Thursday, August 30, 2012

Your Best

Have you ever responded to a request with the phrase "I'll do my best" or something similar?

If so, what do you mean by it?

Does "doing your best" mean that you'll drop everything else and take not a moment's rest until you've successfully completed the task? Or, is "doing your best" code for, "I'll get around to it if I can" or "I'll try to do it."

Is "I'll do my best" more than or less than "I promise to get it done?"

What exactly is "your best"?

Certainly "best" is contextual. For example, you're likely not going to do your best when you're not at your best (e.g., on days when you didn't get a good night's sleep or when your blood sugar level has dropped through the floor.)  You're momentary best is easily compromised by distractions and changes in priorities. Even over extended intervals, there are factors that qualify "best" such time allotted, access to resources and level of support.

So you have your relative best and your absolute best. Which best do you mean when you say that you'll do it?

Although your relative best is subject to mitigating factors, many (if not all) of those factors can be influenced or controlled by you. That unforeseen interruption that takes you away from your best work is often foreseeable when you actually to look for it. Not having the right tools or the necessary time is never happenstance. Does doing your best include planning and paying attention to context?

With all these factors and responsibilities, doing your best may become an unattractive proposition. You might want to start using "I'll try" instead. (Of course, we could then spend some time on what it means to "try".)

Alternatively, you could become more specific about best. In fact, you could just drop "best" and specify what you intend. Rather than, "I'll do my best to get it done" you might say, "Over the next week, I'll spend ninety-minutes each day completely focused on just this task. If it looks like I won't be able to complete it, I'll text you right away."

Ahh... that's better. Simple quantification of time and effort is so much better than "best".

I've slowly weaned my vocabulary of "best", specially when it comes to qualifying my efforts. One place where I've continued the use of the word is in regard to relationships, in particular my relationship with Iris. My goal there is to be the "best thing" that ever happened to her and I want to do that on a continuum, not as a single event. It's a nice way for me to think about how we relate and an efficient reminder.

Of course, when I tell Iris that I want to be the best thing that ever happened to her, her response is to ask, "Okay, so what exactly do you mean by 'best'?"

Happy Thursday,

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