How often do you tell yourself you did the best you could, but deep down inside know more was required of you, and you could have done more? There is a fine line between “I did my best,” and “I did the best I could.”
To do your best is to max out your abilities, to fully exhaust your resources, to excel beyond all other actions, options, performance, or end result, getting to the greatest outcome, the greatest quality, the greatest degree of success possible. Yet, how exactly is “the best” measured, not just generally, but for you, personally?
It’s human nature to compare ourselves and what we do with others. Evolution depended on this–only “the best” at surviving lived long enough to reproduce, so each generation slowly became slightly better at adapting to the world and the environment than the one before. In a modern world, however, we have the resources–medicines, sanitation, schooling, police and military protection–to enable far more people to “survive,” so you don’t need to aspire to be the best, just good enough.
The same principle is at play with our personal, intellectual, and emotional development. We judge each other by what we have and do that is or is not “the best.” In fact, the way we keep order and unity as a society is to compare ourselves to each other and against some generally accepted standard of what is “the best.” Judging is the inherent way to strive for improvement. The only way something or someone can be “the best” is if there’s competition. There has to have been some comparison of one against another, or against many others, as measured by some ultimate goal of excellence. Thus, “the best” is synonymous with “the winner.”
So, having the best is to be a “winner.” I have the best car, the best computer, the best child, the best spouse, the best education, so, then, I am “the best.” If what is “best” about you is defined by how you and what you have is compared to some standard outside yourself, then for you, the best will always be fleeting. What we consider “the best” is always changing, always being pushed further and further to even greater end results, or, more often than not, something becomes the best simply because it’s new and different, where it isn’t quality that drives the competition so much as variety and innovation. Whatever the reason, the “best” today will always be replaced by something “better” tomorrow.
But what about your “best”? What is your best? How is it measured? Are you being the best you that you have the potential to be? Or are you being the best you that you’re willing to be? You can’t know the maximum of your potential without having tested that potential. For example, strength is not measured by theory, but by testing what weight a thing — or a person– can bear. You cannot know endurance until you have faced a need to endure. You cannot know how smart you are until you have problems to solve. You cannot know your best without exposing yourself to being tested–not against others, but against your own potential as compared to your past experiences and performance.
If you are faced with a task, a responsibility, or a goal, and you bring to the effort nothing more than that which you have done before, than you can’t really claim to have done your best. You can only know the extent of your best by reaching the point where you simply cannot perform any better. To say it in the most simplest of terms, you can’t know your best until you’ve reached the point of “failure.” Failure is the finish line for measuring your best. If there is any chance you could have gone on a little bit longer, tried a little bit harder, come up with a little bit more creativity or a few more ideas, then you did not reach your “best.” It is not until you “fail” that you have found your “best.”
Tell the world what you will, but never lie to yourself. Do a gut check–if there was more that was required of you and it was humanly possible for you to do it, but you were too tired, too busy, too fearful, too…whatever…then you didn’t do your best. You did the best you were willing to do.
Are you better than your best?