Practical spirituality: Always do your bestBottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Online Only, Where's the Faith? Thursday, February 9th, 2017
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As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!
This is the fourth and final agreement based on Don Miguel Ruiz’s book of practical wisdom called, The Four Agreements. These are powerful, life-changing agreements and they are as powerful as we let them be in our lives.
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.
Always do your best sure rolls off our tongues easily, right? It almost seems too simple, too easy.
When we hear the advice to always do your best, maybe we hear the “give it your 110 percent” pep talk. Doing your best for some may seem to suggest constantly over-achieving, going above and beyond, gotta be the best, exceeding a really high standard of excellence and maintaining it, and not letting anything or anyone get in the way of you reaching your goals! Oh my!
Or, maybe “doing your best” might be an admonishment to the underdog who’s about to get clobbered in a sporting event, or to someone who’s not prepared to take a test, or going into any situation where failure is more or less expected; “just do your best” sometimes sounds like “oh well!”
But this fourth agreement isn’t about such extreme thinking. “Always do your best” is about choosing to take action first and foremost, not for a result, but because there is value in taking the action in the first place.
Don Miguel Ruiz says, “Doing your best is taking an action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite; they only take action when they expect a reward, and they don’t enjoy the action … for example, most people go to work every day just thinking of payday, and the money they will get from the work they are doing. They are working for the reward, and as a result they resist work. They try to avoid the action and it becomes more difficult, and they end up not doing their best. They work all week long, suffering through the work, suffering the action, not because they like to work, but because they feel they have to.”
Anytime we do something, including incorporating these four agreements in our lives, if we do it expecting a particular outcome, we’re not as likely to actually be doing our best because we’re so focused on what hasn’t happened yet. Stay with me here; instead of being fully present and engaged in the present moment – we are looking for some kind of imagined result or outcome.
Don Miguel Ruiz uses the illustration of Forrest Gump as the model for what he means by “doing one’s best.” Forrest wasn’t very smart, wasn’t very goal-oriented, but everything he did, ping pong, serving in Vietnam, mowing the lawn, running, playing football, he simply did the best he could, and he was so present in the doing of the task that good and beautiful things always seemed to follow him.
So then, why would we want to do our best if it’s not for a certain result or reward? I’m glad you asked!
As we do our best, we are fully living in each moment; we are not somewhere dreaming in the future, we are not somewhere in the past, we are in the present moment.
So, as we do our best in each present moment, and the result is not what we wanted, we still aren’t filled with regret and sadness. Why? Because we know we simply did our best. And as we’re not attached to certain outcomes, the next time we could go even beyond what we had hoped or dreamed.
Rev. J. B. Lee says, “Doing our best in the present, releases us from remorse and sorrow about the past, and from thirsting for some reward in the future.”
Don Miguel Ruiz would say that we do our best because when we do, we are fully engaging life, we are actually living it, instead of just going through the motions, or maybe silently suffering through it. When we change our thinking about “doing our best” from an obligation (I have to) to an opportunity (I get to), we can learn to love anything and everything we’re doing.
This fourth agreement to always do your best is a way to be content in every moment.
And when we are free from worrying about results or rewards, it will help us with the other three agreements. As Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “The first three agreements will only work if you do your best. Don’t expect that you will always be able to be impeccable with your word. But, you can do your best.
Don’t expect that you will never take anything personally; just do your best.
Don’t expect that you’ll never make another assumption, but you can certainly do your best.
By doing your best, the habits of misusing your words, taking things personally, and making assumptions will become weaker and less frequent with time. You don’t need to judge yourself, feel guilty, or punish yourself even if you still make assumptions, still take things personally, and still are not impeccable with your word.” Be kind to yourself! Love yourself!
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