How to Set the Standard of Good Performance
Winning is what we are made for. Dopamine floods our brains and screams at us:
“Do that again!”
Most of life is a procession of tacking pain; more of that, less of this, aimer straighter, do it better. Then on rare occasions we fly right and head straight and something goes well for us. We nail the presentation. We lose the weight. We run the 4-minute mile. Whatever the challenge, when we perform to the standard there is a prize there waiting: the inner glory of earned success.
The currency of success is a two-edged coin. We want to win and win often. Yet if we win too frequently then victory ceases to be. Triumph by its nature is a scarcity, as things that keep their value cannot blend in to mediocrity like all the rest.
So where to draw the line?
Well, success is a paradox. It’s one of those elements of life over which we have no power and at the same time, the burden of choice.
You choose your goals but you don’t decide whether they inspire you.
You set the bar but how far it stretches the limits of your talents, your efforts and ability is not within your grasp.
Worse than this, your own body and your own mind’s yardstick of success is not the same as anyone else’s. The kind of success that pushes you to your own limits might mean nothing to anyone else.
There’s money and sex and fame and forgettable glances from strangers who quickly forget that what you just told them impressed them a lot.
Then there’s real success, where what you did today feeds the beast inside that tries again tomorrow.
Both are great, don’t get me wrong, but when your body and spirit and mind are flagging at the brink, one of these versions of success will leave you hungry and the other will keep you going. Each to their own and dealer’s choice but personally I like to get fed.
Leap of Faith
Now what I’m going to tell you might feel like a leap of faith, but the proof is in the testing:
As with any aspect of life where the point of balance is only something you can know, the yardstick can only be found in your own feelings and experience.
This is a fluffy statement. It hangs on to nothing because there’s nothing to hang on to. Inside your head, somewhere in your unconscious is a sense of what you can do at maybe sports or art or business, and a level above it that is just outside your grasp. You’re a 7.5 but (with some work) you could be an 8 and there’s no way of knowing what the score you’re on is out of.
To most people you will meet, this is a terrifying thought. Comparisons are easy, knowing yourself is hard and so life goes.
But being a success doesn’t have to happen at random. Nor does it have to be chained to the judgments of what ‘the others’ think and say.
- I don’t know what your next goal or challenge or standard should be.
- What I do know is that there is power in things you can make happen at least once a day starting right now.
- I know that what you want to achieve should be almost entirely within your control or the person you want to be will judge you and fool you based on luck and random chance.
- And I know that ultimately ‘winning’ is the habit of beating the honest high bar of your own expectations.
Inside the Lines
While we both have a heart, a brain and at least one kidney, their size and shape will not be the same. The similarity in their functions however, makes medical science possible. And so with the anatomy of everyone’s success.
So let’s not pretend that we know what unique route the other should take. Instead let’s have a go at narrowing down where the edges of the map are.
Balance isn’t about standing still at a point of perfection as if on a tightrope. It’s simply about staying between two points, like walking across a bridge.
- At one edge you’ve got too easy; defined as something you’ve already done. Success here would be a pale reflection of the first time it was achieved.
- At the other you have too hard. This is less than the point at which you give up; it’s the point at which you stop trying as hard.
And here is the measure that matters most: because the power of a goal is not what it does for you, it’s what it does to you.
There will always be a goal, a challenge and a problem. What matters is that genuine hope exists: that every action taken can be done with soul and purpose. While some of the good in life will be victory, smiles and celebration, most of it will be the bits in between; the climb up the mountain rather than the reaching of the peak. Conquer this part and most of life is yours.
To find those two edges that you need to walk between I’d suggest that there are therefore only two questions:
- Is the goal harder than what I’ve achieved before?
- Can I achieve the goal before my motivation wanes?
Have Your Say
How long did it take you to achieve your toughest goals?
How close did you come to giving up?
And what kept you going?
Comments as always are welcomed below. Or email your views to Foolosophy@peteburnett.net