Are you really doing your best?
You see I think we really need to truly understand what that actually means…
Many of us tend to strive for perfection and think that doing our best is about constantly striving to do better and better….
However, it can be useful to take a pause for a moment and reflect on what ‘Doing your best’ ACTUALLY means.
As I enter the world of health coaching, I see how many of us are trying so hard to do our very best, and criticising ourselves when we fall short of the mark… You see ‘doing our best’ is not about striving for perfection, it’s about doing what is within our capabilities at any particular time.
Nowadays I am quite clear on what ‘Doing our best’ is NOT!
It’s NOT about striving all the time to be better than we are capable of. It’s NOT about comparing ourselves to others, and it’s certainly NOT about criticising ourselves for our mistakes.
Its quite the opposite. It is about being kinder to ourselves. Allowing ourselves to see our challenges and obstacles as opportunities to learn…
This is what is described as a growth mindset. Its about looking at the world with a curious mind. When we start to look at the world with curiosity, we can tap into our playful side… like we do when learning a new game or hobby or exploring a new country.
We also need to relax and slow down a little, and to enjoy learning as an experience not a destination….
You see as cliched as it is, it’s the process of learning that is the most rewarding, not the result… If we forget about the result and look at everything with curiosity, our life becomes so much more enjoyable. Another well-known phrase springs to mind ‘it’s the taking part that matters, not the winning.’ Again, it’s very cliched but so very true.
I’d like to share a lovely story that I think illustrates this beautifully.
The story is from a few years ago, and is about my son and one primary school experience… The class had been asked if anyone would like to represent their year at a school hockey competition. Of course, my sport loving son immediately put his hand up and off we all went one sunny mid-week afternoon to the tournament at North Leamington School. A standard scenario you might think. Well, here’s where it becomes interesting… You see there were a couple of keen sports ‘men’ and ‘women’ in the team, but the majority weren’t usually ‘sporty’. They were a mixture of keen musicians, dancers, and ‘creative types’, and in fact NONE of them had ever played hockey before! We had to smile when the teacher presented them with hockey sticks that didn’t look like they had seen the light of day since the 1980s and even their sports kit was somewhat outdated. I clearly remember one of them finding a coin on the floor and them laughing together as they called it their lucky coin. Well what transpired after that was just so wonderful. I don’t think I have ever seen teamwork like it. They all worked together as they tried their best to give it their best shot, and before long found themselves in the final. It was quite remarkable. You see they went in with little expectation, and just tried their best, and they enjoyed every minute. It really didn’t matter that they didn’t win. I suspect they all learnt a lot that day, and they certainly enjoyed it as much as we did as astonished, but delighted spectators… It was such a remarkable and joyous afternoon and I will always remember it fondly.
I think we can all learn a lot from those children that day, they showed us how to let go of all expectations, trust and smile gently at ourselves, & enjoy the process of learning.
Coaching is all about helping people to view what might be possible, and once we start opening our minds to possibilities… well, anything is possible….
However, I think it is important to start where we are at, and take small, gentle steps, and be kinder to ourselves in the process. We can’t expect to be good at anything unless we practice it.
I have learnt so much from all the fascinating people I have met over the past few years with Harriet’s Healthy Kitchen, and I continue to learn every day from everyone I meet along the way. I believe the best piece of advice I have been given lately is to coach, coach, and coach a bit more! The only way to get better at anything is to keep on practising….
I am also learning how to relax more and let go of expectations of myself, which I think is important. We had a wonderful time at the MHT/ Brunswick gardening project last Friday, and as we looked around in awe at all one brilliant volunteer had achieved over lock-down, I started to really hear what he had said from the very beginning… He talked about ‘going with the flow’ ‘listening to our instincts’,’ tuning into our creative side’, and just ‘giving it a go.’ You see I have to admit to being a little apprehensive about the project at the start… after all ‘I haven’t a clue about gardening’, but after spending a lovely couple of hours in his company I finally realised what just ‘giving it a go.’ actually means. Sometimes we overthink things……
I learnt a lot from him that day.
So, if you like me have struggled to fully understand what ‘Doing your best’ meant, I hope this might have helped you see it from a different perspective. I am certainly planning on trying to ‘do my best’, but I can now do it with a real sense of freedom … I will never be perfect. I can only ever do the ‘best I can.’