You’re doing the best you can! (Day 26)

“I’m doing the best I can; but I can still improve” is a maxim that has been tremendously helpful for managing guilt, regret, shame, self-anger, and a variety of other emotions related to “sub-optimal” performances or decisions.

Guilt and shame are useful: they tell us we *feel* we have “done something wrong” or *feel* we “are a bad person”. Regret tells us we feel like we don’t like the outcome of an action or decision.

Feel is the operative word in all of these: feeling one is a bad person doesn’t make one a bad person, any more than feeling like the prettiest princess makes me the prettiest princess.

However, these feelings frequently overwhelm us, and this tends to hinder our ability to make good decisions and continue to perform well. This is not ideal: I don’t slash my car’s tires when it won’t start. It won’t get the car started, it certainly won’t help get me to work on time, and I’m gonna be even more angry at myself when I have to buy new tires on top of the new battery.

So whenever I’m regretting a decision, angry at an outcome, or ashamed of an action I took, I start from the place of “I did the best I could.” This immediately softens the edge of those emotions, and helps me think more clearly.

Even more importantly: beating myself up over the screw-up almost never helped me remedy the problem in the future. Too focused on and overwhelmed by guilt/anger/shame, its hard to gently nudge myself into “how do I do this better next time”.

Usually, there’s decent reasons why I locked myself out of the house: I was sick, I hadn’t gotten enough sleep, I’d left too many tasks for the morning and was rushed. Being pissed at myself for leaving my keys “somewhere stupid again and again” didn’t provide me effective motivation to solve the reasons why I was locking them in the house. But loving myself just a little bit in that angry moment made it far easier for me to try to go to bed earlier (doesn’t work for me at all, but not a bad idea generally!), and to do a few more things a night before, to come up with good habits (keys always immediately in pocket when not in use, never on car seat or desk).

I’m insanely passionate about improving at pretty much everything I do (which includes “chilling” and just doing nothing and enjoying the moment, as paradoxical as that seems). And I worry a ton about not “trying as hard as I can” when I “let myself off the hook easy”, but holy crap a bit of self-love is so much more effective than holding onto my anger and guilt at *actually* improving outcomes.

I can’t guarantee this will work for you; and while quite simple it certainly is not *easy* or quick. But I highly suggest you try this the next time you do something “wrong”, it truly has made a massive positive impact on my life, both on being happier as well as getting better at things.

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