Everyone is Doing Their Best

You are doing the best you can. So am I. Actually, so is everyone. At any one moment, at any given time, we are all doing the best we can. For some of us, that looks great– we are developing and maintaining meaningful relationships, participating in worthwhile work, taking good care of our health, and treating others with kindness and respect. Doing our best means that we are making the most of our life. Unfortunately, sometimes the best we can do is not very good at all. Again, this can mean many things– using drugs, struggling to form relationships, spending our time poorly, barely getting by financially. However, in that moment, that is also the best we can do.

The best we can do varies person-to-person, and it varies across time. The best I can do might not be the same as the best you can do. And the best you can do today might be really different than the best you can do a year from now. Sometimes, the best we can do is pretty great, and at other times, the best we can do is pretty awful. But whatever the actual level of output, it’s the best we can do at the moment. The best we can do is a summation of all of the million facets of life that have brought us to this point– our motivations, what we have learned, our habits, our discipline, our health– our best at any one moment is all of those things merged together.

What if our best is not very good? What if we look at our life and say, really? This is the best I can do? Or, what if we look at the people we love and have the same feeling? Our best can change.For example, imagine trying to run a mile, and completing it in minutes. Is this fast? No. At that moment, it might be our best though. However, if we put in effort to run and train every day, it’s quite likely that in 6 months, our best would be…dramatically faster. We can both accept the fact that in this moment our best is a summation of what has brought us to this point, and at the same time recognize that we can make changes so that in the future, our best looks differently.

When we look at ourselves (or others) and are disappointed, starting with the idea that this is my best can help us accept with compassion and empathy the current reality we face. It does not say anything about future possibilities– instead, accepting that this is our best at this time can help us let go of recriminations and negative self-talk, moving us out of a blame-oriented perspective. We can also, at the same moment, say, I want my best to look better. When we want to make change and do better, we often start from a place of self-criticism rather than self-compassion. Recognizing that whatever we are doing is our best allows us to move past the criticism, and instead focus on the actual changes we need to make. If I want my best to be better, I need to…

When we look at others and see failure, the same thing applies. If we can recognize in ourselves that we are doing the best we can, perhaps we can also recognize that everyone else is also doing the best they can. And just like when we look inwards and want our best to be better, we can recognize that for others the same is also likely true. When someone is using drugs, that is the best they can do… and they also want to do better. This idea provides a helpful point of compassionate departure. How hard must life be if the best someone can muster– the absolute pinnacle of that person’s ability to cope with adversity– is to get high?

We are all doing our best. Start from there– and see where you wind up.



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