Why Being Our Best May Not Be The "Best"

"Shouldn't we all be striving to be the BEST we can be - and expecting that others are doing the same? Isn't that the way we all move forward and prosper?"

This was the thoughtful comment a reader made on Facebook in response to a meme we had posted.

The meme stated: 

"What we expect from ourselves should not dictate what we expect from others. Others are not us, they don't live our lives, they don't have our priorities."

The comment made is quite reasonable and reflects a belief held by a many great people...

...One they apply to themselves and others in both their personal and professional life.

What few realize, though, is that this reasonable belief may be at the centre of the grief and frustration they feel everyday....

...Grief and frustration that they misattribute to other people

Why Do People Keep Letting Me Down?

This is a question we hear often, especially from high performing professionals and managers.

Frustration, anger, stress, and grief results when someone we have a personal or professional relationship with (e.g. partner/spouse, friend, coworker, team member, boss, etc.) fails to behave a certain way or achieve a certain outcome.

In other words, they fail to behave how we expect them to behave or fail to achieve what we expect them to achieve.

For those of us who constantly strive to do our best, these feelings of let down commonly define how we perceive those who let us down.

When they fail to meet the expectation we created for them, we see THEM as the problem...as inferior, lazy, not good enough, or a disappointment.

When we believe someone hasn't done their best, they...not their behaviour or actions...are seen as substandard.

The source of the problem, however, is that the measuring stick we are using is OUR standard...and whoever said that it was the rest of the world's job to meet OUR standard?

The Problem With Expecting One's "Best"

At the heart of many relationship breakdowns (both personal and professional) is this notion of "best".

But what does "best" mean?

Consider two dad's.

Dad 1 was raised by a father who always worked, was never home, and was not a very loving man.

Vowing to give his kids a better childhood as a father himself, he takes a job that requires far fewer hours but pays far less money.

Doing so means he is always around to spend time with his children, taking them on hikes, playing with them, etc.

He believes he is being the best dad he can be by doing this.

Dad 2 was raised by a father who always worked at a low paying job meaning he and his family always had to worry about paying the bills and buying groceries.

Vowing to give his kids a better childhood as a father himself, he has worked his way up the corporate ladder to a high paying job that requires a lot hours but pays far more money.

He doesn't get to spend a lot of time with his family but he goes to bed every night knowing they are well provided for, never have to worry about how to pay the bills, and he is able to provide the standard of living for his children that he dreamed of when he as a child.

He believes he is being the best dad he can be by doing this.

Who is right?

Ask Dad 1, and he may very well condemn Dad 2 for being a bad dad...putting his work first...caring too much about money...and seeing what Dad 2 is doing as neglect.

Ask Dad 2 and he may very well condemn Dad 1 as being a bad dad...being irresponsible by not providing the highest standard of living possible for his family, causing his children to miss out on many activities and experiences that require money. 

So, if you find yourself expecting the "best" from others, you are within your right, but remember there is no single definition of what the "best" means.

The Many Face Of "Best" Illustrated

If you have been on social media recently, you have likely come across the various political memes and posts, each purporting to represent what is "best" for the country.

Do you think those leaning to the left politically are sitting around thinking "I believe this even though what I believe is flawed."

No. They are thinking "This is what is best."

Similarly, those on the right with opposite views aren't sitting around supporting their position while believing it is flawed.

They are supporting their positions because they believe their perspective represents the best thing for society as well. 

Is It OK To Expect One's Best, Then?

In the end, we all should HOPE that others will strive to be their best...

...To be honest, respectful, trust-worthy, and always act with integrity (this is a part of how I, personally, define "best").

However it is flawed to expect others to live by our standards because our standards in no way represent THE standards.

If our personal or professional relationships are harmed because someone else is not, from our perspective, doing or being their best, the issue lies with us and not them.

We must stop expecting others to hold OUR definition of "best" as their own.

Similarly, we must stop expecting others to hold the desire to be their best as important as we do.