The Myth of Doing Your Best
Perhaps you, like me, grew up in the era where we tell people, “Just do your best, win or lose, and I’ll be proud of you!”
I call BS! (Actually, I don’t want to call BS because I don’t typically use the word BS because profanity and I aren’t kissing cousins. But I need to call something on that sentiment… how about Farkle? If I call Farkle will you know I’m really saying there’s no chance the above statement can be true? Besides, farkle is a really fun word!)
I CALL FARKLE!!
We don’t really agree with the statement, “Just do your best.” Maybe we would in an absolutely perfect world, but when you get way down serious about your motivations, no one really does their best, so the foundation of the concept is cracked.
Now you want to cry Farkle! on me, right? “Of course we do our best! I do my best all the time!” you cry.
To do your best is to put everything on the table. Leave nothing in reserve. The best is the best, there is nothing more.
And that’s not how we live.
Carrying that extra 5 pounds around? Not doing your best. The unmatched socks on the sofa? Not your best. That crabby response you shot off to your child when they pestered you one time too many? Nope, that’s not your best, either. (FYI – these are all examples from my own life. So if you’re feeling called out, I’m right there with you.)
Your BEST would be good enough, perfect even, if you actually gave it. But you don’t, and neither do the people around you.
We are not a best-giving culture, despite our pretty, self-esteem lifting rhetoric. We are a culture of doing as much as is comfortable, taking a teeny step further, encountering resistance, and calling it Best to justify quitting.
I realize there are exceptions to this idea, but if the exception were the rule we wouldn’t be fascinated with stories about physician Ben Carson or watch the Pursuit of Happyness and cry.
What’s more, I’ve come to the conclusion we don’t want to do our BEST. We don’t want to exercise the muscle of conviction. Doing our true Best creates conflict and the majority of us are dying to avoid conflict.
Even more… our true Best breeds fear. For if we lay our true Best down on the altar of effort — if we give every single, tiny bead of our fiber to the cause, right to the scrapings and smidgens — if we do that and it’s truly not enough we are crushed. We have nothing left. We have exposed our deepest vulnerability and been found lacking.
That’s terrifying stuff, friends. That’s the harsh reality of living most of us can’t even begin to grasp, so we instead come up with excuses as ways to pad our fear:
“I didn’t really get to study for that test as long as I should have because of PollyAnna’s birthday dinner the night before. You know, she’s been such a ray of sunshine in my life I couldn’t blow her off!”
“I finally told my wife if she couldn’t see how hard I was working to make her happy it was her problem, not mine. She’s always so negative. Sometimes I wonder how we’ll make it to the end.”
“If my boss wouldn’t give me so many hats to wear — this organization is growing so quickly it’s hard to keep up! — I would be able to stay on top of my workload. But there are only so many hours in the day…”
“Today little Malcolm was begging me to jump on the trampoline with him but I saw the mountain of laundry — and my bladder isn’t what it used to be — so I said, “No Way!” He’ll probably forget about it by tomorrow.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the excuses except that they’re excuses. They’re explanations for why we didn’t give our Best. Why we don’t want to give our Best.
I propose we need a change of vocabulary. We need to throw all that “Do Your Best” business out the window and claim our reality. We are capable of doing our Best in some things — but not all things.
What’s more important, that’s OK. That’s something you can embrace. You are not a super hero and you shouldn’t be. Intentionally prioritize your life so you can articulate what’s most important to you. Tell the people around you what really matters and let them take their judging to the Olympics, out of your life.
If you have created your set of standards based on your priorities (and, if you’re a Christian, God’s calling on your life), all that judging that goes on really doesn’t need to affect you; their judgement tells you more about their priorities than speaks to anything you are doing yourself.
Speak to yourself honestly:
“I can only spread myself so thin. So when it comes to losing the weight, I’ll be ok with holding on to that fluffiness around my midsection. But when it comes to educating my children - I will do my best and leave nothing undone that matters.”
“My priorities in this season are time-consuming. So I’m going to have to put that previous heart’s desire on hold in order to really devote myself to what is in front of me right now. When circumstances change in the future, if that desire is still there, I’ll trust there will be a way to accomplish it.”
My final thought on the Myth of Doing Your Best? If we can figure out a way to live authentically, with purpose, with nothing held back, I’m pretty sure we’ll discover that vulnerability we are scared to expose will be replaced by something breathtaking to behold. By something stunning, uncommonly beautiful because it’s rarely seen and infinitely cherished.
It’s your Best.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24