I hate it when people say “Do your best.” Or even worse, “You can do better than that.” I know they believe they’re being helpful, but they’re not. At least not to me.
I believe that we are all doing the best we can at any given moment, and if we could do better we would. Think about it for a minute. Take something objective, like running. Let’s say you run a lot for exercise and keep careful records. You know you run a mile in eight minutes. Then one day, you do your mile in nine minutes and you say to yourself “I could have done better.”
But is that true? Yes, you’ve done better in the past and you’ll likely do better in the future, but on this particular day, at that time, weren’t you doing the best you could? For whatever reason – fatigue, injury, indigestion, weather, road conditions…your state of mind – you ran a nine-minute mile. And that was the best you could do.
I believe that if we take all conditions into account, we’re always doing the best we can, even if it falls far short of what we’ve done in similar situations at other times. Sometimes we might believe we’re making a decision not to do our best, thinking we have a choice. But do we? Let’s say we snap at our kids, or our spouse. We know we can do better than that. But at that moment, on that day, we couldn’t. We did our best.
A therapist once told me that the purpose of therapy was to eliminate the delay between the time we do something and the time we realize we could have done something else. Many of our actions are reflexive. We don’t think; we act. Maybe we think about it afterwards. Life would be better if we considered every action before we did it, but there isn’t always time. And even if there’s time, we might not be able to do it, for one reason or another.
I’m reminded of the old Jack Benny routine (he was a comedian from the early days of TV who was known for being cheap). Benny’s walking down the street when a crook stops him, points a gun and says “Your money or your life. ”Benny stops and puts his chin in his hand, staring at nothing. The crook yells, “Your money or your life—what’s wrong with you?”
Benny says, annoyed, “I’m thinking about it.”
Remember, we’re all doing the best we can under the circumstances at any given time each and every day.