‘Do your best’ read the chocolate wrapping I chose during our final ‘Character Counts Week’ activity. Each day given a value to focus on, our final day was given a special treat to celebrate. The class was handed chocolate with messages for each student. We talked and reflected together about the piece of wisdom we each received at random. Although I’ve heard the phrase probably a million times, today I understood it differently.
I have a history of keeping busy, achieving proud accomplishments, and finding success. When I would hear, ‘do your best’, I used to think that I should put all my effort and energy into what I was currently doing-whether it be a class, job, or goal I had set. I was quite good at this. I’ve spent weekends completing classwork (who hasn’t?), interrupted meals for a work e-mail, and sacrificed sleep for a workout.
This diligence, attitude, ‘work ethic’, go-getter mindset, was instilled in me from an early age (love you, DAD!). In addition, growing up in a world that thrives on the masculine energy made it easy to get swept up. Everything around me said DO! ACCOMPLISH! CONQUER! I got caught up often. Looking back, I simply wanted to do my best.
When I read that phrase again today, a realization struck me. I knew that I had misunderstood it all along. While I ran around chasing goals, I missed the point of the game entirely. I am to do-this is true-but not just anything. However, starting at this part of the phrase is not helpful. Instead, I heard ‘my best’. What is ‘my best’? Not just any best, your best, or even the best. Mine. First, I need to discover my best. Then, I need to go do it.
This new interpretation led me into a deeper reflection. I wondered, what do I love to do? What are the things that make me jump out of bed to do in the morning or keep me awake at night with creative energy? Not only did I consider these ideas, such as planning trips and seeing the world, but I also thought about my unique skills. What comes easily to me that doesn’t to others? Where am I truly gifted? As these thought simmered in my head, I began to wonder, what could ‘my best’ look like?
Today I sat down to plan parts of my life that are not for my job, nor for a class. I have no obligation or commitment to them. Instead, I am pursuing them out of pure passion. I was inspired to begin taking action from a conversation with a friend who is initiating an anti-pollution campaign in a town in Colombia. She reminded me that ‘my best’ is different from someone else’s. For example, while I enjoy teaching 5th graders, many others detest the idea of being stuck in a classroom with pre-hormonal children all day (I can’t blame them-they drive me nuts at times! But I would take it over sitting in an office cube absolutely. Any. Day.). The ideas I am pursuing and planning are worth it because they’re my best. I enjoy them. I love them. In turn, they provide me energy. They build up my spirit.
How do you spend your time? Do you fall into the trap of ‘putting your best into anything’? Have you found what gives you energy? I can promise that doing your best is much easier than forcing what isn’t meant to be. Not only it is effortless, but the world actually needs it. Please, do your best, and I will do mine. If we don’t, who will?
”Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what you want.” -Margaret Young