5 Standards That Every Millennial Needs to be Successful

High standards are the difference between the life you have and the life you want.

If you want to move out of your parents and start your own life, or move on from your comfortable job into work you’re passionate about, you simply have to have higher standards—from how you spend your time, to the people you call friends, and even the people you date.

But high standards are risky. You could let yourself down…You could feel bad about your effort. You might even, gasp, fail.

High standards make you vulnerable. But it’s like CS Lewis—author of The Chronicles of Narnia—said: “To live is to be vulnerable.” So if you’re not scared of failing, and if you’re willing to completely change how you live your life, follow me for an article.

Fear of failure: How I avoided success with low standards

In a clever attempt to avoid failure, I refused to set standards for everything: from relationships to education and my lifestyle. By limiting the effort I put into any given thing, I could say that I didn’t even try, that it didn’t matter.

So I flunked out of high school. No big deal—didn’t even try!

I flopped out of the army—whatever.

I dropped out of college—who cares?

By evading standards, I accepted failure before I even gave myself a chance to succeed. It was more comfortable that way.

My relationships fell apart, but I had already hardened my heart to that outcome. I either got fired or quit all of my jobs, and when I came back to my parents’ house, I was prepared to be taken care of.

My total lack of success wasn’t a shock to me: by not planning to succeed, I’d actually planned to fail.

“HA!,” I’d say to success. “You can’t touch me! HaHA!”

That was my decision. And for a long time, it gave me a sense of control. But as I grew into adulthood and saw more successful people living the lifestyle I wanted, I felt the control slip away. If I really had control, wouldn’t I be living the life I wanted?

Yet I remained invulnerable. I stayed at my parents’ for another two years, hiding from the world, hiding from my success, until one day it hit me:

No one could ever make me live the life I wanted. And no one would ever do it for me.

It was overwhelming to even think about success because I had hidden from it for so long. But when I thought of another 25 wasted years, sitting still became more painful than taking a risk.

6 years into adulthood, I set my first standards. And I started small.

My MO had always been to go super hard for short bursts at big goals, then to give up. Not this time. I knew I needed to master the basics before I committed to anything more advanced.

So I set standards for personal care. I made sure to brush my teeth, shave, exercise, and make my bed every day. It sounds ridiculously simple, and maybe not worth mentioning. But those basic standards for self-care were the foundation for every standard that I have today.


After a month of the basics, I set higher standards. I’d never become a writer if I frittered away all of my time on FB and the Internet. So I set standards for what I would accomplish in a day—like 3 hours of writing, an hour of editing, 2 hours of pitching, 2 hours of studying my craft. Those standards, hard as they were, motivated me to be more than I had been. It was hard. Harder than hard. And I failed often.

Sometimes I’d squander half the day on social media when I knew I needed to work, and it didn’t feel good. But instead of beating myself up, I practiced self-acceptance and self-coaching. I told myself that I loved me no matter what, but that I fully expected my best effort the next day. Then I would make a plan to succeed where I had fallen short.

It wasn’t long before all of my professional standards had become habits. I wanted to be the best writer I could be, so I set my standards accordingly and uncomfortably high. They shattered my complacency. And they opened me up to unplanned failure for the first time, which was scary.

But for the first time in my life, I felt accomplishment. I felt pride in the things I did. I felt like I had the power to change my outcome. And that’s all I needed to thrive.

Setting higher standards helped me move out of my parents house.

I didn’t make much money at first, and I still lived with my parents, but my standards had given me the structure and the confidence to rebuild my life. As I struggled to meet my standards, I increased my confidence bit by bit. And after a year, I was getting paid full time wages to do the writing work I loved. Wasn’t long before I was able to move out of my parents’ house.

Today, several years later, I write for the best publications in the world while charging a premium for my coaching services. I live on my own; I’ve achieved success. But I haven’t lowered my standards an ounce. In fact, I’m finding ways to be better every day: as a writer, as a friend, as a son, and as a future husband.

I’m at the point where I’m sharing my standards with you so you can reach your potential and live the life you want. And when you stick to these standards for a year, you’ll be in the exact same position: helping others live lives they can be proud of, and feeling more accomplished as a person and as a professional every single day.

Just remember this: there is no goal too big if you have high standards to match it.

So don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t be, especially yourself. Don’t let the lifestyle you have lived dictate how you live today and tomorrow. Pick the career you know is right for you. Set smart standards. And do your best to live up to them every day, keeping yourself accountable with a daily planner and a nightly journaling habit.

If you want to be a successful and independent millennial, here are 5 standards to set today:


Don’t enter a relationship until you’re fully discovered as an individual—until you’ve found your career and reached financial stability. Financial problems are the #1 cause of divorce, so save relationships for when you’re solvent. It’ll give you the time you need to know yourself, to figure out your values, and to create success.


There are far too few things we get control over, but how we feel about our bodies is thankfully one of them. When you spend enough time taking care of your body, you’ll have the confidence and energy you need to succeed at whatever it is you do. So make fitness a standard. Start off with a thirty-minute morning routine of exercises that amp you up and pump up your body. Then add your favorite exercises for 20 minutes 3x a week and build up from there.

3-Basic hygiene

There’s something about an unmade bed that just shreds your confidence. You look at your goals, then you see that lumpy, ugly, unmade thing staring you in the face saying “No you can’t!”…which just makes you feel bad. So make your damn bed every day. Brush your teeth. Shower. Shave. Master the basics.

Your confidence will skyrocket from this one standard alone. So, humble as it seems, don’t forget it.


Without high standards for how you spend your time, you’ll resort to mindless activities that make you feel like you’re occupying yourself but without actually adding value to your life. Facebook, reading articles, checking texts and email constantly—these things trash your self-confidence and prevent you from spending your time constructively.

So set strict standards for how you’ll spend your day. Get a blank journal to use as a daily planner, then designate x amount for time studying, y amount of time practicing, z exercising, etc. Get in the habit of scheduling your standards for each day in a daily planner.


Reflection might be the most important standard that people never set—which is why most people aren’t dramatic success stories.

But think about it: if you aren’t examining your actions, and becoming aware of your thoughts and habits, how do you expect to change what’s not working?

That’s all success is: cutting out the things that don’t work, and doing more of the things that do. It’s so simple. But it takes reflection.

So set standards for reflection. Start a nightly journal habit where you reflect on your entire day—from your thoughts, to your actions, to your emotions, and your accomplishments. Then start a 10-minute gratitude practice where you reflect on the blessings in your life. The more you focus on what you’re grateful for, the more opportunities you’ll see to do more things you’ll be grateful for. Spend another ten minutes visualizing. See yourself accomplishing your loftiest goals, and sticking to your standards. Feel your satisfaction and gratitude for how amazing your life will be. Visualization is used for high performers in athletics, to business, and everything in between.


You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If your friends are pessimistic, lacking ambition, dependent on their parents, or comfortably scraping by in a crappy job, stop spending time with them. Seek out company who can inspire you and challenge you to be better in every way. When faced with the choice to be with inferior or to be alone, choose the latter—because there’s always something you can do to improve yourself. And that’s how you’ll make yourself worthy of friends with standards.


If you stick with these 5 new standards every day, you’ll be exactly who and where you want to be in a year. They worked for me, the chronic couch surfer and former mooch-a-saurus. They will work for you.

Learn more about independent living and maximizing your success in my free ebook.

Written by Daniel Dowling
As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, I write on massive personal development for sites including Entrepreneur, Fitbit and Fast Company, and I teach ambitious people how to become successful solopreneurs and balanced human beings here at Millennial Success. Thanks for spending your valuable time here with us!!