Doing our best

So I mentioned at the end of last week’s post that I’ve really been digging Brené Brown of late. As of this writing, I’ve read 5 of her books in 2019 (basically as fast as they come in at the library). There are just so many knowledge bombs and takeaways. Like the paradigm-shifting, this is going to change my thinking but it’s not necessarily gonna be easy kinda things. Stuff that is affecting me personally, but in my life at work too. The kind of thoughts that make you stop and think, and maybe step back and question how you’ve been looking at things.

One of which I’ve been thinking a lot on lately, particularly (and I’m paraphrasing big time here, but wanted to give credit to Brenéfor the inspiration) is that idea is that everyone is doing their best. If you stopped and thought about it, and asked yourself “Do you really believe that everyone is doing their best with what they have?” what would your answer be?

Do you think you’d say “Nope.” Or “well, maybe some people are, but a lot of them are holding back a little.” Doubtful. Because if someone asked you if you were doing the best you could – what would you tell them?

Would you say “Nah – I’m just shuffling through life. Don’t really give my best on any given day or time” ? I mean, yes, it feels that way sometimes, I get it. But really, in the end, I think we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

What does that mean? Why does it matter? Well, it makes compassion a lot easier for one thing. If everyone is doing their best – including the person who cut you off on the way to work, the cashier who rung your order up wrong, that coworker who grates on your nerves day in and day out (or student if you’re in my line of work) – then can we really fault them for their shortcomings?

Doing your best doesn’t mean being perfect. It doesn’t mean meeting all the standards or expectations. It doesn’t mean coming across flawlessly to everyone all the time. It means taking what you’ve got and working with it to, well, the best of your abilities.

So if you’re doing that, and believe everyone else is, it makes it harder to be mad at them. Maybe the person who cut you off had a bad morning and is late to drop off his kid at school. That cashier just got some bad news about a loved one and she wasn’t thinking straight. That coworker is really just lonely. And that student doesn’t get a lot of attention at home so he overcompensates a bit in your classroom.

It doesn’t mean you love their actions. You might still be annoyed. But if you believe they’re doing their best, it’s easier to just give a little more grace. Just think about it – you don’t go around wearing your backstory or heart on your sleeve, but wouldn’t you want others to believe that you were doing your best? Wouldn’t you want others to cut you some slack on days when you didn’t shine your brightest? So you can definitely extend that same courtesy to others, right?

Just like it makes grace easier to give, remembering that others are doing their best helps curb something else: gossip. I’ve been on a mission now to keep my gossip, negativity and back talk in check, particularly at work. In the midst of day-to-day stress, grating coworkers (and students for me), it is Just. So. Easy. to revert to gossip. I can give you a thousand reasons why I “need” to gossip. I need to blow off steam. To bond with colleagues. To deal with stress.

In the spirit of this post, here’s me doing my best at…making a cool facial expression well I try Starbucks’ new fall drink?!

But really, is talking negatively about others or putting them down a healthy way to do any of that? And if I stop and think that that person is doing their best, no matter how much they might be annoying me or letting me down; should I really be putting them down? Should I be speaking poorly of someone who is doing the best they can? Who might have a whole unspoken story or things they’re dealing with behind the scenes that I know nothing about?

If I remember that everyone is doing their best; maybe, just maybe, I can cut them some slack. When I open my mouth to gossip, whether out of frustration, or even just a desire to fit in; maybe I can remember how hard we’re all trying. That what comes across is the best we’ve got. And then I can close my mouth. Or leave the conversation. And move on.

Just recently, someone that I’m ashamed to say I’ve gossiped about before surprised me. And on a day when I was in the midst of a not-so-great week, surprised me with a really thoughtful gift. She was certainly doing the best she could, and in turn blessed me on a day when I was feeling like my best wasn’t good enough.

So if you let yourself be open to believe that others are doing their best, it becomes easier to look for and see the best in others. And you might find yourself being surprised more often than you think.

I think we could all do with a little less gossip and a little more grace. I think we could all benefit from stopping to think a bit more before we fill the air with negativity. To assume the best instead of the worst. So I challenge you (and myself too) to keep that little nugget tucked in the back of our minds: everyone is doing the best they can. Remember it when someone annoys you, frustrates you, or drives you straight out of your mind. And just see how it shifts your perspective, even if ever so slightly.


So let’s all do our best at assuming the best – I dare you.

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