This I Believe

David - Carmel Valley, California
Entered on May 29, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe that no matter what we are doing, we are always doing the best we can.

I spent most if my life believing that I could always do better no matter how well I was doing. Now, I have come to believe that no matter how “well” I do something, I am always doing the best I can.

I was one of those kids who loves to try new things. From musical instruments to sports, from the chess club to the school newspaper, my hand was raised. And no matter what I was trying to do, I was often told by my Father, “Come on, you can do better!” It became my performance mantra and the source of great anxiety and guilt. It also became the end of my trying to do new things.

What I understood years later, was that every time I did something, it was the absolute best I could do. I realized that no matter what we set out to do, regardless of the outcome, we are always doing our best. In any given moment, our entire past conspires to bring whatever resources we have to that moment of doing. Since we have no more left to give at that point in time, we are giving it our all, doing the best we can.

It’s an oppressive illusion, imagining someone can do better when we compare their present performance to some past or future performance. Anything in the past is a dream and everything in the future is an illusion. In any given moment, you are doing the best you can. You are giving all you have to give, since that is all you have at that moment. You can strive to bring more resources to the next time, and you might do that and do better than the last time, but you are still doing the best you can no matter what anyone else outside of you says.

If you look at the world through this lens, when you start to believe this, then the tension between better and best disappears, performance anxiety evaporates; anger and disappointment ebbs and guilt and frustration give way to joy. Believing this has given me permission to be a kid again, to try whatever I want, without worrying about how I will do, or caring about what others might think about my performance.

It’s a much nicer, more enjoyable place to be, when you believe that everyone is just doing best they can do. This I believe … and it’s the best I can do.