As I’ve gotten older, I’m getting more irked by the idea of “personal best” (PB) or saying “do your best”. This is an issue as many parents and teachers (and schools) I know promote the idea….I’m going against the grain.
I have 2 main reasons.
One is the problem of definition, i.e. that we never know what best really is. There is always the possibility for more or better. I know I’m not alone in thinking this, e.g. Professor John Hattie (Visible Learning) and Mark Pesce (the Next Billion Seconds: Framework) – that we can be more, especially as connected beings.
If we can’t know it, how do we know we’re doing it? Even if one is to argue about its temporal and contextual nature, I cannot be convinced that it serves any merit.
Another reason is the problem of practicality, i.e. that any one ever really does their best on everything they do. What of passion then where people supposedly give 110% (leaving the rest in the negative void)? Percentages aside, it makes sense that most people would pour much of themselves into areas of personal interest and less so on other things. This does not mean shirking responsibilities but I think it is unrealistic to demand top effort on everything all of the time.
If we always do our best on everything, are we at a higher risk of burn-out?
I have 2 suggestions.
One is to ask “Can you do better?” Corollary to that is “Will you choose to do better?” I think this approach is far more empowering, as against a consolation “it’s okay, you’ve done your best”.
Another is to allow focus choice – pursuit of passion, if that’s more your language – and chill out a little on the other things. I think this is values-based such that important matters/people are given higher priority and top effort to make good.
This is only my opinion, of course, which informs how I parent my kids or teach my students or even live my life. I am much less stressed now that I have learned to chill out and not “do my best” on everything. This approach has made me think a lot about my priorities. I am happy knowing that though I can sometimes do things better, I can choose not to because I have more important matters to attend to.
So now you see my problem with best and how I’m getting around it. 🙂