I wrote a post a few weeks ago about focusing on doing your best rather than obsessing about being the best. It has been one of my most popular posts on Twitter and I have been humbled by the amount of personal comments I have received about this post in particular. This attention to the idea behind the post has led me to think about what “your best” really means. So, after a couple weeks of thought, here is my working definition of what it means to do your best:
Starting where you are, knowing where you want to go, and focusing on taking logical steps to improving yourself towards that vision. And, I should add, your best should be focused on you and why you are doing this, your best should not be for anyone else’s perceived expectations of where you should be or what you should be doing.
Well, let’s dig in. Here you are, the starting line, great! The second part of that statement is probably the most difficult to manage. It can be challenging trying to figure out where you want to go, and very challenging trying to determine what that first step is towards improvement. But, the most grueling part of doing “your best” is determining who you are doing all this work for, ultimately, who are you trying to please? Is it being done because it brings fulfillment or is it being done to fulfil a perception that we want others to have in us?
You can never give your best while you are busy proving yourself to others. If the thing we are chasing is to please others, and we think that we will ultimately find our worth in their happiness, the outcome will never fulfill us. We are often so worried about getting to the “top” quickly, that when we get there we realize the ladder we were climbing is placed on the wrong wall… someone else’s wall. The majority of our time needs to focus on placing the ladder on the right wall, reaching a goal is not as important as making sure you are starting in the right place. If I am climbing for the wrong reasons, I am wasting my time.
Focus on yourself — doing what you need to do, not what others expect from you. Your best is:
Being better this year, than last year.
Being better this month, than last month.
Being better this week, than last week.
Being better today, than yesterday.
My life needs this focus. I spend too much time finding ways to prove my significance as a leader in my profession. My family suffers because of the time I invest in this pursuit. I would like to say my motives are selfless in my work, but if I am sacrificing things that really matter, then how selfless can those motives be? Am I really chasing excellence in my work for others benefit…or is it for my own? The scary part is that as I am writing this post I am not 100% sure of the answer to that question. I know how I should answer this question, but I am not sure if that is how I live and invest my time on a daily basis. I know I cannot lead others to places where I have not been. To truly lead others to be selfless professionals, then I have focus on doing this as well.
On the other hand, as I am writing, I wonder if others feel that they have to prove themselves to me. As a leader, do I portray an expectation, for those who I lead, that to be accepted or cared about they have to prove their worth? This thought reminds me of an amazing video by Kent Hoffman titled: Infinite Worth. (Click on these links to watch the short version or long version of this video which was a TedTalk in 2015.) Do I treat people as if they have infinite worth as a leader, or do I expect them to prove their worth to me? This is definitely something that I need to keep in the forefront of my mind as I lead on a daily basis.
As usual with this blog, I am writing to myself as much as others. I am posing questions, many of which I am still searching for the answers myself. The process of writing often gives me more to think about, and more questions to answer, more than it usually gives me solutions to problems I face.
I hope you will join me in my efforts to stop focusing on the thinking and expectations of others and spend more time proving to myself that I am worth it. I hope to be better today than I was yesterday. That is where I am starting, and then I will make sure my ladder is placed on the right wall before I start climbing!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!