Is “Do Your Best” good advice?

doyourbestI started reading the book “Succeed: How We Can Reach our Goals” by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., and found this pretty interesting:

“Women who imagined that the path to weight loss would be easy lost an average of 24 pounds less than those who imagined themselves having a hard time resisting temptation”.

Somehow KNOWING that the path to success is going to be filled with obstacles, improves your chances to succeed. However, if you know that the path will be filled with obstacles, yet do not think that you have what it takes to overcome them, Halvosron states that “. . . well, there’s no way to put this nicely: You are wrong. Effort, planning, persistence and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed.”

I couldn’t agree more. Success in any endeavor takes all of the above, and there is no doubt challenges will arise during the process.

No matter what you are working towards, whether it’s losing body fat, starting a business, or doing well in school, research shows that realizing that it’s not going to be a walk in the park goes a long way. Start to think about ways you will deal with the challenges you will face so that when they come up, you have your strategies in place.

What will you do when you are asked to go out for drinks after work when that means skipping your strength session? What will you do when the last thing in the world you want to do is study for an upcoming exam or meet a work deadline, but your friends invite you to go out?

Halvorson suggests writing down your goals. Making them difficult but possible is key, and not to “just do your best”…..

Wait, what?

I have to admit, I tell my coaching clients to “just do your best” all the time. But after reading this book, I can see how that although it’s a “nice” thing to say, it may not be all that motivating. It’s too vague. What is your best? Do we even know? It’s like we are letting ourselves off the hook for not reaching our goals. We make excuses. We were “just doing our best”….

Halvorson states that, “In the absence of a specific goal, do your best somewhat ironically tends to produce work that is far from the best— it’s a recipe for mediocrity”. In addition, “if your goal is too vague, it’s too tempting to take the easy way out when you’ve gotten tired, discouraged, or bored. But there’s just no fooling yourself if you’ve set a specific goal. You’ve either reached it or you haven’t. And if you haven’t, you’ve got little choice but to keep on trying if you want to succeed”.

Love this.

The more specific the goal is, the harder we will work to reach it. We will (unconsciously) have more focus, apply more effort and work at it longer and harder.

So, my challenge to you on this Monday morning, is to set those difficult goals and then write down the obstacles you see yourself facing as you work towards them. Visualizing the steps you need to take to reach your goals, instead of just focusing on the outcome, will not only result in better preparation, but will also boost your confidence to keep the ball rolling.

Get specific. Writing something like “I’m going to start eating better”, is a bit too broad. What does that mean? Instead, try something like “I will have a protein source at my 3 main meals, or I will have a serving of veggies at both lunch and dinner”. Setting specific goals holds a little more weight. You have a action steps in place, and you either do it or you don’t.

Don’t just do your best.

I’m not saying you need to strive for perfection (because we know there is no such thing), but reaching goals takes work, commitment and focus. I am a huge procrastinator. I can use every, and any excuse in the book to put off doing something without clear, specific steps to take or a specific goal to reach. It is what it is. I’ll probably never change, but I’ve realized (especially over this past year) that “doing my best” oftentimes is not good enough. I’m better off with someone telling me, “ok, you can’t do that?, then do this”. If someone told me “do 15 chin-ups”, I feel like I would work my ass off to get those chin-ups. But if someone just said “do your best with those chin-ups”, I might stop when I got fatigued and never tried for that specific number, you know?

On the other hand, I realize there are people out there who, whatever they do they do all-out, but like anything else, what works to motivate one person, may not work for the next.

I asked my husband his thoughts on this. He is a high school phys ed teacher and a high school football coach. He said that he doesn’t tell his players to do their best, he tells them to do their job. They know exactly what that entails. In his classes, if a student says that they can’t do something, he doesn’t say, “well just do your best”, he will say, “ok, then do this” and he will give them a specific task. But he also mentioned that it depends on the kid, and not all kids respond the same way.

It’s interesting, and definitely has me thinking that telling my coaching clients to just “do their best”, might be a disservice, at least to some. I realize everyone is different, and we all go about our goals differently, but I feel like it’s definitely worth listening to the research in this case.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Would you do better with clear, specific instructions, or just trying to do your best? Feel free to post your thoughts under the Facebook post.

Have a great week! Talk to you soon 🙂


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