Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Fourth Agreement

#1- Speak with integrity
#2- Don’t take anything personally
#3- Don’t make assumptions ….

….and now….

Agreement 4
“Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”- Don Miguel Ruiz

I think Agreement 4 is the toughest one to live out consistently. We will all slip and stumble with the other three agreements, but with a reasonable level of commitment we can honor those agreements 80-90% of the time. I’m not so sure I can say that about Agreement 4. Most of us don’t do our best very often, let alone most of the time. We live in a world where “doing” enough to get by or “doing” enough to keep up or stay one step ahead of the competition is good enough. But I don’t encounter many people doing their best and I must confess that I do NOT always do my best. It seems to me that “Best” is the exception.

Why don’t we always do our best? I think there are two main reasons:
I’ve already alluded to the first reason. Sometimes less than our best is good enough.
It’s just a fact of life. You don’t always need your “A” game in order to win. Often your “best” is not expected or appreciated. How many of us accept and have even come to expect lousy service from “low cost” providers? You get what you pay for, right? And we tend to feel the same way when dealing with others. Do unto others as they are likely to do unto you.

The second reason why we don’t always do our best is that sometimes even our best is not good enough. Agreement 4 says that by giving your best “you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.” Maybe so, maybe not. How many of us have given our best and had it shoved up our ass? Everyone put your hands down. We’ve all been there. But I’ve come to the conclusion that this is no reason not to give your best. If you think about it, losing or failing or getting it shoved up your keester is no fun under any circumstances. But when it happens and you’ve not given it your best effort, you will always feel worse. Doing your best does not guarantee success. But doing less than your best always increases the odds of failure.

So how does this relate to your career? I’ll put it into perspective this way. When we talk to candidate references, we always ask “comparison” questions that focus on performance. The BEST candidates always do more. They exceed expectations, they give 100% (in this context, there’s no such thing as 110%) and they stand out in the eyes of their boss, their peers and their customers. It is competitive out there. The world is keeping score. YOUR BEST may not always be required or expected. YOUR BEST may not always win the race. But YOUR BEST will always beat less than your best which, in the end, is THE BEST you can expect.

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