of a burst pipe.
You get laid off, and all you want to do is to lay in bed with a tub of ice cream and binge-watch Netflix.
In those moments, you need to decide how you will react in a way that reinforces a commitment to your standards.
The moment you start making excuses as to why you couldn’t follow through with your rituals is when you start lowering your standards.
Avoid lowering your standards to accommodate other people. When you start to upgrade your life, you will be met with resistance from others.
Maybe even your loved ones will start criticizing you because you now refuse to drink with them every weekend or because you’d instead go to bed at 09:00 than watch a movie together, so you can get enough sleep to recover well.
In these situations, it is also vital to focus on yourself, not try to change others. Explain why you make these choices and why improving your fitness and health matters to you.
Don’t compare yourself to most other people’s standards. Most people are not experiencing a level of fitness and health they are happy about.
Instead, compare yourself to a past version of yourself.
And if you need to compare yourself to others, only compare yourself to those whose level of fitness and health you aspire to achieve.
You don't get your goals. You get your standards.
If you have ever set goals you repeatedly fail at achieving, you need to look at the standards you set for yourself.
This is true in any domain of life, be it relationships, finances, or fitness.
You need to become worthy of achieving your goals. You need to adopt the habits, rituals, and thought patterns of the person you aspire to be.
If you set a fitness goal but can’t reach it, you need to check your daily habits and routines. Likely, they are not aligned with the goals you set for yourself.
If you are serious about upgrading your fitness and health, take a sheet of paper or fire up a word document on your laptop and write out the new standard for fitness you will live by from now on.
Write out all the things you will no longer tolerate and those you choose to accept. Next, list your new daily rituals and routines supporting that new, higher standard you aspire to live by.
Then, go to work. Start now. This is how you change.