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I Used To Have Impossible Standards

Do you find it almost impossible to feel like you’ve done a good job? If you get praise from a friend or work colleague, do you brush it aside? Is nothing you do ever good enough for YOU? Having impossible standards and in many cases not even knowing what your standards are, can be a constant source of pain. On one hand you want praise and recognition and on the other hand you push it away, thinking you don’t deserve it.

In the past, this is exactly how I felt. This impossible standard led me to many extreme behaviours. Whenever I took on a challenge or a goal, it would be at extreme level, always trying to meet some invisible standard of which I wasn’t even aware of. I would set myself unachievable and unsustainable goals, which I would self-enforce like a drill sergeant. I might set myself a goal to run every morning for 1 hour, no rest days allowed. If I missed the run, I would force myself to make up it for it the next day, with a 2 hour run. Even when I ran the 2 hours, I would beat myself up because it wasn’t as fast as the day before. Nothing but a personal best was of value and even then, the feeling of achievement lasted a brief 5 seconds before I would squash it.

As you can imagine, having impossible standards also made it incredibly difficult to feel any kind of self-worth. I would get praise from friends and work colleagues and not understand why they were saying it, so I never really received their compliments. In my world, what I had accomplished did not deserve praise and I was suspicious that people were complimenting me for some sneaky underhanded reason. They must want something from me? Or worse yet, they were treating me like a child.

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I also had lots of problems giving praise to others as they had to meet my standard as well. I had friends who would celebrate running for 5 minutes every day, which was a big step for them but I would find it difficult to help them celebrate. I could logically see the brilliance in their strategy, but I couldn’t connect with it emotionally. I would try to “fake it” and give them support but I felt “off’ and worse, now I was the person treating them like a child.

I didn’t know where to start

I had lived in a constant state of tension with myself. Forever striving to meet my standards in order to feel like I was good enough, and at the same time, pushing the feeling away because I didn’t deserve it. I was operating in an endless loop. I had set up the rules of the game so that I couldn’t win. My impossible standard made it incredibly difficult to reach goals or improve over the long term, as the pain of achievement was too great to endure for any extended period of time. I had been working on the same goals for almost 2 decades and was still at the starting line.

Nobody does anything for no reason. Growing up we all develop patterns of behaviour to deal with our environment. My impossible standards were a pattern. When I look back I see exactly why I chose those specific behaviours and they served me well for many years. The problem occurs when those behaviours stop working for you and actually start to hinder your progress.

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I had always wondered why other people were able to cope with life so much better than me and in much healthier ways. Why and how was I different from other people? Why is it that some people with far more difficult life experiences than my own manage to “turn out alright”?
I realised that I had trained myself in my impossible standards in order to cope with my particular environment, which means I can retrain myself according to my new environment. This is exactly what I did.

Get curious and ask questions

The first thing I did was admit that I had a problem. I asked the question, “What am I trying to “get” by meeting my standards”? Pretty soon I realised that what I really wanted to feel like I was significant and that I was good enough. I wondered what I would have to do in order to feel this way? I started asking questions like:

“When was the last time I felt like I had done a good job”?
“What was it that I did”?

I started to realise just how many requirements I needed in order to feel good enough! It was like running through a maze each and every day, trying to get to the centre where “good enough” could be found. The problem was, the route was so complex that I could never remember how to get there. I would only be able to stumble on “good enough” from time to time and it was usually by accident.

What people are saying about Emotion Academy:

"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria

One of my primary requirements was I could only feel good enough if I achieved a personal best at something I considered to be a difficult task. Being a difficult task, how often do you think I achieved a personal best? Rarely. Every other accomplishment was cast aside with a “who cares”, “that’s expected anyway”.

Break it down, step by step

Now I understood the complexity of my maze, I decided it was time to take a faster route. What If I could feel good enough by doing almost anything that benefits me.

I decided to start in the primary area I would use to attempt to meet my standards, which for me was physical challenges. Remember the 2 hour runs? The drill sergeant? The 2 decades of time I’ll never get back? Well, enough was enough, it was time to retrain my standards.

Instead of setting myself impossible daily goals, I set small achievable daily goals that were almost unnoticeable but would add up over time. Now this didn’t exactly meet my current standards, which meant I wouldn’t feel good enough, however, my question was “How could I feel good enough by accomplishing these tiny goals”? The answer was simple, tiny goals achieved over a period of time = greatness, and greatness was more than good enough! So what would greatness look like in the context of running? Maybe it’s running a marathon? Maybe it’s running an ultra-marathon? Every time I achieved my tiny goal, I imagined what it would feel like to accomplish an ultra-marathon. I felt like a superstar!!!

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Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer

Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight.  In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.

I started to do this in other areas of life too. In my career I was close to burning out because of my high standards. In the past, everything had to be perfect, and everything had to get done everyday. This would end up in me not acknowledging the awesome things I was accomplishing in my job and career, but also burning myself out trying to make sure I reached a personal best in a challenging area every day or then feeling bad when I didn’t. When I learned to focus on the simple tiny goals, I was able to break down my day into the most important tasks.

Keep track and celebrate!

It helped me to notice how much progress I was making on those big lengthy projects, and to feel accomplished everyday, even if I had only done my top three priorities for that day. In the beginning it was a real challenge for me to let go of all the other things that I knew were still on the to-do list, and to let go having each thing done to my impossible standards. But the more that I did this, the more I could see how much I was actually getting done, and how much closer I was to my bigger goals.

Every time I accomplished my goal, I remembered this feeling. Over time, I started to feel so good by achieving tiny goals, that the ultra-marathon goal seemed not so important. I didn’t need to run an ultra-marathon to feel good enough because I felt great every single day. If I could feel great after running 1 minute, imagine what else I could feel great about?

Now, because you have impossible standards, you may or may not be thinking “If I feel good enough everyday, then I won’t achieve any big goals that are of any significance”? Well that’s not exactly true. What happens is that the past goals you thought you wanted just because you needed them to feel good enough, will fall away. The goals that you truly want, that are aligned with your true desires, will start to show up. This is where life really takes a turn and the fun begins. Try this out and see what happens. Just remember, this is meant to be fun! So celebrate every achievement and learn to love the process! These days I literally feel like I’m celebrating everyday.

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