How Do You Define Your Best?
Why do we excel in doing some things with ease, and struggle with other things?
If something has to do with numbers, I usually do it with calm trust, and without much doubt or judgement. I just start and keep going. But other things (like writing a book) I struggle with.
Ease comes from knowing that we’re doing the best we can. Struggle is the opposite; we don’t know what our best is, so we keep second guessing ourselves.
The pain of not knowing what our best is
When we don’t know what our best is, we tend to do one, or both, of the following:
Seeking: We keep looking for training, tools, and resources that we think will transform us into experts in the chosen area.
This constant seeking keeps us hooked in a cycle of searching for the perfect solution. We try something, give up, pick up another thing, then give up, and so on. It’s a waste of time, energy, and money.
Nothing out there will help me, or you, in achieving a desired outcome if we don’t work at it long enough to see results.
Comparing: When you don’t know how well you’re doing, you’ll look for an outside metric to measure your performance against. If you’re writing, you’ll look at other writers.
There is nothing wrong with looking at others for inspiration. But when we look at others with the sole purpose of judging our progress, we’ll be sorely disappointed.
In most cases, we’ll exaggerate others’ success, and dismiss our progress as not enough. No two people do the same thing the same exact way. But we’re willing to ignore this fundamental difference and judge ourselves for not measuring up.
Seeking and comparing are not helpful. They fuel self-doubt and judgment, which can only increase our resistance and fear—the cause of all struggle and pain.
Let’s now look at the things that help us in defining our best effort.
The two elements of best effort
From the things that I know I do well, and the things that I have doubts about, I found two elements that are essential in determining our best effort.
Confidence is usually a matter of familiarity.
When we’re not familiar with an activity, we don’t know where to begin, and we keep scrambling for the ideal start and outcome.
Unfamiliarity also leads to unrealistic expectations.
When we don’t know what we’re dealing with, social and cultural expectations can influence our definition of success.
Add the high expectation to social pressure and the search intensifies for the magical shortcut that will accomplish the goal.
Confidence on the other hand helps us clarify our path. Being able to trust that you have what it takes, and that you can do your best, is key.
It doesn’t mean you won’t have doubts and challenges. But beneath the pain, there is an element of trust in yourself and life.
Where does confidence come from?
The more we do something, the more comfortable (confident) we feel. Start with the smallest part of anything that you know you can do—without a doubt.
For example, if you want to start an exercise program, can you trust that you can put your shoes on and walk for a minute?
If you want to write, can you trust that you can sit for five minutes every day in front of a blank computer screen?
If you want to clear clutter, can you trust that you can throw out one piece of junk mail every time you check the mail?
This is the most crucial element that we can revert back to when in doubt.
We strengthen our confidence with every action we take, no mater how small it may seem.
Trust does not rush. When you feel you’re doing something right, you won’t try to speed up the process. Which means we need to have:
If we’re wishy washy about what we want to do, we will stop when we feel something is taking too long.
Wanting to do something (motivation) is the fuel that keeps us going.
If you don’t want to write, or exercise, or take pictures, or clear clutter, look into why you keep coming back to these things.
Sometimes we want to do something but fear stops us. If this is the case, find your basic confidence level and work with it.
Other times we think we want to do something because it sounds cool. Don’t underestimate the power of media and culture in subliminally shaping our desires.
If you want to do something but you don’t know why you’re doing it, try it anyway. Then see how you feel about it. If after doing something for a while you feel “eh” not that big of a deal, it’s time to let it go.
Trying something and letting it go is not a waste of time. It’s a way to find out if you want it or not. This clarifies your desires and interests.
There will be a few things that truly tickle your heart. Once you find one, stick to it, start and build your confidence level.
If you want to do your best, determine your basic confidence and start. A few practical thoughts about doing our best below.
Practicing your best effort
Consider the following as you work on your best.
Start with routine. It may feel overwhelming to try and do the best we can with a hefty lifelong desire. I suggest trying it with daily activities to get a sense of what it feels like.
Try doing your best when you eat, brush your teeth, walk, or drive.
We’re all familiar with these activities, so we have a basic understanding of how we can do them well.
Once we do something well, we’ll feel motivated and confident to do other things well.
Best effort changes over time. As we do and learn, our confidence will increase, and we can do more.
There will also be days when you feel unmotivated, tired, or physically ill. Doing the one basic thing may be all you can muster. And that’s okay.
Our best is ours, not someone else’s best. Focus on doing the best you can—your standards, your action, and your results. When you do your best for yourself, you’ll be able to do your best for others.
Doing the best we can is a great source of joy and peace. Whenever I feel I’m doing my best, there is a calm and trusting feeling that makes everything worth doing, without regard for anything else.
Doing your best is simple. Just trust that you can do something you truly desire, and continue to do it. Your best is always within you.