• David Strittmatter

How to give your best to your life

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine


Summary:

  • Giving our best is about putting all our energy into whatever life situation we're currently experiencing

  • Whether it's time, money, or energy, I want to make the most out of these scarce resources

  • Giving our best implies being fully present, continuously challenging the status quo, and not stopping when things become uncomfortable


Practical advice:

  • Telling ourselves that we want to give our best is the first step

  • Second, we need to think about what the ideal result would look like

  • Third, we need to regularly reflect on our performance and how we can further improve


Dear friend,


This week was training week, i.e. together with my peers, I worked through multiple case studies to advance my consulting tool kit.


While I really enjoyed developing my skills and expanding my network within the firm, I had a hard time giving my best: Not only the remote setting offers plenty of distractions but also I've already had multiple similar trainings at the consultancy I worked before my current employer.


Giving my best, though, is one of my most important values. I'm always striving to give my best. Hence, despite the difficulties, I had to find ways to make the most out of this training, e.g. minimizing distractions (put my smartphone off) or finding ways to be more challenged (always try to think of something I didn't know and ask for it).


But why do I always want to give my best, how does that actually looks like, and how can we give our best more often? This is what today's article is about.


What does giving our best look like


Doing our best is not about meeting expectations or achievements. It isn’t about success or failure - whatever these words even imply. It's about putting all our energy into whatever life situation we're currently experiencing. It's synonymous with living out each and every moment to its fullest potential.


For me, that implies 3 things:


First, I'm fully present: If I'm in a working meeting, I constantly ask myself how I can contribute best. If I'm at a party, I don't go on social media. If I'm in online training, I remove distractions. If I'm in a lecture, I'm fully concentrated, contribute, and ask questions. If I'm with my girlfriend, I dedicate my full attention to her. ...


Second, I continuously challenge the status quo by striving for continuous improvement. Every day, I ask myself what I can do better the next time, aiming for marginal gains.

Third, I don't stop when things become uncomfortable.


Now, giving our best doesn't mean getting the best results. Sometimes, we'll feel tired. Sometimes, we'll be sick. Giving our best means doing the best we can in a given situation under the given circumstances.


Why always give your best


"Can't you just relax sometime?" - For years, people I got to know have asked me this question. And indeed, if I'm alone for myself at home on a Sunday evening, I cannot simply do nothing and relax. Also, if I attend a seminar, go to a conference, join a party, cook with my girlfriend, etc., I cannot just let the event pass me by. The same goes for most other life occurrences. "Just relaxing" is not an option.


But why?


Put simply, I always strive to commit wholeheartedly to every second of life. Whether it's time, money, or energy, I want to make the most out of these scarce resources.


I'm afraid of regret. If I'm an old man, I want to tell myself that I had a great life. For years, I've been constantly rethinking what that actually means. To the present day, I've come to the same conclusion that I always need to give my best to achieve this status.


Moreover, it's actually more fun if I'm (more) challenged. For instance, the training I completed this week was more enjoyable because I forced myself to be present and not just relax.


How we can give our best more often


If we want to strive for optimal performance in any area of our lives, we need to wholeheartedly commit to this effort. Telling ourselves that we want to give our best is the first step. For instance, if we want to be better in university, we can tell ourselves that we want to make the most out of each lecture.


Second, we need to think about what the ideal result would look like. In the case of the university lectures, we might want 3 things: (1) Not get distracted by fellow students or other distractions (2) Not be afraid to ask a question if we didn't understand something (3) Not stop thinking if the content of the lecture seems to complicated. Ideally, we aim for a result that is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound).


In my case, I do 2 things to ensure I'm always giving my best: First, I contemplate the 3 most important goals of the next day before I go to sleep and ask myself what I can do a little better the next day. Second, every morning, I write down each task of the day and prioritize them.


For instance, yesterday night, I wrote down the 3 following goals: (1) Write a great blog article (2) Get the most out of the chest workout (3) Have a great time with my girlfriend in the evening.


Third, we need to regularly reflect on our performance and how we can further improve. On the one hand, we need to fine-tune our efforts: What are the things that yield the best results for a particular activity? On the other hand, we need to prioritize our efforts. If we commit ourselves to always give our best, we cannot simply spend all our energy on each and every task. By doing so, we would spend all the energy on the first tasks of a day and would have no energy left for the things we do in the evening. Unfortunately, our time, energy, and focus are limited. I cannot spend all my energy and focus on a running session in the morning to improve my running performance if I have to work intensively on the same day. Hence, we should regularly ask ourselves whether we prioritize properly, i.e. whether we spend our energy and time on the things that matter most.


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