Doing the Best You Can

I’m not sure at what point we think we acquire sufficient superpowers to universally triumph in the face of each and every challenge in life. Yet the day invariably arrives when we believe we are supposed to be able to leap every last tall building in a single bound – and feel enormous guilt when we cannot!

Someone once said, “Curiosity didn’t kill the cat – comparison did.” When you compare your achievements to others’, you generally come up short. Whenever I talk to someone who is making such a comparison, I ask the question a very wise person once put to me, Are you doing the best you can?

If you answer, “yes,” then how could you possibly do better? How can anyone do better than their best? Yet we don’t consider that. Instead, we berate ourselves, saying that we should be able to do better. “If someone else can do it, why can’t I?”

We all have unique gifts. That’s GOOD, because otherwise, some of the things that need accomplishing in this world would go undone. Strangely though, instead of taking pride in the brilliant job we did on a project that was easy for us (because we are gifted in that area), we focus on the tasks we have the most difficulty performing.

Tiger Woods would not play in a Pro-Am basketball game and expect to score 50 points against Shaquille O’Neal. The 2004 Wimbledon winner Maria Sharapova doesn’t reproach herself because she cannot sing like Beyonce’. No one can excel at everything. In fact, no one can even be good at everything. (That’s why computer geeks were created – to save some of us from digital disaster!)

When we shame ourselves because we lack certain gifts, we implicitly give others permission to shame themselves for their “deficiencies.” That is how we learned this behavior from others and how we teach our children the same insidious lesson.

On the other hand, when we honor our gifts we give others the courage to honor theirs. That is one of the finest favors we can do each other.

Ironically, when asked, “Are you doing the best you can?” concerning work for which we have a gift, it doesn’t upset or frighten us when the answer is “no.” We intuitively understand exactly how to improve our performance. More often, the problem is how to stop improving because it’s so much fun to work when we’re enjoying ourselves.

“Don’t work for happiness, my brothers – show me yours. Show me that it is
possible. Show me your achievement and the knowledge will give me courage for mine.”

-Ayn Rand

As you are finishing a task or a project this week, ask yourself, “Have I done the very best I can?” If you can honestly say, “yes,” then celebrate! (I recommend doing your own version of a touchdown dance.)

The more clearly you identify those areas in which it makes sense to expect superior work from yourself, and those in which you’re of only average competence, the less you’ll burden yourself with unrealistic and unattainable superhero expectations.

Once there was a handful of mere mortals who recognized the distinctive strength or talent they each possessed. Knowing that the Law of Attraction says, “You get more of what you focus on,” each of them began concentrating on his or her own special and individual gift. They very quickly became superheroes, with extraordinary powers, and were delighted to see that no two of them possessed the same advantage. Accordingly, no one felt compelled to be an internal scold, ashamed that the lack of a skill in their make-up represented a weakness. They ceased comparing because they grasped that their individual gifts were complementary, and that none stood in woeful contrast to another.

Your gifts are likewise unique. So stop making self-defeating comparisons and celebrate yourself as the singular superhero you were born to be.

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