“Always do your best,” we've all heard. Doing our best has always been a cliche-motto echoed throughout our lives, whether it came from our parents, a teacher, or a sports coach. But what exactly does “doing your best” imply? Is it even possible to always give your best effort?
Yes, it is, I say emphatically
For years, I thought I was failing at everything I tried in life. I discovered that I allowed small disappointments to snowball, causing my self-esteem to plummet to nil. I eventually came to believe that I was worthless and possessed no potential.
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One thing I learned from depression was that I was always putting too much pressure on myself, which resulted in an intense shadow of dissatisfaction following me wherever I went. I was always second-guessing myself, and no matter how hard I tried, I never felt like I was doing enough.
What exactly does “doing your best” imply?
Doing your best is synonymous with making the most of each and every moment. And this potential is present in every situation you face in your life. All that is required of you is that you do not fight whatever life throws at you.
It is not about meeting expectations or achieving your goals that you are doing your best. It isn't a matter of success or failure (or whatever that label even implies). It's about putting all of your energy into whatever life situation you're in right now.
Reconsider your definition of failure
Every moment you believe you failed was meant to happen exactly as it did and in no other way. If you feel like you didn't succeed, I recommend reconsidering your definition of success. We often learn the most about ourselves from the moments we label as failures.
When you begin to view each moment that you label as a failure as a stepping stone toward success, your perspective shifts dramatically. Recognize that failure cannot exist unless there is a thought behind it that labels it as such.
This is a decision, even if it is unconsciously made.
Every opportunity you pass up only creates more room for growth. Instead of viewing each setback as a sign of weakness, put your resiliency to the test. Challenge yourself, and see every opportunity to rebound from an unfavorable outcome as a fun, exciting new window to explore.
Instead of viewing failure as a negative event in your life, consider it a sign of progress. Learn from it, and don't let it cloud your self-esteem in the future.
Doing your best cannot coexist with thinking about doing your best
For example, if you are a baseball player and you are constantly thinking about doing your best, it will divert your attention away from hitting a fastball traveling at 90 miles per hour. Similarly, if you're a scientist or philosopher, thinking about doing your best will conflict with thinking about the task at hand.
The point is that you simply have to live each moment with the intention of giving your all to the present, whatever that may be. You cannot give your best effort if you are concerned that you could be doing better. Otherwise, you're just like a dog chasing its tail!
Simple techniques for shifting your perspective
Consider every opportunity in life to be a new adventure. Even if you've done it a thousand times before, enjoy it to the fullest from an open-minded perspective. For example, rather than worrying about how unhappy you are because everyone else is moving slowly, use your time waiting in line to talk to a stranger or appreciate your surroundings.
Do things for the sake of doing them, not for the sake of getting them done. There are many situations in life that we fear. For example, if you have to clean something, your mind often jumps to, “I can't wait until this is finished.” Rather than dreading something until it is completed, view it as an opportunity to fully invest yourself in. This may appear silly, but it is a simple way to re-frame your mind and make everything you do more enjoyable.
Convert your intention into action. Intentions are admirable, but they can only take you so far. Have you ever heard the expression “fake it 'til you make it?” This phrase, I believe, fundamentally means acting even if the motivation isn't there. Just because you don't believe you can do something doesn't mean you can't.
Your best will improve
Putting all of your energy into the present moment rather than thinking about how it could be better is a practice that will improve all aspects of your life.
You will always do your best if you devote all of your energy to conscious life and away from the unconscious mind. Don't be afraid that you won't perform as well as you would like, or you'll succumb to your fears.
By remaining fully present in the moment, your mind begins to fear the future and dwell on the past less and less. You become less reliant on outside validation. You spend less time setting expectations and more time doing the things that will get you closer to your goals.
When you always give your best effort, the results will astound you. It's a living program that gets better the more you use it.
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