Preparation and practice are fundamental to doing well, yet doing our best doesn’t demand excellence as much as it demands intention to do as well as possible under the circumstances.
Doing our best means engaging a presenting situation with the absolute intention to deliver what is required – for example, the advance intention of shooting the arrow into the bulls eye. It means not holding back, never giving less than you know that you can, refusing to be a slacker, and always persevering.
Half-hearted efforts are exactly that: situations where someone has refused to put his whole heart in. Focus, attention and complete presence are optimal, and living in the moment predicts doing your best.
The term “best practices” has become a management buzzword, and it means a specific approach toward a particular field – for example, software development – that is thought of as the best way to do something.
In the rest of life, we are exposed to lots of ideas about what are the best ways to do things, but most often, there is significant variation in what constitutes “best.” What’s the “best” way to raise a child, for example, or to govern a country? Lots of different opinions; aren’t there?
Raising fruits and vegetables might be less controversial because horticulture is more scientific, but, no doubt, there are gardeners who have individual ideas about what is “best.”
How do you choose from among differing points of view that hold themselves out to be “the best”? Since we have to decide what is “best” from a myriad of choices, what are the “best” criteria or processes by which we make those determinations? What degree of usefulness do you consider the notion of best practices to have?
Some of the indicia of whether or not we have done our personal best include:
Have we improved a situation both for ourselves and others?
Have we grown by stretching ourselves beyond what is easy and convenient?
Have we stopped and chosen where we want to focus our best efforts, all the while knowing that best efforts in one area are likely to result in less than best efforts in another?
Lincoln said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”
Being wiser each day, learning from mistakes, understanding hidden dynamics that impact our ability to act from our best selves: how do you feel about these as indicators of doing your best?
Among the most challenging things about the concept “best” is that it is inherently subjective in most cases. “Best” implies reaching a particular level of excellence – but isn’t that level a moving target depending on the circumstances? Some days, it’s our “best” to be super-productive, and other days, our “best” may be no more than getting out of bed and going about the day.
So is “best” circumstantial and situational? And, if so, what, if any, value does the notion of “best” have? When you’re buying an appliance, “good, better, best” actually seems to work because you can usually quantify the feature set and ascribe it some increasing value leading to “best.”
In understanding your personal best, how much do you take into consideration the circumstances with which you’re dealing? Do you believe that personal best is objective or subjective? Is the value of “personal best” limited to just another way to be inspired, or is there genuine utility in its use?
Thanks to Vince, in our monthly men’s group, for choosing to facilitate last Saturday’s session on “doing your best” – now a great topic for Study Hall this week. “Best” is a powerful (and sometimes loaded) term which means different things to different people. The word means “superior” and we think of “best” in words like “as good as it gets.”
Yet, there may well be flaws even in anything that may up to that point be the best. Churchill famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.” He acknowledges its flaws, but asserts that democracy is the best form of government compared to other forms.
The concept of “doing your best” does not mean perfection, but it does imply an advance intention of taking action as “well” as you can. There’s “best” for the individual and “best” for the group, so how do you reconcile that often different points of view? How do you feel about doing your best? What is the appropriate role of comparison in doing your best?