Honestly? If I hear that phrase one more time I will scream even louder than I screamed the last time I heard that phrase. I simply detest it.
“Best” is quite possibly the blandest word in the world. What does “best” actually mean? Well, though the dictionary defines it as “of the most excellent or desirable type or quality” and “to the highest degree”, in reality, “best” doesn’t actually seem to mean that at all. In reality, best seems to mean that whatever I ended up doing at the time was good enough and not to be judged because I’m busy and modern life is demanding, so there.
I think we get defensive about criticism because we know we hardly ever give our very best. When we’ve given our all and done a stellar job, criticism is still hard to take, but welcome. We stand by what we’ve achieved because we know we did everything we could to get that outcome. On the other hand, when we don’t give our best, criticism is unbearable because it opens the gate to the biggest critic of all: our conscience.
Unless, of course, we’re not doing our best on purpose.
Fact is, I rarely do my best, give my best or try to achieve my best. Life is tiring and my best is bloody hard work. My best requires optimal me – primed, passionate, creative, kind, savvy, strong and patient (so very, very patient). My best is good for a couple of hours tops a day and the rest of the time I’m mostly in sub-prime operation mode. I glide through, doing what I can to get by and make life as good as possible, but deep down I know. I know that unless I focus all my energy and muster up the enthusiasm to be “best”, the reality is that at any given time in my life I’m doing a reasonable, but not especially merit-worthy, job of things.
So, as you can see, going around saying that I’m “doing my best” isn’t good enough – because there is rarely anything best about my “best”. I’ll admit it – we should all admit it, because when you’re honest about it, you’re open to criticism. See, I’m not so invested in the way I do things, or their outcomes, because I know I’ve got more to give. When I fuck something up, I take responsibility for it. I say to myself, “you dropped the ball on that one, Sub-Prime Bronny. Might be a good idea to bring Best Bronny out to clean up the mess.” Then I’ll focus, challenge myself and do my actual best so things can get things back on track, ready for sub-prime operation mode to kick in once more.
This is why, when anyone uses “she’s just doing her best” as an excuse for poor behaviour, complacency or general shittiness, I get really cross. I think, “you know what, she’s probably not.” I mean, if she’s anything like me, she’s not really doing her best at all. So I start to get really cranky as to why I’m expected to cheer on complacency and I’m going to get super cranky when I’m not allowed to even question it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy in sub-prime mode a lot of the time, but I also want to challenge myself to do my best more often. The only way I can do that is to be honest with myself about what “best” is and what the cost is for wanting to achieve it. It does me no good to pretend that the “good enough” approach is optimal. It simply isn’t. I’m not aiming for perfection here, either. I’m simply aiming to have a growth mindset, to question my motives with honesty, challenge my actions and to seek wise answers.
Here’s how I make the most of sub-prime me:
1. Accept that I’m not perfect. I won’t pretend that I have all the answers and try to always admit when I’m wrong. I don’t strive for perfect, I just strive for connection and truth. I’m constantly seeking to improve the way I do things, not to be perfect, but rather to celebrate the everyday.
2. Know what I’m trying to achieve. I figure if I can get my life values lined up right, the rest is just the ups and downs of day to day living. What values are important to me and what supports those values? Then I try to make most of the things I do contribute to giving voice to my values in some way, shape or form. For example, I want my kids to live a creative life, so most of my parenting choices will nurture creativity.
2. Be content with contentment. I’m not pitching for a ‘successful’ life (by society’s standards, not mine), just a true one. I’ve got a sub-prime attitude because, most of the time, giving my best requires more of me than I’m willing to give. I’m happy in my comfort zone – I’m just making sure that my comfort zone is GIANT.
How do you feel about ‘best’?