I don’t know how many different times I have heard, or even said myself, “I’m doing the best I can.” It sounds honest enough. It seems like all you could ask of a person. Hell, it’s all I ever heard growing up… Just do the best you can. Every coach, every teacher, every after-school special, all had the same message ⏤ Do your best! Even in some of my favorite movies, and probably yours too, is that pivotal moment when someone gives a speech about looking yourself in the mirror and knowing you gave your best. It’s been instilled in us our whole lives to believe that as long as we gave our best effort possible, then the outcome shouldn’t matter. Here’s the problem… Life is not Little League. Locker room speeches don’t have the same impact in the board room. As an adult, doing your best becomes more of an excuse than a motivational tagline. “I’m doing the best I can”, really means ⏤ Hey! Get off my back – or – Sorry, I failed again.
We are often doing the best we can to achieve the best thing, when we should be doing the best thing to achieve the best we can.
Excerpt from Relentless State of Mind ⏤ pg. 93
The error in this thinking lies in the belief that a best effort is superior to results. The outcome should not be irrelevant to effort. What this means is that the childhood ideology of just trying your hardest has hijacked your productivity as an adult. Doing your best isn’t always the best option. That’s the premise of the excerpt; you should be taking the best action, over making the best effort.
I have often seen people attempt things with the same methods over and over, with the same outcome and there simple explanation is, “I’m doing the best I can.” I’ve seen people overwhelmed with stress and work, while having no balance with their home life. Their response, “I’m doing the best I can.” I’ve seen people let their health just slowly diminish right in front of their eyes, and answer in all sincerity, “I’m doing the best I can.” I have also been just as guilty in my own life on more than one occasion. So, why do we allow that mentality to take over in certain areas of life that we know wouldn’t be accepted anywhere else? Do you think you could miss a deadline at work, be late to a meeting, or skip a mortgage payment, and give the same response? Better yet, would “I’m doing the best I can” be accepted by your boss or the bank? Of course not, and you shouldn’t either. Results are real, outcomes are important, and effort isn’t all that matters.
The point I make in the book, is that if you find yourself in this type of cycle, reverse your thinking. Change your approach. Instead of doing the best YOU can, what’s the best THING you could be doing. This could mean a number of different things given the situation, but your own personal efforts, no matter how hard, isn’t always the best option. This is especially true if your efforts have come up short in the past. This doesn’t mean quit; it means change the action. None of us are perfect. None of us has the ability to excel at everything in life. It’s great to know what you’re good at it and what your strengths are. But, it’s far more beneficial to know your weaknesses. If you’re struggling with the same diet for the third time, change the plan. Hire someone to guide you. Get a partner to push you, but stop doing the same damn thing, even if you are doing the best you can. Look to outsource things when you have something outside your field or have more than your workload can handle. Look towards experts for advice and inspiration. Study new information. Seek consultants, but don’t just do the best you can. Take a step back and look at your business, your health, your relationships, and truly ask yourself how many things have been put on hold, failed, or not had the outcome you wanted, with only a reply of “Well, I gave it my best.” Those areas didn’t need your best effort, they needed the best course of action. It’s good to play to your strengths, but it’s better to exploit your own weaknesses.
Look, David could have put on some armor, grabbed a heavy sword, and got a pep talk from his brothers, “You got this Bro! No matter what happens, just know you did your best.”He could have charged out there and gave his best. He could have, and he would have died. Goliath would have destroyed him. Instead, he picked up a few stones, never took a step near the big guy, and BAM! Lights out Goliath.