Did You Try Your Best?
I’ve been reading Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts -- Becoming The Person You Want to Be and there is one major aspect of Goodman’s recommendations that I absolutely love and that’s his question, “Did you try your best?”. Goodman’s method uses a spreadsheet (for convenience) where each day you can track your answer using a grading system (1-10 or A,B,C etc). Each night you pause to reflect on whether or not you tried your best. This can be made more specific to your personal goals, and you’re not limited to just trying to do your best at one thing. Customize it to help you achieve what you find important.
In a previous post I wrote about how we are too focused on the end result of our efforts. We make goals like losing 30lbs, and if we do not achieve that goal we fail to recognize the hard work and the weight we did succeed in losing. This is why I love “did you try your best?”
Asking ourselves this question at the end of every day leads us to a period of reflection. From here we can’t lie to ourselves if we truly want to change something about our lives. Furthermore, using this question creates a feedback loop. You examine your choices from the day, and you are given the opportunity to analyze them (without judgement!) so that in the future you can make better decisions. The honest analysis of your actions gives you the feedback you need to make tomorrow better. “Did you try your best?” shifts your focus from results to effort. When we do our best, and when we continue to pursue our best, we will see progress toward our goals.
Another aspect of “Did you try your best?” is that it lets you take your goals into manageable chunks. By asking yourself every day you can create daily wins. Scenario time, It was a stressful day, you forgot your prepared food, you left your gym bag at home, there was an accident on the highway and your commute time doubled. By the time you got home you were cranky, exhausted, and poured a glass of wine (or popped a beer, pick your poison). After a sip or two you thought, “What am I doing? I should be at the gym right now.” But it’s getting late, the kids have homework to do, dinner needs to be made. You have a choice, maybe instead of spending 20 minutes enjoying your beer you lace up your sneakers and go for a quick jog before you start cooking. Your diet might not have been 100% because you needed to find an easy solution at lunch, and you may have poured the wine, but you realized in that moment that you weren’t doing your best. At the end of the day you want to be able to report that despite all the setbacks you still tried your best. That’s where the real changes happen.
We like to think that change happens the moment we decide we have to change something, but it’s a long arduous process. Deciding to change is easy, execution is hard AF and that’s why daily, honest feedback from ourselves is vital to real change.
I want to be clear, this is not a scale of “Did I do everything perfectly today?” This is doing the best with the day as it unfolded. The pursuit of perfection is unnecessary, and stressful. Diet and training perfection can be saved for contest prep, if you choose to go that route, but even then chances are you’ll never be perfect. When it comes to everyday life, your best is what you should strive for.
Goodman suggests that the DYTYB can be reported to a coach. I think this is an excellent idea because a coach will help you get perspective. They can also help you create a plan for how to do better next time. We are notoriously bad at deciding how to move forward when change gets hard, and coaches can help you do that. They also give you someone to be accountable to, other than yourself. I’ve tried making changes on my own, and some are much harder than others.
I have known for a year and a half that I spend FAR too much time on Facebook. I came up with all kinds of excuses, “It’s how I stay in touch with my friends who live in other states”, “I can stop if I wanted to”. I also came up with crappy solutions to my problem, “I’ll only open Facebook first thing in the morning and right before bed” that lasted about an hour. I tried turning off the notifications, but I found myself opening the app regularly in case something happened!! I tried taking the app off my homescreen “Out of sight, out of mind, right?” Nope, just took an extra few clicks and I was back on. I also tried leaving my phone in another room while I was working, but then if I got a text, an email, or some sort of alert I would check. After replying to the text, Facebook was open. Finally, I had to admit to myself that I was spinning my wheels, and that I was making excuses, finding anyway I could to justify why I needed Facebook on my phone. While I was reading Triggers I took a minute to reflect upon my own actions, and deleted the app. It’s amazing how much more time I have when I’m not mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, seeing all the things I had just seen an hour before.
Change is hard, and I’ve found myself picking up my phone and wondering “why?” and I realize that it’s my habit. My mind would wander, and I would open Facebook. My Facebook habit will take a long time to get out of my system, I know that. But I had to admit to myself that willpower alone was not enough, I needed to alter my environment to cultivate real change. In the grand scheme of changes to make, limiting social media use is a very small change. Once I was able to admit to myself that deleting the app was the best solution my problem was mostly gone. Unfortunately, not everything can be so easy, but now I can use my precious willpower for more important things. I’m not left drained by the feelings of failure that stemmed from not being able to resist opening an app.
Most of us could benefit from streamlining our lives with elimination, as a matter of fact, that was the section of the book that caused me to really examine my social media problem. There is some disagreement on whether or not willpower is a finite resource that is drained with each decision we make, but even if it is not, constantly making choices and dealing with things that (in the big picture) aren’t important gets exhausting. Once we decide to eliminate some unnecessary things we find ourselves breathing a sigh of relief.
By deleting Facebook I can now ask myself more important questions, “Did I do my best to... learn something new today?, To make positive, tangible steps toward making my business grow?, To be a good wife?, To take care of the boring, everyday household tasks?” I’m not going to say that my life was completely transformed, but it’s one less thing to worry about. One less thing that I spend my precious time on when I could be focused on more important things, like being present when spending quality time with my husband.
If it’s so hard to make a change on something as trivial as how much time I spend on an app, why do we think that we are going to be able to change our diet and exercise habits on our own? Especially, when we have spent years knowing that we should do something, but soon we find an excuse to quit, or to never start in the first place. Coaches will help you get started, they will help you stay focused, and keep pushing when it gets hard. A good coach will provide honest feedback to you because their primary goal is to help you get better. We tend to think that the only people who need coaches are athletes, but most people can benefit from some level of coaching.
When I’m preparing for a show I check in with my coach weekly, it’s important to have feedback from her, especially when I feel like nothing is going right. After my first season on the stage I even continued checking in, now every 2 weeks. The accountability was important for keeping me on track because I didn’t want to have to tell her that I wasn’t doing my best. Knowing that she was still in my corner was motivating, and helped to keep me focused on my bigger goals. After my second year I was reasonably comfortable in my abilities to maintain my diet to the appropriate level on my own, but when I’m ready to get back on stage I will resume my check-ins.
Hiring a coach is not a sign of weakness, nor is it something exclusive to high level athletes. We dismiss the idea of needing help, but continuously find ourselves in the same place we were in 6 months ago. A sure sign of a good coach is someone who will teach you skills that you can apply on your own. Often, we do not need coaches for the rest of our lives; I don’t check in with mine weekly anymore, but I know that she is there and a resource if I need her. But I never would have gotten to where I am if I hadn’t worked with her. With her help and guidance I was able to do my best.