There is an African-American proverb that says, “God makes three requests of His children: Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have, now.”
It’s that time of the year again, when the “Best of_____” lists begin to appear. You know these lists. They include everything from the best beaches to the best hotels to the best restaurants and doctors and hair salons and gyms and trainers and, and, and…
It’s always an honor to be named to one of these lists. Last year, greatist.com named me to their list of the “100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness”. These lists are wonderful, valuable resources, however they are incomplete. What’s missing on the most important “Best of__” list is YOU! How can you place yourself on your own “Best of____” list? How can you become and stay the best you can be?
Ready to do this? OK, so clear your mind, and think about your ideal and actual self. How far apart are these concepts? To close the gap, these steps will lead you there—or are you there already?
First, keep in mind what Ben Franklin said, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Really knowing and accepting yourself is a critical step to begin the journey to your own best-hood. Knowing your purpose, passion, values and needs go far beyond what you hope to be. It’s what you already are.
Second, express the treasures you have, your authentic self. The best restaurant in the best city in the best state or the best country doesn’t try to be any other fabulous restaurant. It knows what it is and simply brings that to its raving fans. When someone asked Michelangelo how he sculpted the beautiful statue of David out of one piece of marble. Michelangelo answered, “I just chipped away everything that wasn’t David.” Get rid of what’s not you, the clutter, the obstacles in your way, the false strivings and the distractions from your best. While you are focused on revealing your best self, why bother with people who are sucking the good out of you? Ignore them, don’t see them, and as has been advised, “don’t sweat it, don’t regret it, move on and forget it.” In other words, pay attention to those who will help bring out your best and those who don’t, delete.
Third, be singularly focused, completely mindful and purposeful in accepting the best you that you are. Imagine driving through a school parking lot with dozens of 5, 6, 7 year old children running after each other, chasing balls, darting in and out around parked cars. You’d drive damn slow, be very mindful and completely focused. You deserve the same level of attention for your own protection and growth. What you also deserve is to see the true present that every day brings you. Before you get out of bed tomorrow morning, indeed every morning, focus on what’s going right, what will and can go right and see the gifts that each day brings.
Fourth, do. I like what Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” What do you need to do, to practice daily, in order to achieve your best? Make the choice to bring your best with you wherever you go, wherever you go. Wherever you go, go as a victor not as a victim. Be sure your mindset is filled with seeing everything that happens as happening for your growth, to help you succeed. Don’t see rejection. See redirection. And then act from gratitude to help you shape your best.
Fifth, yes, a list of being your best would be incomplete without suggesting that you fill your thoughts with only confidence boosting, positive evaluating, at worst neutral self-statements. Albert Ellis, my teacher and mentor and guide, taught that “Conditional Self-Acceptance” (CSA) is when we feel great about ourselves only on the condition that we attain our ambitions and personal goals. He believes that “Unconditional Self-Acceptance” (USA) results when we recognize and appreciate our unique qualities, our “best,” no matter what actions we do, or how successful our relationships are. This latter approach, “USA,” helps us avoid failing to live up to unrealistic “best” expectations, with all of the negative self-esteem that comes from that. Self-pity and power don’t co-exist. You cannot achieve victory by feeding your brain with negativity. You can give away your self-esteem, indulge your negative thoughts and turn the key to your best-self over to others. But why? Don’t give away your power.
According to a study by Chamberlain, David, and Haaga in 2001, “people with high unconditional self-acceptance (USA) were more objective when evaluating themselves and also less apt to denigrate those who negatively evaluated their performance.” It’s what Carol Dweck describes as a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. You believe you have unlimited growth potential, and see challenge and effort as something valuable to help you advance. Fixed mindset people see effort, challenge and the success of others as threatening to them, chances to prove their vulnerabilities and flaws.
The point is you are already on your own best list. You just need to see it, feel it and own it, regardless of whether you see you name on the “2015 Best of ____” list or not. You are already on the most important “Best of _____
William Shakespeare, whomever that really was, said, “The choices we make dictate the life we lead. To thine own self be true.” Perhaps that’s the best you can be—to be true to yourself.