So. This is about ‘doing your best.’ This one was trickier to write and share thoughts on than I thought it would be.
Why? Well. Mainly because I wanted to write something hopeful, but I didn’t want to compromise my beliefs on responsibility. The balancing act was trickier than I thought.
Ok. That said.
I imagine most of us probably feel like we are ‘doing’ somewhere between okay and good in most areas of life. We are, in our minds, doing a decent job day to day. Some days better than others but overall decent.
But doing your best? Whew. I don’t think so. Maybe at moments, but all the time in life?
Well. Ok. The key point, or issue, comes down to ‘definition of best.’ Because unless maybe ‘best’ is simply another way of saying ‘doing enough’ (or “doing what I can with what I have”) most of us are really not factually doing our best.
See. This is where it got tricky for me.
Does suggesting “doing your best” become just another way of condoning mediocrity?
Is ‘decent job’ the same as ‘doing your best’?
Is it instead simply used to make someone work harder for goals?
Maybe it only reminds you that you can’t be perfect and to make it easier on yourself?
Anyway. I began writing this because … well … we (or at least I) seem to hear “just do your best” all the frickin’ time.
Just do your best at work.
Just do your best as parents and your kids should turn out okay.
Just do your best in school.
Just do your best on this project.
‘Just do your best’ … blah blah blah.
I get confused. Simplistically, one would think that “do your best” should be, well, our best. No ifs, and or buts. Bottom line the absolute best you can do.
Unfortunately, it is not that simple. It seems often (too often in fact) “just do your best” often ends up meaning “just do something” (or maybe, to be kind, ‘I did the best I could given what I had’, what the situation was and/or whatever you want to add here).
So. Under the harshest spotlight you would never truly, in your heart of hearts, judge this as really your best.
It is caveated best. A derivative of best as it were.
And because ‘best’ has been watered down so much I think people begin using the phrase to mean “don’t overdo everything and exhaust yourself trying to meet everyone’s expectations.”
Wow. Is that what it’s supposed to mean? Or maybe it is actually “decide for yourself what ‘your best’ is and strive to meet that goal.” Wow. Is that what it’s supposed to mean?
I am not sure which is worse.
Well. Actually. Neither is particularly bad it is just neither really has anything to do with ‘best’ and yet they are both associated in some form or fashion with ‘best.’
Ok. And this next thought I know I am guilty of. We are very quick to suggest … “you are doing the best that you can.” And, in actuality, we are not. You know you could do more (if the measure is truly our best).
Look. I recognize chasing perfection is exhausting and I truly believe chasing perfection is an endless pursuit (and a bullshit unhealthy objective). And, frankly, if you try to do this you only put yourself under unbearable pressure aiming to be the perfect version of who you are. Honestly, inevitably, this quest can only bring disappointment … because not only is being perfect an impossible task but it becomes exponentially more impossible (ok … how can something that is already impossible become exponentially so? …its kind of like getting three death sentences …) if you actually attempt to do “it” all the time. Someone can waste far too much time and energy trying to be the perfect whatever. Sure. None of us want to be ‘less-than-perfect’ in anything we do, but it is a fact of life.
But. Here is some news. Ok. No. Here is a fact. Doing your best isn’t about perfection … it isn’t always trying to be perfect. Because doing your best is about … good enough that you can actually do … not perfection. And realizing that making use of what is not is often doing your best.
“Take advantage of what is thereby making use of what is not.”
Chapter 11 of Tao te Ching
There is a famous quote that suggests doing what you will with you have (usually cited to good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt).
I assume Teddy created his quote as sort of the antitheses of the Tao quote above.
Ok. A greater (deeper) thought). Often people say “I don’t have what I need” as an excuse for not doing their best.
Instead — feel good about making use of what is not there.
In doing so it suggests finding an advantage, freedom in other words, to do something because something isn’t there to impede you. It isn’t a lack of resource but rather a freedom to find that which will make you successful. You are unencumbered by what may be there and instead free to build upon the little that is there.
In the business world it is “find the empty space.”
In the Bruce world (who doesn’t really buy the fact that there is ever – maybe rarely – really empty space) it is more the fact it is not actual empty space, it is ‘where do you want to sharpen your elbows and create some elbow room’.
That is all about taking advantage of “what is not.”
I don’t care what is not is made up of, but let me suggest first and foremost its attitude. Or belief. Or whatever words you want to put to that thought.
Buddhism is infamous for focusing on what is not apparent. Ignoring the obvious and focusing on what is really important (the intangible).
Am I suggesting that Buddhism (or Taoism) should guide your life? Nope.
Am I suggesting their perspective on how to approach things you face in everyday life (or business) may be enlightening? Yup.
It’s quite possible that this is the contrarian in me that makes me believe this way (which I have to assume would send some Tibetan monk through some proverbial roof to hear) but who cares? It’s thoughtful. It’s insightful. It’s stuff that maybe makes you think about things in a different way than maybe other people around you think of things and, frankly, in my eyes that is enlightened thinking.
In the end.
Don’t think about perfection as ‘your best.” Best is ‘effort + attitude’.
And just, well, do your best.
Choose the moments and truly do your best.
I believe every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore if you perform any action the results will come, maybe not today or tomorrow … but at some time. So if you keep your mind in that place and truly do your best at the right time and mentally unattach yourself from the outcome of the ‘best’ actions (and the concept of perfection) I think more people would be happier … and they may actually do their best more often.
And, maybe more importantly, if you do not try and fool yourself into believing you had done “your best” in certain situations you may be able to manage your life expectation-wise a little better.
Doing your best.
“We don’t need to be anything or anyone. We can just be us.”
Be yourself. Cause I believe we would all like to be the best version of ourselves.
Oh. And isn’t that “doing your best”?
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This post was previously published on Enlightened Conflict and is republished with permission from the author.
Photo courtesy Pixabay.