The fourth of The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz is, Always Do Your Best. Ruiz offers this agreement as the key to achieving success with the first three: Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personal, and Don’t Make Assumptions.
Together, these agreements represent a crystallization of ancient Toltec wisdom that have the potential to deliver us to from lives of unhappiness and fear, to lives filled with serenity, joy, and personal empowerment.
I’m sharing this with you at this time as I’ve been moving to a new place of understanding and release, related to a life-long affliction I’ve suffered from, known as perfectionism. The “ism” suffix is particularly important so as to distinguish striving to do our best from striving for perfect, which is never truly attainable and only causes suffering.
Ruiz expresses at the outset of his chapter on the forth of the four agreements,
“Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best — no more and no less than your best. If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal.”
There is such a common tendency in our modern society to think of everything in measurable terms, when so much of what we do depends on the infinite, the un-definable and intangible. We can think that if we work eight hours per day we can make “x” dollars a month. And then we can think, “What if I work twelve hours a day, maybe I can make 50% more.” But does it occur to us, though, that if we work twelve hours per day we eventually become so run down that that we become grumpy and not very fun to work with? Clients and co-workers begin to dislike working with us and we are no longer doing our best work.
Perfectionism is the condition of striving to do more than our best and to achieve an unattainable standard, which (speaking for myself) has its roots in the need to control outcomes.
Doing our best is a release from the anxiety that drives us to achieve the un-achievable, and a moving toward a kind of Zen in our work in which each day is an adventure that we seek out with readiness for whatever it brings.
Perfectionism is a condition born of anxiety and fear. Doing our best is a choice we make to embrace the journey of life, and not to focus so much on the destination.
To share one final thought, which is that I love how the creative flow seems to infect so many with similar inspirations at the very same moment in time. Just as I was writing this blog I took a quick break to click over and check my emails and noticed this short post from Seth Godin, “While waiting for perfect.”
Enjoy your day of work today, riding the wave of life’s adventure, measuring only that you have done your best, no more, no less.