“Doing your best means taking action because you love it,” Ruiz starts out by saying in Part 10, “not because you expect a reward.” We all do this, most notably at work, especially if our job is not our first choice for ‘what we wanted to be when we grew up’. As householders, we are obligated by work in order to afford things like a home and food. As such, many people end up hating themselves for what they believe was “settling” for a job, or a life, that we didn’t necessarily dream of.
I once attended a yoga class where the teacher offered the idea that we change the language around what we “have to do” and more often talk about what we “get to do”. When we talk about what we “have to do”, we disempower ourselves from having any choices….we become the victim of circumstance (and life). When we decide that we “get to do” more things in our lives, including going to the job that we don’t always like, we put the power of choice back in our hands. When we are truly doing our best, we have no regrets. “That is why we do our best,” Ruiz writes. It doesn’t mean we get things right the first time, or every time either. We need to examine our actions and learn from our mistakes.
It is the same notion I have written about before: Fail. Forward. Faster. Doing your best means you have given yourself the freedom to make mistakes and move on from them. If we do our best only in an effort to try and please others, for the reward of it, we tend to berate ourselves heavily when things go awry. Rather, we do our best when we are doing it regardless of the reward, simply because we want to.
Too often, we never take the perceived risk of living our dreams because we don’t know if we will be rewarded or what the outcome will be….the writer who doesn’t write because they are afraid they won’t be published, the musician who doesn’t make music because no one may hear it, the painter who stops painting because a gallery may not display it, or the person who never travels because they worry about how much it costs, or that the destination won’t live up their expectations…..these people end up resentful towards life for not fulfilling the needs of their own egos. Doing your best means that you write, paint, compose, or travel because you WANT to, not because you are waiting for some big payout on the backend.
We get stuck within our inaction and are no longer able to fully experience life if we are only living for the reward, rather than for the joy of the process (the action)….we are no longer doing our best. Action means you do it anyway, without expectation of what the outcome might, or should, be. Eckhart Tolle speaks about this as the power of living in the NOW when he writes, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”
If we ruminate in our past, or tell stories about what could/should be happening in the future, we cease to live in the present moment – the only time we ever really have to live in. When you get caught up in dreams of the past, whether is was something that happened that you wanted to change, or something that wished could have happened that didn’t, you stop living…really – you STOP living. All of those expectations cloud your vision of the current moment, make you see things that aren’t there, and stop you from experiencing what IS.
When I stopped expecting life to be a certain way, or the way that I hoped it would be, I was more available to see what life was already there. It also is what gives me the energy to continue to reside in a city that is completely backasswards because it isn’t the city that makes me happy – it is all of the things I do, and people I interact with, on a day-to-day basis that bring me joy. I remind myself that those are things I can do no matter where I live.
Of course, we all want to feel appreciated every now and again, but when that need arises, ask yourself why? What are you not doing for yourself that you are expecting someone, or something else to do for you? Inevitably, when we look to other people, or outside conditions, to bring us happiness, we will be left disappointed and unfulfilled. The best you can do is love yourself – others will see that glow of self-acceptance and will love you too, but it is a healthy love for self that is the hardest to obtain.
The other three agreements are dependent upon this one. We won’t always be impeccable with our words, but we do our best. We won’t always be able to not take things personally, but we do our best. We will sometimes make assumptions, but try our best not to. The forth agreement is the foundation for the other three and it is the one that will set you free to fully be the person you are.