Changing your world...

A phrase to change the world...

The most liberating thing I have learned in my life to date is the following phrase…..

Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would.

-       Matt Kahn

Thinking lightly about that phrase we often find ourselves viewing it with a degree of judgement, ‘I know Bob, and I have seen him do a lot better than he is giving me right now!’ or my personal favourite, the self-deprecating ‘Jeez you would think after so many years I would do that better than I did’.  However, both of these miss the mark of what is being said in that small phrase., so let me repeat it to make it fresh for us all…

Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would.

That means that in every moment, second to second, everyone is doing their very best, if they could do better they would.  You see, over the last 20 years I have had the opportunity to see a lot of folks, probably in excess of 200,000, and so I have gotten a pretty good look into a lot of lives, and I can categorically tell you that not once, not even once did anyone ever come in and tell me that they had gone out and given their very worst to anything.  In fact, when I would ask, almost to a one, they looked dumfounded as if the thought of giving less than their best was crazy…and it is.

You see, we are always giving our best in every single moment of every single day.  It changes, some moments our best is expansive and fantastic, at others we would prefer no one ever spoke of it again.  It is like that for everyone, I can assure you of that, and everyone has moments when their best made them soar, and moments when their best seemed to leave them feeling worse.  However, it was in each moment their very best, and that is the important part of this whole phrase.

Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would.

That means as I am writing this now, it is my very best.  That might be great or it might not, hard to see from this perspective, but I can tell you, it is the best I have at this moment in time.  If I had anything better to give, I would be giving it to you right now.  So, let’s take a moment to feel how that feels when we try it on, shall we.

I am doing the best I can…if I could do better I would.

So how did that feel?  Comfortable? Strange? Crazy?  Did it prompt immediate conversation in your head?  Words like ‘oh sure, I have seen you do better’ or maybe ‘that is not all that good you know’ or maybe you are one of the lucky folks who believes and you heard ‘damn right you doing your very best’.  However, none of what is said changes the fact that in this moment you were/are in fact doing your very best and if you could do better you would. 

So why bother?

This phrase is a step toward liberating yourself of all the judgment that comes from beating yourself up about the actions you took, failed to take, thoughts you had or failed to have.  It frees you of the need to judge yourself harshly, and if you use this phrase often, you can find that it heals some of your deepest wounds.  If you use this phrase when you encounter memories from your past you would rather not review, then it can be the first step toward learning to love yourself just as you are.

One my own examples

As I am sitting one day in meditation, simply enjoying the moment of quiet, enjoying the fact that the chatter of my mind seemed a little less loud, a memory arose that was big, in my face, and unpleasant.  It was a realization that for 18 years of medical practice I had been needing the patient to fulfill my need to be loved.  I realized in a flash, that pretty much every encounter I had over those many years had an underlying context of need I had not been aware of, my need to feel wanted, worthy and loved.  I used the examination room, and my encounters with patients to feed that voracious need in my life, and if the person in my room met that need then everything went well, if they did not, well let’s just say I could get a little less friendly in my presentations of the options you could choose for you care.  I was mortified, horrified, and really felt crushed when I realized that for the last 18 years, my provision of medical care was done all in an attempt to get my needs met by the poor souls who landed in my office, and not really about the delivery of good medical care (that was just a lucky by product).  In that moment I felt like I was a complete farce, a fake, someone who had really been living a lie.  Yet in that moment the gold phrase of compassion came through my head again….

Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would. 

It was true, I knew it deep in my heart, it was indeed true.  I saw that in each of those moments I was doing the very best that I could, and that my best had changed moment to moment.  It changed a lot once I began to understand the unmet needs of my subconscious ( see 2017/8/27/an-interesting-alternative-to-psychotherapy)  and it was as that change occurred that I realized exactly how I had been practicing previously.  But in seeing that I had been doing the very bet that I could, I was able to see that version of who I was with compassion, to feel for the struggle that had been present that was unknown to me at those moments in time.  To that version of who I was, what was being given was the very best, and as I looked back upon it, I could see how that best had changed again and again but the act of giving my best had not changed even once.  And as I began to see that for myself, I began to see it more clearly in others, they were giving their best, each moment of each day, and when that best was rough, unkind, uncaring, it broke my heart a little for each of them as I realized that this was the best this person had to offer in this moment. It allowed me to feel into their lives and into their pain and love them despite it.  By acknowledging the best that we each offer, it allows our best to step up and to improve in each moment.  When I recognize the best you are bringing is the best that you have and treat it with respect because it is your best, then funny enough, you best steps up just a little bit more.  So one person at a time, one moment at a time, we bring our best forward, acknowledge it in ourselves and celebrate it in others, and the world starts to change.

If you would like to know more about my work, or to work with me, feel free to contact me.  I post regularly to Instagram (@gilgrimes), Twitter (gilgrimes)  and Facebook (gilgrimes) about whatever arises from my meditation each day.  You can also find me on Insight Timer. and if you would like to stay in touch sign up for my newsletter (probably once or twice a month at most).