Jason Hietbrink

Live Up to Your Standards, NOT Your Expectations

Live Up to Your Standards, NOT Your Expectations

Standards and Expectations: These may seem synonymous but they’re not.


Expectations are performance-based. Standards are values-based.


As a high achiever, you likely have high expectations of yourself and of those around you. Truth is, if you’re really honest, you rarely live up to those expectations.


In fact, I would wager that you’ve set the bar SO high on what you expect from yourself that NO ONE, not even TWO of you, could live up to them.


We expect to be able to get 16 hours’ worth of work done in nine hours.

We expect to get twenty tasks done off our list in a single day.

We expect to perfectly follow our meticulously laid out calendar seven days a week.

We expect to be able to run on five hours of sleep, caffeinate ourselves and be fine.

We expect to be the perfect mother, perfect father, perfect husband/wife, the perfect leader.

We expect to have all the answers and always respond in the right way when problems arise.

We expect to not ever wrestle with fear, disappointment, insecurities, or self-doubt on the path toward success.

We expect to be able to run all the errands, take the kids everywhere, run the business, take care of our own health, AND make it all look effortless in the process.


Expectations like these, place unnecessary weight on us because as high achievers, we rarely know our limits. And when we don’t live up to those impossible expectations we feel like failures, which breaks yet another “expectation” we had of ourselves!


Here’s the other problem with focusing so much energy on attempting to live up to your expectations…


When you’re consumed with trying to live up to your personal expectations (particularly the impossible expectations you have of yourself in your work), you’re so busy trying to DO it all that you totally lose sight of what’s REALLY important in your life.


We cannot live up to our life’s standards when we are trying so hard to live up to our work expectations.


Standards are different.


Standards are deeply rooted in what you value. Standards anchor you to what MATTERS.  Standards are things like integrity, putting your family and health first, giving 100%, not giving up when it’s hard.


Standards are a filter we use in making decisions on how and where we’ll spend our time and compass for how we’ll respond when life happens. Standards are about BE-ing rather than DO-ing. The doing flows out of the BE-ing.


 It might seem to you like I’m splitting hairs and that standards are just as burdensome as expectations. I promise they’re not.


Simon Sinek talks about the difference between playing a finite vs. an infinite game. And while that’s not the subject we’re discussing it does relate well. 


In a finite game, the goal is to win. There are winners and losers. Playing an infinite game, however, is about staying in the game and playing for the long-term. The goal is to keep playing and adapting because there is no clear endpoint.


Standards are what you use when you’re playing the infinite game. They’re something you strive for. They’re deeper and more enduring than expectations are.


What are five standards that at the end of your life, you want to have sought to live up to? How much time and energy have you been giving towards developing those lately?


What are three expectations you have of yourself right now in your work, that if you’re honest, they’re not even realistic.…and not only that, they’re likely impeding your ability to live up to your standards because you’re so focused on DO-ing rather than who you are BE-ing in life?


I’d encourage you to let the weight of those go and embrace one of your neglected standards instead.


Expectations aren’t bad. But revolving your life around trying to measure up to impossible ones just might be ruining it. Set your sights on your STANDARDS and let those be the guiding force of your day today.

Step 3

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