People are like elevators. Either they take you up or they take you down.
Forget all that nonsense about choosing not to take the ride or knowing how to push the right button to get what you want. The people with whom you surround yourself are, in fact, extensions of your Self. This is pretty heavy stuff, which becomes even more wild once you realize you do the same for the people you surround.
A close friend and co-teacher once told me I raised the bar for what she looked for in a man. We had traveled together day in, day out through India and Europe for nine months, and were sharing one final coffee in Vienna before our paths split. I was to continue on to teach yoga and acrobatics in Berlin, and she to begin building a wellness practice back in the states. Our relationship was very sincere and direct. I inquired about the standards by which she previously measured men.
'Well, there really weren't any."
I guess having a full set of teeth and a sense of humor goes a long way. Why were you with your last boyfriend?
"I saw so much potential, and loved what I thought he could be."
And why did you guys break up again?
"He never really lived up to what I expected."
The elevator doors opened up, but nothing was there. Compulsively interact based on expectation, consistently be let down by the inability to have expectation fulfilled. It's a common pitfall pattern, especially within personal relationships, and one we can all easily identify with.
What piqued my interest most was that when inquiring about standards, I got a fistful of expectations. It's radically important to understand the difference. A standard is a level of quality, something that is accepted as a norm, and generally used as a basis for judgment. An expectation is a strong belief that something is going to happen in the future, or a feeling that someone or something is going to achieve something.
One is fact, the other fiction.
In either case, both are preconceived notions based on previous experiences to dictate future ones. My friend expected the BEST BOYFRIEND EVER by giving a specific someone (a man) a role to fill (boyfriend) and a set of responsibilities (Be awesome. OK? Go!). It might have started off swimmingly, but things went south once Johnny Expectation couldn't live up to the hype.
There is a reason you're not supposed to use the elevator in case of emergency. The building is on fire, things are crashing down around on all sides, and there you and your [insert name here] are just standing there, going back and forth, pushing each other's buttons, viciously expecting the hell out of each other while waiting for the elevator to come.
Standards are the blessed realization that there is another option. Set a standard to invite only things into your life that you want. Accept no less. Habits, cycles, and patterns form because we let them. Don't always expect that the elevator is going to come. If you find yourself waiting endlessly, tap-tap-tapping the broken call button, remember that you can always try the stairs. Instead of raising the bar by which you measure everything, pass on the elevator and take your whole life to a higher level.
Think about it this way: Where expectations give responsibility to something else, standards empower you to take ownership of what's happening in your life. We have a great deal of influence on our own lives based solely on the fact that we live them. Want better friends? Embody the qualities you wish to attract. Desire more satisfaction from work? Use your strengths creatively to make it more enjoyable. Seek a inspiring lifestyle? Do the things you love to do often and without fail. Identify with your own personal understanding of the golden rule ("do unto others as you would have them do unto you") and then enthusiastically live the heck out of it.
By no means is this a call to arms to up and walk away from challenges that beset your path just because you aren't happy with them. While it may be easier for some more than others, a good deal of work is necessary to honestly access and accept those qualities, strengths, and actions necessary to establish your gold standard of living awesomely. Take time, take a few deep breaths, and begin by asking yourself one thing repeatedly:
Is this serving me?
Stay committed, intrepid you. The amount of effort it takes to do this can be quite overwhelming. This, too, shall pass. The longer you operate outside of your comfort zone, the more your comfort zone will expand to include whatever you are doing. Next time you're faced with some elevator energy, grab it by the hand and take the stairs.
You may very well enjoy the change of scenery; perhaps even encounter someone or something new. Regardless, you'll always know which way is up when you take things one step at a time.
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