We live in a society that is obsessed with “Better.” In fact, most of your friends or advisors will tell you that the moment you quit trying to be Better, you are finished. Your competition will pass you by, and you will eventually fail to be successful. Most of us believe this as fact.
Ask you friends and colleagues which statement is truer:
- I am good enough.
- I want to get better.
The vast majority will tell you that they want to get Better. So I ask these questions:
- Why do you want to get Better?
Answer: “Because I believe I am not yet good enough.”
- So when will you become good enough?
Answer: “When I become Better.”
The problem with this approach is that when you pursue Better, you are not pursuing your Best. In fact, our obsession with Better is actually impeding us from becoming our Best. We must understand the psychology of performance in order to see the truth.
All behavior takes place in the now. Everything you do, you do now. Nothing happens in the future. In fact, the future is simply a thought about something that is yet to happen. You cannot do Better now. However, you can do your Best now. And that is what you should be focused on: doing the Best you can, right now, where you are, with what you have.
Can you do any Better than your Best? No, your Best is all you have.
So the real problem is not that you are not good enough. The problem is that you are good enough, but you just can’t access your Best on a regular basis.
Much of my work is with athletes. Frequently, I ask them this question: “If you play the best you can today, what will happen?” They immediately recognize that if they could access their best, everything would be fine. They would play well and probably win. Surprisingly, most elite athletes report that it has been months, even years, since they last played their Best.
How do you fix this problem? Focus your attention on the factors that are keeping you from performing at your Best. In other words, if you know that your Best is good enough and that you also have trouble getting to your Best, then being able to access your Best more frequently will lead to considerable performance improvement. The thing that keeps you from your Best is you – more simply, your mind, and more specifically, your thoughts.
We live in a culture that values thinking and smart people. However, most of us are distracted by our minds more than we are helped by them.
Fortunately, there is a very simple thing you can do to radically improve your performance. Wait for it … Be present. If all performance takes place in the now, then your ability to be more present will improve your ability to access your Best performance. Think about how many times you are talking with someone and they are distracted by their phone or computer. How many people do you speak with and notice they are really not paying attention and listening deeply?
When you are with someone, imagine that they are the most important person in the world and that the conversation you are having with them is the most important conversation you could have. This will help you pay full attention and leave your colleague feeling respected and valued. The best boss you have ever had was great not because of what they knew. They were great because of how they made you feel. They listened to you and valued your opinion.
So, let go of Better. Just do your Best. Your Best is about being present and giving the task you are doing, or the person you are with, your full attention. When distracting thoughts come along, and they will, bring your focus back to the task at hand, and you will begin to notice a significant improvement in your work and your relationships.
Dr. Stan Beecham is the author of “Elite Minds” (McGraw-Hill, 2016) and a performance psychology consultant.