Recently I was having a conversation with someone very close to me, while we each tapped away on our laptops, making progress with our respective business activities. She told me about a book she has been reading – I think it was a Brené Brown book, but I’ll not confirm, as I might just as easily be wrong! She had a big take-away from it that resonated with me too, and does more and more the longer I ponder the idea. Essentially, the concept she passed on was that everyone is doing their best with whatever they have at that moment in time. I’ll admit that it grated on me for a brief moment, but that grating was about me, not about what she had said. I guess it just took me a moment to get my head around the exact implications of this – and those implications become clearer to me as time goes on.
I was determined to get to the bottom of what it was that grated on me for a moment there. Again it rose from the mists with a little time. Of course, I was doing my very best to understand what was being said at the time, and I only had the information that I had. That said, for those few seconds where my mind grappled with this new information, it was clouded by two things: judgement and expectation. Mindfully, I became aware of my blockers and accepted the information. I began to place this information around individuals I had judged in the past, and around people of whom I have had expectations. Yes. Ok, he was terrible at his job by all accounts, but did he have the resources and motivation to be able to do it better? Hmmm… it really irks me that I have to ring him three times over the course of a month, just to get one brief call back – but that’s more about my expectations than anything else.
It’s a liberating concept. If we accept that everyone in our lives is doing their best with what they have, we can clear many of the worries and blockers to happiness in our lives. But why is this? Like I said before, I think that any non-acceptance of this idea is rooted in judgement and expectation. Each of these actions can lead to great stress in us as humans, because they cultivate negative thought patterns when our judgements are fed and expectations undernourished. And if we are to live lives that have a positive impact on others, we need to focus our time on becoming better and empowering ourselves, not on putting down others for their perceived failures.
Expectations are odd little (or big!) things. Don’t confuse them with boundaries though – I’ll discuss those in a future post. Think about it. An expectation is when you make a prediction around the outcome of a future event. Often we pin emotions on this outcome. It’s a bit of a gamble really, but unlike having a flutter with a few dollars on a horse race, we stand to lose much more. What if the person doesn’t come through? What if they’re simply unable to fulfil the expectation we have laid out before them, usually unbeknownst to them? Expectations set us up for a fall. Instead of expecting something of someone, why not try planning for a range of eventualities… or better yet, why not try focusing on the now? As the great Eckhart Tolle has said, “being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you.” If you concern yourself with the present moment, let go of expectations, your answers will arrive in good time. And if we remember that everyone is doing their best with what they have, expectations are much easier to release.
This brings us now to judgement. I think most people would acknowledge that judgement is something that they do at least from time to time, but that we don’t like being judged ourselves. So why do we do it to others? I don’t know the evolutionary psychology on this one, but I’m guessing there’s some kind of wiring that has developed in our brain to be able to quickly judge people and things as to their value or worth to us. But how can we do this if they’re doing their best? It seems a bit unfair to me. As you will have noted above, I’m far from immune to making judgements. In fact I only reached out to a friend yesterday to apologise for making such a mistake. I’m absolutely certain she had been doing her best the whole time. The judgement was my error.
I’m really grateful for the way that book snippet opened my eyes. Everyone really is doing their best. Everyone is in a different spot. Not everyone has the same support networks, or job satisfaction, or relationship stability. Not everyone has had the same educational opportunities, or time for self reflection, or close friendships. Just a little awareness around our thoughts can go a long way. And hopefully, if we remember this, we can remember that not only is everyone else doing their best, but so are we. I need to remind myself of that sometimes. And it’s a bloody good reminder!Finally I just want to send a little shout-out to the person I had that conversation with. Thank you. You inspire me. And I know you’re doing your best.