What Does ‘Doing Your Best’ Really Mean?

‘Never mind, you can only do your best,’ a person might sympathise, after someone finished ahead of you.

They get it: It’s cruel to compare yourself unfairly to someone else. And not only cruel, but futile – you did everything you could. But comparison with other people is only one of the issues…

What does ‘doing your best’ really mean? I started to ask myself this question after a conversation with a friend. Something she said made me realise that the cruellest thing can be comparison with yourself.

When you have a full battery, you are a force to be reckoned with. You know what you are; you know what you’re capable of; you know what you have managed to achieve in the past. The problem is, you’re not always able to be your ‘best self’.

Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes tiredness gets in the way. Sometimes health, mental and physical (or both), gets in the way. Our best is always changing. And yet here we are, holding ourselves to the dizzying heights of our full capacity, when it’s impossible to achieve it all the time. When we trap ourselves in high-in-the-sky notions of what we could and should be, we ensure our failure and steal the joy from life.

This doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to improve, but we sometimes need to temper our expectations, knowing that each moment throws different challenges. On one day, someone’s ‘best’ might be to run the London Marathon. On another day, their ‘best’ might be to run a slow 5k. And sometimes, their ‘best’ might simply be to crawl out of bed.

Perhaps those ‘achievements’ don’t seem comparable, but they are. The amount we can achieve will inevitably vary and we shouldn’t spend the majority of our lives feeling disappointed. We don’t have the right to be a bully if our present ‘best’ doesn’t meet the high standards that we’ve built for ourselves. Our best is enough. Our best is always enough.

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