Tag Archives: four agreements

What does it mean to do your best?

What does it mean to do your best?

Seems like an odd question to ask. The answer is, well … do your best; give it everything you’ve got.

What does that mean, everything you’ve got?

I hear people say they gave it 100%, and others say that they gave 200%. Hmmm. Makes me wonder if they have any idea what percentages mean.

All through my life I’ve heard people tell me to do my best, or try my best. Always do your best is even the fourth agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’ “The Four Agreements”.

It’s hard to argue with “Do your best,” but it’s not enough to simply say “Do your best,” and assume that people will know what it means. In fact the common understanding shared by most people about “Do Your Best” is weak and incomplete and leads to frustration and failure, which in turn leads to apathy because many people come to learn – incorrectly – that their best is not good enough.

What is the Common Understandings of Doing Your Best?

There are two elements:

Doing your best means being sincere about wanting to

We assume that being sincere about getting an intended result is a necessary condition of doing your best. In other words you must really want to get an intended result and you must be truthful about your intent to apply the second component of doing your best i.e. giving it your full energy.

Doing your best means giving it your full energy

The second common understanding of doing your best is to give your full energy. We assume that you must be sincere in your intent to give your full energy and that you actually do. The only criteria for giving your full energy seems to be that you try every avenue you can think of until you succeed or that you are very tired when you eventually give up. “I tried my best/I did all I could/I tried everything I could think of … (pant, pant).”

This common understanding of what it means to do your best is weak and incomplete and without a strong framework for doing your best can lead to the only real failure i.e. failure that results in no learning.

We need a more robust understanding of “Do your best”

To get ahead in the 21st century you must leave behind common understandings of doing your best and take on a more sophisticated and rigorous view which includes knowing how to:

  • specify conditions of satisfaction
  • determine requirements to fulfill intended situations
  • assess available competencies and resources
  • fill gaps between requirements and availabilities
  • recover from breakdowns
  • ask for help and when to ask for help
  • declare completion – including quitting – and when to declare completion
  • prepare yourself to do your best – consider that Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, etc. are continually spending their time practicing to do their best.
  • know when to not even try

If you thought doing your best was hard, you were right.  But it’s not brute force hard, it’s more like practice hard.

Opinion disclaimers

Opinion disclaimers

Have you ever listened to the pharmaceutical adverts on TV?  As the soothing voice says “Absolv, when taken immediately after upsetting your partner can bring on expressions of contriteness that a puppy would envy.  Clinical studies have shown that 77% of users of Absolv are forgiven for extreme transgressions including not sharing with housework, comingContinue Reading

A Better Alternative to Assuming and Opining

Knowing the danger of opinions and having a practical alternative to them is essential to making good business and political decisions and for the proper care of your relationships. In my last post I gave a very vivid example of the negative consequences of making assumptions. Don Miguel Ruiz in the Four Agreement was rightContinue Reading

“Look at him, he’s laughing at you!”

Many years ago my girlfriend and I were walking through an open field at the Toronto zoo.  It was late afternoon on a perfect day; blue sky, warm weather, sounds of birds and people in the distance.  We had already been there for a few hours, and all was right with the world.  As weContinue Reading

How to NOT be a cry-baby

My last post dealt with the very real consequences to you of the bad habit – and it is a bad habit – of taking things personally. If you tend to take things personally, others around you will notice and will take care to either avoid sensitive topics or avoid you all together.  Either wayContinue Reading

The thing about taking things personally

The thing about taking things personally

Have you heard the old joke about the guy who walks into the doctors office and says, “Doc, it hurts everytime I do this,” as he demonstrates bending his arm at the elbow; to which the doctor replies “Well stop doing that.” Taking things personally is just like that. It hurts when we do itContinue Reading