Do Your Best

You may have read or heard of the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to add it to your reading list pronto—yes, it’s that good! I took a class several years ago based on this book, and it remains one of my all-time favorite consciousness-raising programs—and the book one of my absolute favorites. I found the four agreements—which are essentially guiding principles to live by—to be very accessible and brilliantly spot on.

The four agreements are (from the book jacket):

  • Do Your BestBe impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
  • Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  • Don’t make any assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  • Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Do our best, no more, no less

I find the 4th agreement, “Always do your best” to be an especially valuable reminder to take inspired action that comes from the best of us, while honoring our fluctuating human rhythms, as well as the ebb and flow of life. After all, it’s humanly impossible to be “on” all the time. As Ruiz says, our best is bound to look different from one moment to the next. Beyond the variance between being sick and healthy, we may feel naturally more/less energized or optimistic from one day to the next, which can have a bearing on what doing our best looks like. To a more serious extent, an unexpected life change (e.g., losing a loved one or employment) may knock us off our balance for some time. When faced with significant setbacks, the best we can manage for a while may not look pretty or seem objectively enough, let alone appearing to be our best. Yet, we can’t do what’s better than the best we can summon within ourselves in good faith at any given point.

Moreover, Ruiz explains why we don’t want to attempt to do more or less than our best (pg. 76 to 77):

If you try too hard to do more that your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.

Do Your BestDoing our best keeps our inner critic in check

To me, one of the most powerful benefits of always doing our best is that it makes us mindful of being minimized by our inner critic—the part of us that’s quick to issue judgments and indictments. Depending on our acquired defensive personality, the specifics of the judgments and indictments vary. Our defensive personality is not the innate nature of our true, authentic self at birth, but rather the facade we subconsciously began developing from early in life to show to the external world in order to protect our true self—and our vulnerabilities—from being exposed and hurt (further).

For instance, as a 3 on the Enneagram, my defensive persona is that of a picture of success. My inner critic draws blood by pointing out all the ways in which I fail or fall short of success. To a 1 on the Enneagram, the face she shows to the world to hide her vulnerabilities is one of perfection. To bring her to her knees, all her inner critic needs to do is to point out all the flaws in what she does that are otherwise imperceptible to anyone else. As still another example, the inner critic of a 5 can easily scare this person into hiding by introducing thoughts of how unsafe it is for him to step out and show his creativity and talents.

Knowing our defensive personality can help us spot our inner critic’s judgments. But even if we don’t know what our defensive personality is, we can still follow Ruiz’s advice to always do our best. This applies to those times when we fall prey to our inner critic’s indictments. We always have a choice to pick ourselves back up and try again—and continue to do our best. In short, always doing our best empowers us to steer clear of victimhood. For instance, if I were to find myself licking my wounds for not having outright succeeded at something, I can remind myself that, not only have I done my best in trying, I can mindfully intend to continue to try and give it my all, whatever that may look like. I’ll look at what didn’t work well and adjust my course of action accordingly.

Always doing our best is a life mastery principle that can truly serve us well to be the best we aspire to be in this life. And, best doesn’t mean perfect or successful all the time—or whatever our defensive self needs us to be. It means we consciously commit to living fully and taking inspired action that expresses who we really are.

Now over to you: What’s your opinion of making an agreement with yourself to always do your best? What do you practice to remind yourself to do your best? Would love for you to share in the comment box below.

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Join a group of like-minded peers to do your best in 30 Days To Living Your Best Life beginning on February 7.

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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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8 comments
Carol
Carol

Great post - again... I love this idea. You have put words to exactly what and how I decided to be. As a creative person, I realized that there is no way I can be at over 100% all of the time. I need to fill my tanks if I am going to do my best art when I am in the space to do it. I realized that sometimes I can work for hours and at other times I can only do a couple of hours in my best zone. I have learned to stop and do something else, but most importantly, I have stopped beating myself up about it. Every time I push myself past that point, I end up having to undo what I did and redo. I use the way my body feels to get in touch with this sensation. As soon as I start feeling tension, I just stop and ask myself what I am in the mood for. There is so much more I could write about this. I thank you for having brought it to my attention and fully into my conscious mind.

Casey
Casey

This is one of my favorite topics. I grew up in a competitive home with an older and younger brother who were both much better students than me. (Both were class valedictorians, straight-A students.) I found that I had to work twice as hard to do half as well academically. However, I discovered I had other skills that brought me satisfaction and joy. I learned that all I needed to do to feel good about myself was to align my talents and purpose, and then do the very best I could. When I did that, I found great satisfaction in doing things really well, in giving it my all. Thank you for a thought-provoking post today, Alice. I vow to give it my all today, and to expect no more - and no less - than my personal best.

Samantha Hall
Samantha Hall

Another great post Alice. I LOVE The Four Agreements! They seem so simple yet really do require being conscious of these areas. This is one of those books I like to re-read whenever I need a refresher course. : ) Do your best is wonderful, sound wisdom. This one can also be challenging to remain conscious of. It is far too easy to get tangled up in the 'bests' of others instead of being able to detach and accept that 'their' best is their best. My best is my best. And the two aren't necessarily the same. We each have various definitions of success based on our own personal values. We are each in different seasons of life. We have each had our own various life challenges and experiences to overcome. Focusing on doing our 'own' best is really the BEST we can do. Thanks again for another great post Alice.

allipolin
allipolin

AMAZING reminder that our best is our best right now. We're not always aspiring towards all time best or better than anyone else. Giving with 100% commitment to being and doing our best is a powerful way to live. I have many friends that have read The Four Agreements and have attended training on it too. I've discussed it with them at length yet still it's on my list (and in my library). Great post today to serve as a reminder fo me to put it on the top of the must-read pile. Thanks, Alice!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Very much appreciate your adding such a great example to this conversation, Carol! You illustrated so well how to listen to our bodies for clues that we may be stretching beyond our best. It's so counter to the prevalent societal conditioning that we must be working all the time to be "productive," when hours don't mean that. I'm glad that, once again, what I was inspired to write resonates with you so well on a timely basis. A testament to collective consciousness. Keep honoring yourself, Carol!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

What a great story you shared about living in the shadows of your brothers, Casey! We all have our comparison points, sometimes our own inner critic. But, as you pointed out, as long as we stay consciously connected to our purpose and gifts, along with vow to always be and do our best, the rest takes care of itself, and we can connect to our joy within. Thank you very much for joining this conversation so thoughtfully!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Great addition to the discussion, Samantha! Thank you vey much. You're so right about the different seasons of life. We don't even need to compare ourselves to others, just our worst inner critic that constantly criticizes us on how much better we ought to be able to do, based on previous experience. Life is a constant process of growth and transformation and renewal. Remembering that all we need to do from moment to moment is to show up as our best is the best way--only viable way really--to go. Thanks again!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you so much for your comment, Alli! It was big for me to learn that best is situational as well. As an overachiever all my life, it was a good reminder that I can't be 150% all the time. You'll love the book whenever you have a chance to read it.

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  1. […] is that, if you allow yourself to see it that way, it was good enough. Because, as human beings, we can’t do better than our best, even if our best fluctuates from one day to another. It’s our ego judgment that says […]

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