My tennis coach feeds me a backhand to hit cross-court (diagonally), which I do. Kind of. Really, the ball fumbles its way across the center of the court, and for all intents and purposes, was in the middle. It was safe. He tells me again, ‘hit it cross-court!’ and I proceed to hit the same exact shot – right up the middle. The shot I was used to hitting. The shot I had practiced. The safe shot.
He stops the drill.
That shot is worthless. Hit it HERE!” He gestures to an area closer to the line. “If you miss it wide, at least you did it with a purpose.” He then pauses, looking at me, “You’re good enough – raise your standards.”
I was blown away. I mean, when was the last time someone you really respected called you out on a good job you could have done better? Dared to tell you that you were aiming too low, playing things too safe?
A giant CLICK echoed through my personal and professional life.
Is Raising Your Standards Risky?
Absolutely. I proceeded to miss quite a few shots – but the ones that went in were the best shots I’d ever hit in my life. I knew what a great shot felt like now. I catalogued how I did it, and after the lesson, I refocused my practice sessions to replicate it.
Which leads to one of the biggest wins of raising your standards 10x: it forces you to strategically change the way you approach your goal.
A Tough Goal Inspires Fear of Failure
My next lesson is in 3 months, and I want my coach to notice that I went out and killed it. Which means my greatest fear is that I put in hours and hours of practice only to screw it up when I play with him.
This fear was realized in miniature when I played with a friend in a competitive setting and all my practice went out the window. Hours and hours with the ball machine, gone. I felt no better than I did 3 weeks ago. Internally, I panicked.
My mind immediately went into overdrive as I went through everything I’d done to that point to figure out why I wasn’t dominating like I’d imagined. What happened? What went wrong? Why?
That fear that I’d bring that kind of a performance to my coach drove me to analyze my practice and find the mistake I made. To accept that anything and everything could be wrong. Fear of failure became my biggest asset. I course-corrected.
Fulfill Your Potential
By nature we’re drawn to the easy way out because, well, it’s easy! But when was the last time you did something easily and felt truly fulfilled?
In dreaming bigger, we push ourselves closer to fulfilling our potential. And that can be scary, because it’s so much easier to dream how good we could be, rather than see how good we are.
Because at the end of the day, when you look back on your life and your dreams no longer have the time they once had, you see only one thing: what you actually did.
So dream big.