At first blush, the term "impossible standards" doesn't seem to have any hint of hopefulness in it. We think of demanding bosses, people who think we are never good enough, and inability to reach a set goal. Though if we took a broader view of impossible standards, we could see in the term the potential for continuous improvement, the ability to always discover something new, the opportunity for never-ending achievement.
I've been thinking a lot about this term lately. Tomorrow is my birthday, 33 (what my dear friend Brooke would call "my Jesus Year"), and it's always a time of reflection for me. Of where I'm going, where I've been, and what's good in my life. I spend an entire day not beating myself up over anything. I take the day off from work and I do exactly what I want to do. I have tremendously high standards for myself and I usually reaffirm them on my birthday. I make a commitment to continue reaching higher and higher in every aspect of my life.
I consider what's happening in our economy right now and there is one very clear take-away that emerges for me. A lot of companies and a lot of leaders took on a view of entitlement, of being above any laws or rules or ethics. They thought they were at the very top of their game, always, when in fact they just had a very low bar for themselves and for their teams.
Impossible standards keep us humble, they keep us striving and fighting for improvement. I grow concerned not when someone sets an unimaginable standard, but when someone settles for things as they are because they can't imagine ever being, doing, or having any better.