There’s a wonderful short book, ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz that outlays a very congruent way of living within its pages. In it, he puts forward 4 key habits or ways of being that allow us to live happier and fuller lives.
There is the first – Be impeccable with your word. The second – Don’t take anything personally and the third – Don’t make assumptions. All profoundly explained and expanded in the book, but here, I would like to talk about the fourth one – Always do your best.
For the past month and some change, I was in constant pain and essentially house-ridden. Which was very inconvenient to say the least. I had just moved into a new place, and was eager to hit the ground running, to dive right into my routines and aggressively work on projects.
But then out the blue, I get hit with health challenges.
And that’s life for you right?
You could do everything right, set everything up perfectly, and still be taken out the game by forces outside your control. It happens.
I was tempted to really feel bad about it, and some moments were really hard, but feeling bad wasn’t useful, it wasn’t going to change anything. I had to figure out what I could control, what the best thing to do was, and focus on that.
Clearly, the thing to do here, was to find a way to recover as soon as possible, and in the mean time, when it came to all my obligations and needs…just do my best.
The fourth agreement is about always doing your best, but at the same time, understanding that your best is a moving target, no two days or two moments are the same.
Your best when you are freshly rested, breezed through your morning routine and excited to get to work is much different from your best when you are at the tail end of 70 hour work weeks pushing to meet a deadline.
And it is much different when you are in constant pain and can’t focus or work at your usual pace.
But yet, life continues and we have the responsibility to rise up to our best in whatever situation, and not be too hard on ourselves. We do what we can, do what we must, and let ourselves off the hook for the rest of it.
Why torture yourself? Why beat yourself up for not being able to match your best when you were soaring high? Why get mad because you can’t do what you really want to do?
Do the opposite. Accept it. Embrace it.
Ask, what is good about this?
That is the thing to do when things go awry. Find the silver lining, the sliver of opportunity.
For all my pain and discomfort, I received some gifts from the ordeal. It forced me to ruthlessly prioritise, to push through the pain and get the absolutely necessary things done, while stress testing my capacity for discomfort.
It also forced me to not work as much. To sit back and lay fallow for a while (something essential to the creative process). To disconnect and watch YouTube videos the whole day. To fall into rabbit holes on the internet and stumble on weird content and interesting ideas. To step back and reconsider the business and the path forward.
Sometimes, the odds are just not in our favour. For no real fault of our own.
And yet, we must push ahead, we must keep going, the wheels must keep spinning. Well, maybe they can spin at half speed, or at a slow crawl. Maybe we can get someone else to spin the wheels while we take a nap.
Whatever it takes.
That is all is required from you.
To do your best.
Whatever that is.
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