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How often do you give your best?

Updated: Oct 25, 2020


runner from above

I'm the kind of person who pays close attention to the details of the way we speak. I believe that the words and expressions we use tell a lot about our internal state, attitude and alignment (or lack of alignment) between our values and behaviors.


"I'll do my best" is a very common expression. You can hear it being used every day. However, giving your best is not a common occurrence...


Think about what "giving your best" actually means. It means you need to produce the best effort that you are capable of in accomplishing a task... That's not an easy, nor a common thing to do in any area of life. Doing your best takes intense focus, maximum effort and it challenges you to your core. There's likely a good deal of pain and discomfort involved as well. Giving your best is something that's probably going to be downright unpleasant. Naturally, all of this makes it something we tend to avoid (consciously or subconsciously). Human beings are wired to avoid discomfort and pain and seek out the path of least resistance. Giving your best requires the exact opposite.


Consider the following common exchanges and if they seem almost comical in the above context:


- Honey, can you pick up the dry cleaning and some groceries on your way back?

- I'm in a hurry, but I'll do my best!


- Please behave yourself - these are important partners.

- Ok, I'll do my best...

- Hey Johnson, I need you to finish that report by Friday.

- Got it boss, I'll do my best!

When a client of mine says something like: "Ok, I know what I'm supposed to do. I'm gonna do my best" - my immediate reaction is to ask: "Will you really?" Be careful what you commit to. When you look back on your performance and deeply ask yourself: "Was this the best I could have done?", the answer is often times "No". Could you have done better if your life depended on it? Of course...


I'm not saying this to make you judge yourself more harshly, but rather to get you to objectively assess what level of effort you're ready to commit in a given activity. Consider the following comparison: "I'll do my best" vs "I'm going to commit 60% of what I'm capable of to this task".

I know it sounds strange, but bear with me. Although quantifying your effort level in this manner is highly subjective, doing so comes with benefits. It allows you to gain insights and useful perspective about how much buy-in you actually have for the activity. This reveals it's relative importance in your overall operation. Let's say you're only willing to commit 30% of what you're capable of to a task. That task does not seem to carry major significance in your life. Should you be investing time and effort into doing it at all? Do you sense alignment, or should you re-evaluate your commitment level? These are incredibly helpful questions.


The hall-of-fame basketball coach John Wooden coined his own definition of success. I'm a huge admirer of that definition: "Success is peace of mind which is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming". Wooden's definition of success has nothing to do with an end result (like winning a game, hitting a target, etc.), but rather it has everything to do with the effort involved.


If you can truly say that you have given the best you are capable of, then there's no room for regret, no matter the outcome. If you really gave all you have to give, then win or lose, it's something to celebrate! It is extremely rare when people tap into their full potential. Doing that is a victory in and of itself.


I'm always curious - what are the areas of your life where you're willing to do your best? How often does that happen? And finally - how do you feel about that?

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