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Living By a Reliable Standard

Are you trying to live by an impossibe standard? Do you use an unreliable “measuring stick” for making your choices for your life?

I can hear you now: “A measuring stick for my life? You’ve got to be kidding! What are you talking about?”

I’m talking about having a way to measure whether a certain belief, action or relationship is good for you or bad for you. I’m talking about having a reliable way to measure everything you do. In order to make the best choices for your life, you need a way to measure your options before you make your choices. But how do you measure “beliefs” and “relationships”? The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, This Is Your Life: No Apology Needed, about the kinds of standards you might be using today and the importance of choosing a well-grounded, reliable standard for making the kinds of choices that will result in achieving your goals and developing rewarding relationships:

You measure things all the time. You use a tape measure to determine whether a piece of furniture will fit into your home. You measure your business against your bottom line objectives. You use measuring cups for getting good results with your recipes in the kitchen. But what measuring device do you use for getting good results with your life?

You already know how your performance in the kitchen would suffer if you didn’t have a way to measure the ingredients or a way to know if your ingredients were healthy or poisonous. Imagine how your performance in life suffers if you don’t have a way to measure the “Ingredients” in your Recipe For Living or a way to tell whether those ingredients are healthy or poisonous! That is precisely the predicament most women find themselves in. We have standards for measuring the quantity and quality of physical things, but feel lost when it comes to standards for measuring life decisions, moral questions, and human relationships.

What Does It Mean To Not Use A Reliable Measuring Stick?

Each specific ingredient in your kitchen recipe has its own function. In a good recipe all the ingredients are compatible and work together well to give a delicious result. If we didn’t have a way to judge the ingredients we put in our recipes, we would just put anything in our recipes, and take our chances. The trouble is, we might die in the process!

The same goes for your Recipe For Living. Without a reliable way to judge the beliefs that make up your Recipe’s “Ingredients,” you end up running your life by your childhood jumble of mixed-up beliefs, and take your chances. When you don’t have a reliable way to measure your options, you end up making random, haphazard choices. As a result you suffer from the stress, anxiety and guilt that come from trying to live by conflicting, incompatible beliefs.

Measuring Your Choices To See How They Fit Into Your Life

In every area of your life, you have to make choices. But how do you make those choices? What criteria do you use?

You don’t question the importance of measuring a table to see if it will fit into your house, but what about measuring your choices to see how they fit into your life? You know how to determine the size of your table, but how do you “size up” choices about whether to marry, whether to have children, what kind of work to do, what kind of lifestyle to have, what kinds of people to befriend, and how to fulfill your life? And how do you measure your choices when they conflict with each other?

What kind of measuring stick can you use to determine the best choice to make when you are faced with two great opportunities at once, or when your loved ones each have something different they want you to do for them, and you’ve got something you need to do for yourself, all at the same time? Without a reliable measuring stick to help make difficult decisions like these, most women turn to unreliable measuring sticks.

Unreliable Measuring Sticks

We all need a way to make our decisions. You are about to discover what kind of a measuring stick you use, and what kind of a measuring stick the other people in your life use. Here are some of the most popular measuring sticks women use, and have used for centuries.

Using OTHER PEOPLE’S SAY-SO As Your Measuring Stick

Using other people’s say-so as your measuring stick means making your choices on the basis of what others think, say, or advise you to do. This can lead to disastrous results:

1. If you choose your career on the basis of other people’s say-so, you can end up turning your back on the kind of work you love most.

2. If you choose your lifestyle on the basis of other people’s say-so, you can end up betraying your deepest values and most cherished goals.

3. If you choose your marriage partner on the basis of other people’s say-so, you can end up with a partner who subtracts from, rather than adds to, your joy in life.

Going by other people’s say-so presents another problem: WHOSE SAY-SO DO YOU GO BY? There is no end to the different opinions you will get. One parent may say to do “this,” the other parent may say to do “that.” One poll may say to do one thing, and another poll may say to do another. Political, religious, and environmental authorities all have their say-so. And you can’t possibly live by everybody’s say-so. How do you choose?

You need to think for yourself, and for that you need a reliable measuring stick! Other people’s say-so is an impossible measuring stick: you are left with too many measuring sticks without a way to choose one that is healthy and reliable. You end up feeling more conflicted, confused and lost than ever! That’s why some women reject other people’s say-so and turn to their feelings as their guide.

Using YOUR FEELINGS As Your Measuring Stick

Using your feelings as your measuring stick means making your choices on the basis of “what feels right,” “what feels good” or “whatever you feel like doing.” The trouble is, going by your feelings can lead to disastrous results:

Example 1: If you decide whether to go to work on the basis of your feelings, you may not show up most days. And then you will be out of a job and unable to support your life.

Example 2: If you overeat whenever “you feel like it,” you will feel lethargic, have indigestion, or become obese or diabetic.

Example 3: If you enter into a relationship because “it feels good,” you can find yourself in a life-draining or life-threatening situation.

Imagine a farmer saying, “I feel that carrots will grow here, so I’ll plant them here.” He would starve!

Your feelings are the result of your thinkingbut they can’t take the place of your thinking. Your feelings are how you experience your life, but they are not a reliable guide for running your life.

Using your feelings to make decisions for your life can bring about “big time” anxiety, guilt and disaster. That’s because your feelings are a totally unreliable guide for making wise decisions. You can have conflicting feelings, and feelings only tell your emotional state. While your feelings can provide a valuable warning signal that you are confused over conflicting thoughts, they are no help in untangling the conflicts and determining the best course of action.

When you go by your feelings, you end up allowing your emotions to run your life. You substitute “what feels right” for what actually is right, and you “take your chances.” You are left with an impossible measuring stick. That’s why many women reject going by their feelings and turn to “helping others” as their measuring stick.

Using HELPING OTHERS As Your Measuring Stick

Many working women try to use “helping others” as their criterion for making their choices. They’ve been taught for years by people they respect that “helping themselves” is selfish and bad and that “helping others” is selfless and good. To them, “helping others” sounds like a clear-cut, reliable measuring stick. But instead of providing you with a guide for making wise choices for your life, “helping others” bypasses your life altogether, and tells you to simply “do something for others” with no way to determine what actually helps others. In other words, “helping others” doesn’t do what a measuring stick for your life is supposed to do: to serve as a guide for living YOUR life and for determining the kinds of actions that would be best for you to take.

1. HELPING OTHERS substitutes someone else’s life in place of your own. A measuring stick is supposed to guide you in living your life. “Helping others” doesn’t tell you how to live your life. And your life is the only life you can live. No one can live your life for you, nor can you live anyone else’s life for him or her. The same goes for everyone else: no one can “do” someone else’s living. And the same goes for all living organisms: imagine one tree or cow trying to “live” for another tree or cow! While people can lend each other a helping hand, each person can only live his or her own life. Because we human beings are born knowing nothing, and because we have to make wise decisions in order to survive, we each need a reliable measuring stick to guide us in living our lives.

2. HELPING OTHERS tells you who your actions are supposed to benefit but it doesn’t tell you what kinds of actions you are supposed to take. A measuring stick for your life is supposed to provide you with life-promoting principles or criteria by which to make your decisions and determine your actions. Without such a reliable, objective standard, “helping others” becomes “whatever you feel will help others.” And then you are back to relying on your feelings. You still don’t know what to do to help others. For example, you might feel that helping others means donating money, when what the person really needs is a way to earn a living. Or you might feel that helping others means telling a person what he should think, when what that person really needs is to learn how to think for him or herself. Or you may feel that helping others means being their servant, when what people really need is to learn how to be their own masters. Without a reliable measuring stick you are always having to second-guess what you should do.

You can see that using “helping others” as your measuring stick fails to guide you in making wise choices for your life. In fact it completely ignores a measuring stick for your life and puts you in servitude to other people. You end up measuring your self-worth on the basis of how much you help others. But since “helping others” doesn’t tell you how to help others, you have no way to know whether you are actually helping others.

You are left with a non-functioning measuring stick that makes it impossible to make wise decisions for any aspect of your life. So some women turn to “pleasing others” as their guide for their decisions and actions.

Using PLEASING OTHERS As Your Measuring Stick

Women who feel incapable of helping others often turn to pleasing others as a their guide for living their lives.

Jessica was the youngest in her family. As a small child she discovered that she could get positive reactions from her older brothers and sisters, as well as her parents, if she did something to please them. So she aimed to please everyone, that is, everyone but herself. Jessica became her family’s “willing little servant.” The measuring stick she used for everything she did was: “Will this please others?”

When she was young, Jessica thought that catering to others earned her a place in the family, made her a good person, and kept her from being bullied. But she grew up without ever thinking about what she wanted for her own life. When she married she became the “willing little servant” and facilitator for her husband’s and children’s goals, continuing to use the same measuring stick of “pleasing others” that she had used growing up.

Nine years into her marriage, Jessica wondered why she was feeling so unsatisfied. She felt like a non-person because her measuring stick of “pleasing others” substituted someone else’s life in place of her own. She didn’t realize that she was operating by a double standard which said others had a right to live their lives but she did not have a right to live hers.

Using Two Different Measuring Sticks: Living By A DOUBLE STANDARD

When you live by a double standard you are using two different measuring sticks, one for yourself and another for others. You assign different rules of proper conduct to each party: one set of rules for YOU and another set of rules for OTHER PEOPLE.

This happens when you believe YOU are “outside” the human race:

  • By believing that others have the right to go after their goals, but you don’t.
  • By believing that others have the right to do things for themselves, but you don’t.
  • By believing that others have the brains to do things for themselves, but you don’t.
  • By believing that others deserve happiness, but you don’t.

This also happens when you believe OTHERS are “outside” the human race:

  • By believing that you have the right to go after your goals, but others don’t.
  • By believing that you have the right to do things for yourself, but others don’t.
  • By believing that you have the brains to do things for yourself, but others don’t.
  • By believing that you deserve happiness, but others don’t.

Living by a double standard leaves you with two unreliable measuring sticks, with no way to determine which measuring stick applies to which people and no way to decide who gets to do what. As you can see from the above bulleted items, this turns you into either a servant or a bully, and makes it impossible for you to live as a full-fledged human being.

A Reliable Measuring Stick

As you can see, many women fail to evaluate their choices in terms of what is actually good for them. Instead, they base their decisions on other people’s say-so, their “feelings,” their idea of “helping others,” or their idea of “pleasing others,” and they end up living by an impossible measuring stick. How, then, can you make wise choices for your life? You have to care enough about your life to discover and use a reliable measuring stick.

The late novelist, philosopher, and business woman Ayn Rand identified that the way to make wise choices for your life is to first ask if an option you are considering will “promote your life as a rational human being.” [16] This may seem simplistic or obvious to you, but we have just seen how most women use very different criteria to make their decisions. The fact is, when it comes to questions of quality of life or life and death decisions, we cannot afford the luxury of an unreliable measuring stick, even in an advanced civilization.

The early pioneers knew well that their survival depended on knowing what would promote their lives and what would harm or destroy their lives. How did they discover what would promote their lives? They observed the facts of reality and the consequences of their own actions and grew to understand nature’s laws of cause and effect. Even prehistoric man knew he had to pay attention to “Mother Nature” to discover what would and what would not promote his life. If he ignored nature’s requirements for his life, he would die.

A reliable measuring stick is based on the actual conditions you must meet in order to live as a healthy, fulfilled, happy human being. These conditions are determined by the nature of realty and by your own nature as a human being. I call these conditions “nature’s requirements for living.” Later on you will discover exactly what nature’s requirements for living are. And you will see that when you use nature’s requirements for living as your measuring stick, you have a reliable way to discover which choices will promote your life and which choices will harm your life. That’s because it is a universal measuring stick that applies to everyone, at any time, and in any place. It is a dependable, usable guide for all, and it completely eliminates the hypocrisy of living by a double standard.

You may not be aware of it, but you already use this measuring stick for making your most crucial decisions. Otherwise you wouldn’t be alive! Here’s how you already use nature’s requirements for living as your measuring stick:

  • When you select what you eat, you use nature’s requirements for a healthy life: good food is food that promotes your life and bad food is that which poisons your life.
  • When you judge a doctor, you use nature’s requirements for a healthy life: a good doctor prescribes treatment that promotes your life; an incompetent doctor prescribes treatment that harms your life.
  • When you judge the leaders of your country, you use nature’s requirements for a healthy life: true statesmen protect your freedom to act for your life, while tyrants require you to act against your life.

Nature’s requirements for your life provide a reliable, rock-solid measuring stick for making decisions about your life. Such a measuring stick enables you to choose your values, goals, actions, and relationships based on the degree to which they actually promote your life as a healthy, fulfilled, happy human being. You can use “what promotes your life” as your standard for every decision you make about your life because it is an objective standard that is based on nature’s actual requirements for your life. This is in sharp contrast to a subjective standard – based on your feelings or other people’s say-so – which leads to living by a double standard and making decisions that harm rather than promote your life.

The Danger Of Not Using A Reliable Measuring Stick

When you allow other people to make you think it’s “too selfish” to measure whether an activity or relationship will actually be good for your life before you engage in it, you end up living according to other people’s arbitrary measuring sticks. When a measuring stick doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do – when it fails to provide a reliable way to measure or “weigh” what is best for you – you are left without any way to make wise choices for your life.

The Result

Trying to live by an impossible measuring stick puts you in a constant state of conflict, frustration and guilt. When it comes to going after your goals you feel disabled, crippled, dysfunctional, and lost. And you spend your life apologizing for being so inept.

Avoid The Mistake Of Not Using A Reliable Measuring Stick

Trying to make decisions with an impossible measuring stick can sap the life out of you. You can avoid this mistake by discovering a healthy Recipe For Living – a Recipe that uses a measuring stick that is based on nature’s requirements for your living as a full-fledged human being. Such a Recipe makes it possible for you to make wise decisions and good choices for your life… and can save you from unnecessary stress, anxiety and guilt in your everyday living.

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