As athletes, we put a lot of effort into sport and life. We tend to be overachievers and “do our best”. But what does that mean and more importantly why does it matter? The answer may give you some clarity and relief.
Doing your best means trying your hardest. Notice this definition emphasizes your effort (trying), not the outcome. We often confuse “doing our best” with “the best outcome.” Focus on energy, consistency, and intensity going into a task. Sometimes doing our best means knowing when to take a step back, rest, or wait. It’s working smarter not harder. Make a conscious decision to ease up, take a break, etc. and own it, be proud of your decision, don’t feel like a failure. Stepping back is sometimes the better or healthier choice than slogging through something. There is a difference between consciously stepping back and giving up, know the difference and be okay with taking a break, saying no, easing up, etc. It doesn’t make you week, it makes you strategic.
Our world is constantly changing (Covid-19 anyone?). Which means the same effort in different circumstances can yield drastically different results. Your best during quarantine with a full-time job, significant other working from home, kids to watch/school, and training will look different than when you’re working from the office, your significant other is at work, the kids are in school and you can meet up for workouts with your teammates or training partner. It’s naïve and unfair to yourself to have the same expectations when the situation is constantly evolving.
Reframe How You See “Failure”
When you do your best, you intend to succeed, but chances are good you’ll fail along the way. You know that thing you do when you equate an undesirable outcome with your self-worth…”I didn’t win the race = I failed = I’m a failure”…Stop that. Instead, see failure as a learning opportunity. If you use it as a platform to learn and improve you are definitely not a failure, you’re working smarter. Nothing great was ever achieved without risk and failure along the way. It took Edison over 10,000 tries to get the lightbulb to work. How the heck did he keep going? He said he never failed, just found 9,999 ways not to make a lightbulb.
Define what the goal/task is and how you’re going to measure your efforts. Be clear and specific about what you’re trying to accomplish. “I’m doing my best to be a good runner” is vague and unhelpful. What does that mean? Break it down into a few metrics and use those to guide your progress and channel your energy. “I’m running consistently three times a week and adding 1 mile a week” is much clearer and easier to execute than “become a better runner.”
Doing your best sometimes matters more at certain times than at other times. Doing my best on a race plan for a client is much more important than doing my best to rinse out the pan before loading it into the dishwasher. But regardless of the level of importance, it matters because it means I have no regrets. Things may not have gone as planned or turned out as well as I’d hoped, but I don’t go to bed at night wondering if I could’ve done more. If you try your best and things don’t work out, you have nothing to feel bad about.
It’s easy to beat up on ourselves because things aren’t going the way we’d like them to. As long as you are truly giving it your all, you have nothing to be ashamed about. The circumstances have changed, our expectations should too.
About Dr. A’nna
Dr. A’nna strives to inspire people to optimally fuel their body to achieve their best and have a positive impact on the world. She is the only combined Ph.D./RD specializing in sports performance nutrition in the world with all Ivy League degrees and the Chief Research Officer at AthleteBloodTest.
Dr. A’nna aims to cultivate a world of healthy athletes who understand nutrition and know how to leverage their physiology to get the best results in sports and life. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Instagram @drannaroby.