Let me start off by stating that this blog post will probably strike the wrong chord with many of you at first. I encourage you to continue reading however and simply hear me out. This is a topic I believe firmly in and I would love to have a discussion about it beyond this post. I do want to get into the research in this post, but there is quite a bit out there that backs the viewpoint (mindset) that I am about to present.
John Wooden, and countless others, said that there is a vast difference between the words better and best when applied to performance. By themselves these words can be misinterpreted in terms of their relation to performance, so let me define them.
The word better, when defined in terms of performance and how Wooden, and others viewed it, is rooted in comparison. This can be an individual comparing themselves in relation to others or themselves (self-comparison would be taking 2 different performances and comparing them). The word best is much more straightforward to define. It is the answer to the following question: did you give maximal effort? If the answer to that question is yes, then you did your best. If the answer is no, then you left a bit of your performance at the table.
Whether you choose to analyze your performance in terms of better or best has huge implications. Many of us have deep roots in the mentality of simply being better. We judge our performances as successes or failures based on how we stack up to others.
If I can beat so-and-so then I had a good day. On the other side, if so-and-so beats me then I had a bad day. This is a shallow way of analyzing performance, because we have no control over those with whom we compete. If one of your bitter rivals has an off day, should you derive great satisfaction in having defeated them? At the same time what if your rival had a day where they could seemingly do no wrong and they beat you? Can you derive satisfaction from your performance then? The same applies to self-comparison. No two days and competitions are alike no matter how much it may seem like it.
I propose that there is a way that we can ALWAYS be satisfied with our performance. This excludes whether we won, lost or experienced an outcome somewhere in the middle. In a culture where comparisons hold much more value than they should, this will be tough to do but is by no means impossible.
Let me start by stating that for many this will be a pretty substantial mindset shift. Many of us have never looked at our performances in this way. As a matter of fact looking at performance by asking the question "did we do our best" is often laughed at. You've heard of giving it the good old college try and it's not often seen as a badge of honor. This is where self-discipline will be paramount.
The next time you perform, ask yourself, did I do my best? It is a simple yes/no question. There is no opportunity for an answer in the middle. It is all or nothing. Stop and think about the fact that analyzing performance in this way raises the standard. Think about how difficult it is to give your very best each and every time that you perform.
I know that I have had days where to everyone else it looked like I gave my best, but I myself knew that I fell terribly short of that standard. The results sheet many times does not tell even half of the story. Being successful is not about simply being better than others. True success lies in being your best.