Being Better or Being Your Best

October 4, 2021

For those of you striving for peak performance or anyone else who has goals of achievement, would you say it is better to aim to be your best on a consistent basis as much as you can or is it better to aim to be a little better than you were before? I have pondered this question and determined that either way would work if it is taking you closer to the goals you wish to achieve in your life. Nevertheless, to answer the question it is important to establish that great achievement never takes place over night and the journey to its attainment is one that requires persistence over time even in the face of adversity. This is the foundation of anything you hope to achieve in your life.

When you think of giving your best effort, it means putting it all on the line, pedal to metal without any restraint. I think of track athletes sprinting in a 100 yard dash. To be a top finisher, there is no room for holding back because everyone else in the race is going full throttle. Sometimes I take this approach to my work, giving everything I have got so that upon completion of a task, there is nothing left in my tank. In my own experience I have found this sometimes results in superlative accomplishment but it is not easily reproducible. Suppose a basketball player scores 80 points in a game. This contribution by a single player could possibly win the game but would you anticipate the same player to have a similar scoring streak in the next game? Probably not. The skill or ability of the player has not diminished but demanding the most of ourselves either physically or mentally often involves stressing the body so much that it needs sufficient recovery time in order to recharge.

Now what about being better? For me striving to give my best is more appropriate for short term achievement, like taking a test or having a presentation. Most of my goals tend to be more long term and require a manifestation within myself that is at a higher level than I am now. The time needed to reach the goal depends of its difficulty but it is only with consistent action toward the goal that I will have any hope of its achievement. Some goals are easier than others but no action gets you nowhere regardless of the degree of difficulty. If you have an especially challenging goal, the steps necessary to get there can seem like too much or will require too much time. If you want this goal badly enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it. Yet there is an approach you can take so that the steps along the way do not seem so daunting. Ask yourself, “How can I be better?” Now proceed to write down some ways in which you can improve. To make it even easier, you can write down your action steps similar to a “to do” list. In this way, the improvements you are going to make to be better are not future oriented but instead are “now” oriented. Think of reaching your goals regardless of their difficulty, like the development of a musician. In the beginning your skills may be uncoordinated and the notes do not sound as they should. You get better with practice, over and over again. After a while you develop sufficient muscle memory where the actions become virtually automatic. Apply this same technique to your life and goals you want to accomplish. You know what you want so just ask yourself, “how can I be better today?” If you repeat this process on a daily basis, you will find yourself closer to your goal much faster without much effort or thinking about it. Make time work for you. Implement incremental improvements on a daily basis. Allow each day to be the benchmark for your self-improvement on the next day. Sometimes we do not always follow through as we should. We should practice on being better but we get lazy. Do not get hard on yourself and give up. Focus only on being better than you were the previous day. That’s all. Just be a little bit better, everyday.

There is a bonus in taking a “be better” approach. The bonus is that when you make this a habit in your life, you become a person without limitations. Now you may think, “How is this possible?” There will always be limitations on what I can do. I would say that you are correct if you choose to believe this way. However, if you choose to always improve yourself, you train your mind to believe there are no limitations because you know you can be better. It is within your power to become the person you want to be, one day at a time, better and better.

Michael W. Jackson