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Bahram Akradi, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Life Time — Healthy Way of Life.

What defines us? Is it the occasional successes and wins we enjoy over time? Or is it the day-to-day habits and behaviors that lead us to those successes and wins?

My view is that it’s the latter — and I believe it’s the standards and expectations we set around our values, mission, and goals that drive meaningful progress and, ultimately, results. They also help us create the environment and culture we desire.

In the space of personal development, a common refrain is that to change your life, you have to change your standards. This is important: ­Elevating our standards helps us achieve our goals. It allows us to create stronger relationships, become healthier, and challenge ourselves to do new things — all of which seem to lead to greater satisfaction and happiness.

It’s a way and a means to bring out the best in ourselves and create the quality of life we want.

Expanding on this is another idea that answers the first question I posed above: “What defines us is the lowest standard we accept.” This phrase has recently become a drumbeat in my life.

It speaks to the idea that we ­become not what our best performance or behavior is, but what we tolerate; what we tolerate becomes who we are.

At Life Time, for instance, our members have high service standards, and we have internal policies that guide our execution. We write them down and make sure everyone is aware of them.

The execution of these standards is key; if something falls short, then that can easily set the new standard.

All new team members go through training that includes a set of principles we call PPCC: “Pick up, Push in, Clean up, Close what is open.” Everyone knows if there is trash in the parking lot, you pick it up. A chair askew in the LifeCafe? Push it in.

Letting things slide can seem easier in the short term, but the effects add up over time.

While these may seem like tiny details, tending to them is one of countless actions that ensure our clubs stay impeccable.

All it takes is one lowered standard or one act of looking the other way to lead to a “How did we get here?” ­moment. A grain of sand is nearly invisible, but in bulk it becomes a beach.

Letting things slide can seem easier in the short term, but the effects add up over time.

The minute we begin to tolerate work that isn’t up to par, or allow behavior or performance that is less than we or others are capable of, we set a lower standard — and fail to deliver on a goal or promise.

The risk in any environment, whether at home, at work, or elsewhere, is that this can influence the culture. So, standards must be implemented, defended, and inspected daily, which requires an incredible amount of dedication. When it makes sense, those standards need to be changed or raised.

How can we do this in our professional and personal lives?

It starts by identifying essential behaviors and parameters. People have to know our expectations, which we have to set with crystal-clear guidelines (in the workplace, this requires strategy, objectives, goals, and measurements). We also need to create belief in the why that guides the standards.

Then, we have to consistently inspect the expectation: Are our actions and behaviors aligned not only with the standards, but with our values? Is what we’re delivering or doing providing the promised value? If yes, great! If not, it’s time to course correct, because behavior drives culture, and culture drives results. We get what we’re willing to tolerate — at home, at work, in our communities, in the world.

When a standard is compromised, it is the responsibility of all of us to say, “This is not acceptable.” We need to commit to speaking up, making changes, and taking action when something isn’t working.

The effect of this dedication permeates far beyond the moment: It changes — for the better — the culture we’ve worked so hard to create.

So, we need to be confident, expect excellence, and strive for greatness in all we do. This kind of behavior influences every decision we make and every action we take, from the tiny to the tremendous — and it can set the standards for where we go from here.

Bahram Akradi
Bahram Akradi

Bahram Akradi is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Life Time. Hear more from him at

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