There is something that I’ve heard before. I remember hearing it when I was a high school athlete. I recall hearing the principal say it in the morning announcements at one of the elementary schools I worked at early in my career. I have seen the words printed on motivational posters. It is something I’ve heard myself say to my children. Perhaps, you’ve heard it before too.
Do your best to be your best!
I’ve been thinking about that statement. I’ve been tossing around the words and allowing them to roll around in my mouth. Something about the sentiment hasn't felt quite right to me. I sensed that it wasn’t the words themselves, but the order of them. The message puts doing first and being second. Read it again – emphasis added.
DO your best to BE your best!
As I mentioned, I have said this and while the message is a good one, simple, and easy to remember like “just do it”, it hit me differently today. Akin to a habit being examined, this message rattled my brain today and like an echo chamber, I heard the words come back to me and decided that is NOT the message I want to convey. Easy enough the words can be shifted and deliver a completely different message.
BE your best to DO your best!
How does that feel? Say it a few times. Does the shift of be and do make a difference for you? It does for me. Let me tell you why.
What's in a verb?
When we say or hear the word do first, we are hit with action. While both do and be are irregular verbs and imply a use of energy, their meanings are different. As I stated, doing is performing an action and is tied to achievement or performance. Whereas a few synonyms for being are: existence, living, spirit, soul, and essence.
In my reexamined and shifted version, the message I transmit is that I intend to exist as my best and from that act as my best.
Does the starting point matter? Does the end result change?
Let’s compare it to an intention to perform and achieve my best and then exist or live as my best.
I imagine you have witnessed high achievers, maybe you are one yourself. They may be self-disciplined, set high standards, make goals and then crush them – BUT at what cost? Have they paid any attention to their essence? How do they exist in the world? Are they at peace? Do they live with anxiety, depression, disordered thoughts, eating, and partake in unhealthy relationships? By no means am I lumping people into categories here or judging the choices that people make as I do truly believe deep down we are all striving to live well and deal with the cards we were dealt in life. By no means does anyone have a smooth sailing ride in this life. While it may seem as though some people do and some people have ALL the luck and ALL the fortune, I am assured that they struggle and suffer as well. We all do.
I can see the ways in which I heard this message as a high school athlete and how I lived in a way that was all action – all the doing and forcing myself to achieve. I am reflective on how when I have said these words to my children or read them on a poster, I experienced
a desire to make great things happen through hard work and effort.
Yet – where has that message gotten us?
I would argue that historically we have been told to work hard up the ladder and live the American dream and that it was available to anyone that worked hard enough. Truthfully, that was never the case. There are too many variables and conditions in life that would make it impossible for us all to start on the same page, at the same place and then work hard from there. Our ancestorial lineage, where we were born, when we were born, and the circumstances around that all play a role in where we start from. The message to do your best to be your best may seem innocuous and innocent, but everything is worthy of examination.
Back to the message
If the message you lived and the message you shared was one of intentionally tuning into your own essence/soul/spirit/self and identifying ways in which you might be suffering and make an effort to heal yourself and then grow and evolve from that place, would you not emerge in a way that would produce action in the world that was genuinely BEING YOUR BEST? What is more beautiful than serving all of humanity through your own healing and growth?
You are both a unique manifestation of the divine that has never been before and never will be again – and also a speck in the cosmos of space and time. How does it feel to be both expansive and yet small and inconsequential? We live in dichotomies. You can only do and act from a place of being. Be, then Do.
Great! ... but how?
We receive many, many messages every day. This one is only one of them that I have seen repeated or have repeatedly said myself. I am sure you have ones that you could identify right now if you sat and thought about it for a bit. If you are interested in swapping do with be and would like to explore how to be your best to do your best then I have some ideas for you.
How you start your day, how you begin, with your first conscious breath, your first conscious thought, and your first conscious action are extremely valuable to set up the rest of your day. Beginning your day from a place of gratitude -- staying in bed after your alarm has sounded or you've just opened up your eyes -- stay. Put your hands on your heart and feel. First feel what gratitude feels like and what comes to mind when you experience the feeling? I find that it is best to go deeper than just reciting a list. It is great and wonderful that you are grateful for food, water, and shelter. But, why? Why are you grateful for those things? What would you be experiencing if you did not have those things? Go deeper. Each time you go deeper you help grow the neural pathways in your brain that look for positive images, positive feelings, and experiences rather than the negative. Our survival depended on being alert and scanning the horizon for danger -- so we've got some work to do in this regard!
After you've felt gratitude -- really felt it and then attached that to relevant people, things, or experiences that you are grateful for, THEN get out of bed. After you've taken care of your bodily needs, find a designated area where you can be alone for five minutes (or longer if it works for you and your situation). During those five plus minutes you could light a candle,
roll on some essential oils, breathe in and out with awareness. Orient yourself to something to look at visually, whether that is the candle flame, a picture, a yantra, a vision board, or anything else that has meaning to you. You could continue to gaze at the image or after looking at it and consciously breathing in long, smooth breaths, you might close your eyes. Focusing on your breath with your eyes closed, you might put one hand on your heart and one hand on your abdomen and connect with your vibrant, breathing life force for a few more minutes. You might recite a prayer or mantra to yourself or a sankalpa or affirmation. When you feel ready and settled, open your eyes and do whatever you need to do next to get yourself or your family members ready for the day ahead. If you are able to spend more time alone, I would encourage you to write out a few questions you have about the day and allow yourself an opportunity to write back intuitive answers to those questions. You could also stretch or practice yoga asana (poses) as well as continued pranayama (focused breath work), or meditation. I teach all of these things, so if you are in need of any guidance, I'm here for you.
Continue to make space for yourself at the beginning of each day to connect with your spirit/soul/essence and then move forward from there. In time you may also find opportunities throughout your day that allow you a pause to again connect with your self. Instead of reaching for your phone or other distracting object, reach for your self.
How might you heal, evolve, and grow?
These ideas might seem simple, but simple done consistently runs deep and creates lasting change....
BE then DO.