I need to call myself out on a major hypocrisy I have been committing.
I have been blindly following the fashionable parenting philosophy that declares, “doing your best” is the ultimate goal and measurement of personal success and happiness. Lately, though, I have been wrestling with this concept, questioning the validity of this value. What I found is that, though “doing your best” seems logical and beneficial in theory, it is full of underlying problems in practice.
1. Doing your best is affected by a multitude of variables.
- Internal conditions: nutrition, sleep quality, mood, pain, hormonal balance
- External conditions: distractions, competing demands for attention.
- Decision fatigue: The more decisions you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain.
2. Doing your best takes energy, which is a limited resource. It is impossible to do your best in all arenas at the same time.
3. Doing your best is a subtle way of demanding perfection. We think we are saying that the outcome doesn’t matter as much as effort but what we are really communicating is that you must always strive for excellence.
4. Doing your best does not guarantee lasting happiness.
The satisfaction of doing your best is fleeting. We become frustrated with plateaus and continue to strive for an even better level of best.
Here is the hypocrisy. While I have been telling my kids to do their best:
- I give myself permission to not do my best all the time. For example, if mommy is having a migraine, the kids are having dinner from a drive-thru in front of the TV.
- I counsel people everyday to let go of the guilt and shame when they fall short of their best.
- I encourage my patients to lower their unrelenting standards, rather than constantly striving past the point of exhaustion.
This is not just a public acknowledgement of my own hypocrisy.
This is a call to action!
I am abandoning the “do your best” campaign.
I am changing the message from idealistic to realistic.
If I want my children to be happy and successful in life, I will teach them:
- How to stay motivated when you feel like giving up.
- How to be brave enough to try regardless of the outcome.
- How to be resilient when your best wasn’t good enough.
- How to ask for and accept help.
- How to learn from your mistakes rather than be ashamed of them.
- How to create a plan to achieve your goals
- How to determine what is most important and how to manage your time and energy accordingly.
I hope you are inspired to NOT do your best in everything.
I hope you can release the constant self-judgment and striving.
I hope you can stop of being so hard on yourself and give yourself a break.
If you want to feel successful and happy, focus on what really matters and put your energy there.