We’ve all been given the advice to « just do your best » at one time or another and I wonder if like me, you are left pondering what exactly that means. Do we even have the same definition of doing « my best » because I am not the perfectionist that my friend might be when it comes to making Christmas cookies for example, and on the best of days, my best is pretty lousy and she should be prepared that my best will not be « cookie-plate » worthy.
How many times have I said this with the best intention to my child, or a friend or colleague sharing their fear of failure with me. We have all said it, usually as a way to motivate someone not to quit the task, or not to lessen the effort.
I thought I was helping them keep up the momentum and not get discouraged. I said these very words, hoping to encourage them to feel good about themselves, and not feel lesser for likely falling short of the goal.
Of course, we say this with the best of intentions, often to ease the pressure and let the other person know that it’s ok if they do not achieve the highest pinnacle of success, as long as they have worked as hard as they can towards it.
Even so, these encouraging words may be doing more harm than good. Saying « do your best » can be hard on people already battling with anxiety issues, and who are struggling with perfectionism or meeting expectations. Doing their best may already be an over reach for someone at that specific moment or in that situation, and hearing those words will be deflating rather than motivating or supportive.
When someone is sharing an uncertainty about completing a task, they are signalling their fear of not meeting our expectation. Perhaps we have exhibited a desire for perfectionism in the past, or given the impression that we always want no less than the pinnacle of success.
What we really want to do, as a leader, partner or parent is communicate that we trust their experience and skills, and that we are there to help. Most of all, we want them to know that our love and acceptance is not conditional on the outcome of this task or endeavour.
What to Say Instead of Just Do Your Best
1. I know you’ll do a great job.
2. I know you’re concerned that you lack the skills to do this, but I know you can figure it out. I’m here as support.
3. Let me know what you need to accomplish this.
4. You haven’t done this before, and may not be quite sure how to accomplish it, but I know you have the knowledge, skills and abilities to figure it out.
5. I really appreciate your help, and together we will reach the finish line.
6. Its a strict deadline and it will likely be impossible to do this perfectly in this amount of time. I trust your judgment on which corners to cut.
7. Let me know what help you need to get this project done. I’m happy to help.
8. This project is critical, and it needs your top attention. Make it your priority and let me know what you need to drop.
9. This isn’t a huge priority. It does need to get done, but don’t stress out over it.
10. Give it your best shot, and we’ll correct any errors later.
So far, in this blog series, I have focused on sharing ideas and practices from my personal experiences over the years to start new habits, be less critical of myself, and have a different outlook on life, all for the purpose of embracing change and leading a happy life. I don’t know where you find yourself on this path to self-improvement, and I hope my stories and advice have been inspirational, and given you some new ideas about changes in your life.
My goal is to find the happy medium between setting standards to govern myself and not living my life based on the expectation of others. This line that I set for myself is different for me than it will be for you, but I am hoping that with each instalment of this year’s Advent Calendar blog, you are finding some nuggets that help you on your journey of change. I hope you are listening to your inner voice, pondering how to start new habits, and being gentle with yourself and others.
Today’s journal prompt: What do I consider to be at my best?
Intention for today’s meditation: I offered my best self today. It does not matter if I did everything perfectly.