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January 5, 2021

Did I Do My Best To...

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I learned a lesson in 8th grade that really stood out to me, and 13 years later it’s something I think about often because it left a strong impression on me.

My math teacher, Mr. Smith, had us do a really interesting and reflective exercise. At the beginning of the semester he asked us to set intentions about how we were going to show up to class. But the nuance here is he encouraged us to think in a realistic way so that we could actually deliver on the intention. Instead of saying “I will give 100% in class everyday”, he suggested we say “I will give everything I have on any given day”, helping us acknowledge that things aren’t always going to be perfect and we need to plan around that.

Typically in goal setting I focus on stark objectivity, but this idea introduces a necessary subjectivity. Each action you take exists within the context of the day, and many things beyond your control. It’s hard to be enthusiastic and excitable when a loved one passes away, or you hear other bad news, or you didn’t get enough sleep for some reason. And that’s going to happen, so introducing some subjectivity gives you the leeway you need to handle a variety of different situations. 

Marshall Goldsmith, a world leading executive coach,  does this perfectly. He asks people to establish a number of priorities, and then everyday evaluate their performance toward that priority by asking themselves “Did I do my best to…”. In this way, you make it about the effort, not the outcome, which is always in your control. 

With this in mind, I recently adjusted my goal setting and tracking to be more compliant with this. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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