In a previous article, we explored how your best is often good enough and how adapting your mindset in this way can beat perfectionism and in turn beat procrastination too. Two for the price of one! But what is your best and how can you identify it? The idea is a bit vague so to help offer some clarification we’re going to look at ways in which you can identify what your best effort looks like. This is by no means an exhaustive list, some questions/ideas may fit you and others may not. Adapt and develop them in whatever way works for you, because one size never fits all.
Before identifying what your best effort looks like, consider these two questions:
Should you be giving it your best? – This is an important starting point as not everything needs your best efforts and you will burn out quickly if you’re giving your best in every area. Identify what areas are most important to you and require your best input, the most time and energy. These may be the areas, jobs or responsibilities you care most about, they may be the ones that you would regret not having worked harder on or they could be the most present things in the foreground of your life. What’s deserving of your best effort is going to vary greatly from person to person so take some time to think about yourself as an individual.
Do you want to give it your best? – Presuming you’ve identified where you think you should be putting your best efforts, next it might be helpful to think about whether you really want to or not. If you think you should be putting your best efforts in a particular place but find yourself not doing so or not wanting to do so there is probably a disconnect or difficulty somewhere. It’s good to explore this disconnect between what you think you should be doing and what you want to be doing because it usually means something has to change somewhere. Whether that change is where you’re putting your effort or adapting something else so you actually want to invest in it will again vary from person to person.
Next, a few questions that may help you or others you manage or coach identify what your, or their, best effort looks like. With these questions, it’s important to explore them neutrally. The perfectionist in us all will make identifying our best difficult because our best will never look like our best through a perfectionist lens. Take it off here.
Are you being honest with yourself? – Are you having an honest dialogue with yourself about the effort you are putting in or are you doing any mental gymnastics to convince yourself that you’re trying harder than you actually are? We all do this at times, so it’s no problem, but take time to know when you’re kidding yourself and figure out why. If you are being honest about your efforts you’re probably giving it your best shot.
Are you content/satisfied/happy? – If for the most part you’re feeling pretty content and satisfied with yourself and your efforts you’re probably giving your best. It’s okay to have a little bit of that niggling feeling that says “could I have done more?”, because we all get that now and again. But if that niggle is more of a throb you’re trying to ignore then you might want to check in and see if there’s more you could be doing.
Is it easy to detach from the result or outcome of what you’re doing? – If you feel okay about the outcome it probably means you’re giving it your best. This is because you feel satisfied with your effort and input and whatever the outcome know you’ve done your best so can detach. Again a few niggles or concerns here that re-attach you to the outcome are okay. Remaining fully attached and your mind wandering constantly to the outcome probably means there’s more you might be able to do.
Ask yourself if you could have done anymore without sacrificing other areas of your life or things you weren’t willing to compromise on – This direct question will give you a direct answer if you are honest with yourself when you answer it. If yes, you maybe didn’t give it your best shot – there might have been a good reason though so always consider why. If no, then you did give it your best.
If someone neutral and objective considered your best effort would they be able to identify areas of improvement? – When we put ourselves in the shoes of others we can often shift our perspective and take a new view on things. Do this and see what comes back. Would they agree that you’ve given it your best or not? If not, why?