This is the final- and possibly the most important rule yet. When you know you are doing your best, there is no room for questioning yourself and instead of feelings of guilt and shame, there’s a feeling of peace in the heart.
The teacher who teaches next to me is exemplary. She is a phenomenal teacher and is great even with our most difficult students and families. She advocates for us as a staff when she asks our principal tough and uncomfortable questions during professional development. She advocates for our families by attending the many committee meetings that she is involved in. She is someone who I always strive to be more like– truly a remarkable woman. Her teaching badassness is not even her best asset. She is also the mom of 3 (now adult) boys and a cancer survivor.
One day last year the gossip mill was running overtime at work. This teacher, Karen, was part of the drama. Her grade level team had our most difficult grade last year. Out of the 60 something kids in that grade level, many are not native English speakers, 14 have Individual Education Plans for reading, writing or math difficulties and probably around 15 who have attention difficulties or behavior problems. Her grade was at an end of the year data meeting where administration and teachers examine student growth. Last year, the students did not seem to be split equally. The male teacher seemed to get the best deal, with only one student who has an IEP and no major behavior problem students– while the other two teachers had several students with strong behavior needs as well as several students with intense learning needs. Incidentally, the male teacher had the best growth of the three teachers.
An argument over student growth occurred during that meeting. I wasn’t there, so I only heard the information secondhand. But, as my closest work pals and I talked about the audacity our principal had, as he basically shamed the 2 teachers with less growth we wondered why Karen continues to take on way more roles than is expected. Even though my principal can be a bit of a snake, Karen will always step up to help. It hit me later that night, Karen lives her life “Always doing her best.” I’m sure that’s it– after all, she is the one who recommended The Four Agreements in the first place.
Your best will look different day to day.
When you do your best, you don’t give the judge the opportunity to find you guilty or to blame you. If you have done your best and the Judge tries to judge you according to your Book of Law, you’ve got the answer: “I did my best.” There are no regrets. That is why we always do our best. It is not an easy agreement to keep, but this agreement is really going to set you free.
When you do your best you learn to accept yourself. But you have to be aware and learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes means you practice, look honestly at the results, and keep practicing. This increases your awareness.
Doing your bes really doesn’t feel like work because you enjoy whatever you are doing. You know you are doing your best when you are enjoy whatever you are doing. You know you’re doing your best when you are enjoying the action or doing itin a way that will not have negative repercussions for you. You do your best because you want to do it, not because you have to do it, not because you are trying to please the Judge, and not because you are trying to please other people.
If you take action because you have to, then there is no way you are going to do your best. Then it is better not to do it. No, you do your best because doing your best all the time makes you so happy. When you are doing your best just for the pleasure of doing it, you are taking action because you enjoy the action.
Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are is taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action. Without action upon an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward.
A good example comes from the story about Forrest Gump. he didn’t have great ideas, but he took action. He was happy because he always did his best at whatever he did. He was richly awarded without expecting any reward at all. Taking action is being alive. It’s taking the risk to go out and express your dream. This is different than imposing your dream on someone else, because everyone has the right to express his or her dream.
We’ve lived at our current house for almost 5 years now. Up until this summer, my home projects were stagnant. I’ve had the past 5 summers off, with minimal tasks getting accomplished. For years I couldn’t figure out what my problem is. I LOVE our house– I really do– after all a very significant epiphany urged me to talk my husband into buying it (it was his parents). Especially the outside, it is so peaceful and serene. Despite my love for our home, the beautiful gardens that his parents used to keep so pristine were constantly overflowing with weeds. Our serene pond was surrounded by a jungle, as was the front of our home. So the outside was a constant source of feelings of being overwhelmed.
(read about my ephiphany here: https://thedevildrinksvodka.com/2018/06/01/the-epiphany/)
The inside wasn’t much better– a typical year would include cleaning out only one to two closets, and that’s about it. I just couldn’t get the focus and motivation needed to get anything done. I would talk to my mother in law about keeping up the house and she had great suggestions. She was a teacher back in her day, so she lived at this very same house raising her family and catching up on home projects during summer vacation. She suggested just filling a small grocery bag a day with weeds and filling just one box per day of things to get rid of when unpacking the basement. That never worked for me, any project I did had to be done in its entirety (and as you can guess that never happened). Looking at my own parents made me even more confused. My dad is retired and keeps busy everyday. He is constantly doing work around his house to make it nicer. My mom is no longer here, but she was the home QUEEN. At any given time she was repainting a room or rearranging our furniture. The inside and outside of our house was immaculate. She was always busy cleaning walls or floors, raking, weeding, painting, etc. I always wondered what my problem is. Hubby would come home on Friday and spend the evening mowing, edging and other yard maintenance while I did the minimal on the inside. Minimal being making dinner and loading the dishwasher. I’m going to blame lack of both focus and motivation, and as you can guess being so idle did not make me feel fulfilled.
Here’s a newsflash, reader: If something is prohibiting you from accomplishing something in life, you may want to consider looking into it instead of passively accepting it. In other words, you’re broken and need to be fixed.
I was so broken and I so desperately wanted this summer to be different. I didn’t want to start drinking and I wanted to accomplish things. I didn’t expect to get a ton of motivation to work around the house but I at least thought that I could catch up on my spiritual readings and work the steps. After my sister went back to Florida and all our trips were done, I knew it was time to get to work, and I did.
Amazingly, as I cleaned out my negativity and intentionally filled up on love, loads of focus and motivation came to me. Suddenly all of these overwhelming projects were simplified into small and manageable tasks. It’s been just a couple weeks, but I redid the landscaping around our pond, cleaned up the front beds and cleaned up our patio area that has been filled with blow up pool toys, weeds and junk since last summer. After my PT appointment I’m going to go shop for some clearance furniture/decorations to spruce it up a bit. This is what I have in mind:
I’ve done more these past 3 weeks than I’ve done the past 5 years. Wanna know the best part? It hasn’t been stressful– or exhausting. It’s been phenomenal. I’ve found a strength and creativity that I didn’t know I even had. It’s been FUN, and so rewarding. Long gone are the feelings of being so overwhelmed- as nothing HAS to get done and everything really only is the sum of small tasks lumped together. I only attribute this positive change to getting my soul healthy– which largely includes living the by the rules of The Four Agreements.