Be Yourself... But Be Your Best Self

October 19, 2018

The formula of happiness is just, being actually yourself,

in the most vivid way you can.

Meryl Streep 


A man and his wife on a long trip pulled off the road into a full-service gas station. After the station attendant had washed the car’s windshield, the man in the car shouted to the station attendant, “It’s still dirty. Wash it again.” So the attendant complied. After he had finished washing it again and started to hand the man his receipt, the man in the car angrily said, “It’s still dirty. Don’t you know how to wash a windshield?” Just then, the man’s wife reached over, removed her husband’s glasses from his face, and cleaned them with a tissue. She then placed them back on her husband and behold- the windshield was clean.


I wonder if that gentleman realized how much those small smudges had been affecting his ability to see clearly. Truly a great metaphor for life. Are we seeing things a clearly as we can? Do we need to be reminded that we need to look at the world from different perspectives? Our view of the world is reflected in how we engage with other people and even in how we see ourselves. By being aware of our blind spots and being diligent about wiping away the things that distort our vision, we can see those around us with a fresh pair of eyes- or in this case-glasses. It reminds us that everyone comes with their own vulnerabilities, burdens and unique history. Dr. Seuss writes: “You will miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”


An old Cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love. hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”


The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather. Which wolf wins?”


The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.” It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to, has power over you, if you allow it.


By being aware of our blind spots and being diligent about wiping away the things that distort our vision, we can see those around us with a fresh pair of eyes.


John Maxwell, in his book Today Matters, tells of the Tartar tribes of Central Asia who spoke a certain curse against an enemy. They didn’t hurl words calling for their enemy’s swords to rust or for their people to die of disease. Instead, they said, “May you stay in one place forever.” If you don’t try to improve yourself every day, that could be your fate. Never be afraid to try something new, because life gets boring when you stay within the limits of what you already know. Brian Tracy adds: “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Comfort is the enemy of achievement.


Your life is made of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? Where does one go to find themselves? I find myself in my sock drawer every morning and I’m not certain somedays if I’ll find a matched pair. Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.


Sydney J. Harris writes: “Ninety percent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.”


The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is you own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on or blame.  The gift is yours. It is an amazing journey and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.


The clock is ticking. Are you satisfied with your life? If so, maybe this blog isn’t for you. Whether you choose to act or not, the bad news is that time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.


Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.


Take this challenge: I’m going to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.


Be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, quirky, weird, beautiful and magical person that you are. Be yourself. Because an original is worth much more than a copy. But…be your Best Self!


A sign posted at the Indian Hills Community Center states: “Stupidity knows no boundaries but it knows a lot of people. I’m not so sure about my inner child, but I have an inner idiot that surfaces every now and then. This is not negative thinking but a reality and a frailty of being human. Sometimes I shock myself with the smart stuff I say and do. Other times, I try to get out of the car with my seat belt on or I look for my phone while I’m talking on it. Being an adult is like folding a fitted sheet. No one really knows how. We are not perfect human beings, nor do we have to pretend to be, but it is necessary for us to be the best version of ourselves we can be. I’m proud of the old me but I’m constantly working to becoming a better version of myself. Do things 1% better than you did yesterday. Do the best you can, and never forget you don’t have to be perfect. Just move forward. Inch by inch. Step by step. Hour by hour. Day by day. Be content but never stop improving yourself. Mark Twain writes: “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” You are under no obligation to be the same person you were a year ago, month, or even 15 minutes ago. You have the right to grow, no apologies.


I read recently about a gentleman who when introduced and asked, “What do you do?” responded with, “I always do the best I can.” I’m pretty certain that would raise a few eyebrows. I read also about an athlete, who decided this year, to bring the best version of himself to the hockey arena. Who was he before? A lesser version of self? And why only on the ice? What if we were to bring our best self, our best version of ourselves to all facets of our life. Some days, doing “the best we can” may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect-on any front-and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else. And remember, doing your best does not mean working yourself to the point of mental breakdown. Arthur Ashe writes: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” 


You can’t do anything about yesterday.
You can do nothing about tomorrow.


John Wooden was a legendary American basketball coach, and a member of The Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. He is famous for this quote: “Make each day your masterpiece.” He wrote: “When I was teaching basketball, I urged my players to try their hardest to improve on that every day, to make each practice a masterpiece. Too often we get distracted by what is outside our control. You can’t do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away. You can do nothing about tomorrow. It is yet to come. However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today. So make today a masterpiece. This rule is even more important in life than in basketball. You have to apply yourself each day to become a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better. Only then will you be able to approach being the best you can be.”


You’re not going to master the rest of your life in one day. Just relax. Master the day. Then just keep doing that every day. This is an active practice; no masterpiece is ever created by a lazy artist. Make each day your masterpiece and live so honorably that you may reflect each evening: “Whatever came my way today, I did it to the best of my ability.”


Sophia Bush writes: “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.”


Strive for progress, not perfection. It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to do something that you wish you hadn’t done, because if we don’t do those things, we never grow. It’s okay to do what’s best for you. It’s okay to be yourself. You don’t have to be perfect, all you have to do is show up and enjoy the messy, and sometimes imperfect journey of life.


The following paragraphs are quite extensive in their content. They really should be read slowly, even studied one item at a time for you to recognize how these elements may occasionally manifest themselves in your life.


Every morning we get a chance to be different.


Let’s look at the things you do have control over: your beliefs, your attitude, your thoughts, your perspective, your energy, your self-discipline, how honest you are, who your friends are, what books you read, how many risks you take, how kind you are to others, how you interpret situations, how kind you are to yourself, whether or not you ask for help, the amount of effort you put forth, how much time you spend worrying, how often you think about your past, whether or not you judge people, whether or not you try again after a setback, how much you appreciate the things you have and how often you practice gratitude.


In the book, The World According to Mister Rogers, the author talks about the challenges of self-discipline. “I like to swim, but there are some days I just don’t feel like doing it - but I do it anyway! I know it’s good for me and I promised myself  I’d do it every day, and I like to keep my promises. That’s one of my disciplines. And it’s a good feeling after you’ve tried and done something well. I’ve kept at this and really learned it, not by magic, but by my own work.”


You will not always be motivated so you must learn to be disciplined. The art of self-discipline is the key factor in conquering procrastination, which will be addressed in a future blog.


To be your best self, you must be mentally strong. Be careful to avoid the following: excessive dwelling on the past, expecting immediate results, comparing yourself with others, worrying about pleasing everyone, wasting time feeling sorry for yourself, wasting energy on things you can’t control, resenting other people’s success, shying away from responsibilities, fearing calculated risks, and giving up after the first failure.


You can’t have a different past. Your past is your past and you can’t change that. Every morning we get a chance to be different. A chance to change. A chance to be better. The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence. The best thing about your past is that it shows you what not to bring into your future.


Comparison is the thief of joy. The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. You are in competition with no one. You are simply trying to be better than the person you were yesterday.


Psychologist Abraham Maslow determined that optimal mental health has seven requirements: (1) Take responsibility for your own feelings, including your own happiness. (2) Give up the luxury of blaming others for your shortcomings, disappointments, and suffering. (3) Face the consequences, even when the things you attempt and the risks you take bring about the worst possible results. (4) Seek to discover all the inner resources that are available to you. Even though self-discovery is at times painful and demanding. (5) Act on your own feelings, rather than on the approval of others, even if this means conflict at times with those who are important to you. (6) Take responsibility for letting go of your own negativity, including letting yourself and other people off the hook. (7) Have compassion and empathy for others, recognizing that having compassion is a very healing process.


To be your best self you must give up the following: Excuses, self-doubt, fear of failure, procrastination, people pleasing, your need to be always right, your need for control, blaming others, complaining, holding grudges, negative thinking, self-defeating self-talk, judgment of others, resisting change, living in the past and negative people in your circle.


Always remember, thoughts have energy. Charles F. Glassman recommends: “The Elimination Diet: remove anger, regret, resentment, guilt, blame and worry. Then watch your health and life improve.” Make sure your thoughts are positive. Your energy introduces you before you even speak.


The way you speak to yourself matters; don’t be a victim of negative self-talk. Never speak badly about yourself. Remember, you are listening. Of all the people on the planet, you talk to yourself more than anyone. Make sure you are saying the right things. Louise Hay writes: “I say “OUT” to every negative thought that comes to my mind. No person, place or thing has any power over me, for I am the only thinker in my mind. I create my own reality and everyone in it.” You are confined only by the walls you build yourself. Sometimes you have to tell the negative committee that meets in your head to just sit down and shut up.


At a circus, as a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped. Confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could at any time, break away from their bonds but for some reason they did not. He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” the trainer said “when they were very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free. The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were. Like the elephants, how many of us go through life never reaching our full potential, thinking we are limited in what we are able to do.


Finally, five other things you must give up to move forward:  being indecisive about what you want, choosing to do nothing, running from problems that should be fixed, overlooking the positive points in your life, and not appreciating the present moment.


Things you don’t need to apologize for: loving someone, saying no, following your dreams, taking ‘me’ time, your priorities, ending a toxic relationship, your imperfections, standing your ground, delay in your response, telling the truth.


These last few paragraphs set up a solid foundation for future blogs to come.


Let’s close this blog with this simple credo for living: leave work at work, always tell the truth, ask for help, stop doing things you don’t want to do, live with less, learn from others, don’t try to win all the time, learn the meaning of enough, return everything you borrow, think before you speak, prioritize, trust your instincts, appreciate what you have, don’t be afraid to say no, don’t be afraid to say yes, admit it when you make a mistake, learn by mistakes, practice random acts of kindness, listen more; talk less, apologize when warranted, strive for excellence not perfection, be on time, take time to be alone, don’t sweat the small stuff and live in the present.


We will be addressing the bulk of these suggestions in future blogs.


Now, perhaps the most important learning to being your best self:


Your Mission

(should you decide to accept it)


The first thing every morning, even before you get out of bed, make it a habit to do a gratitude exercise. What are 3 things that you are thankful for?


End each day with a reflection exercise. Ask specific questions such as: What went well today? What didn’t? Lessons learned for the future? Did I bring joy to others today? Did I make a difference in someone’s life? The questions can be a personal choice.


While it is not essential to write things down, I would recommend it highly. Some people have described this reflection as having ‘me’ time and by putting a kind of closure on their day, they tend to sleep more peacefully.


Previous month: Be A Person of Strong Character

Next month:  De-Cluttering Your Life


Do something each day this month that your future self will thank you for.


Go an entire day without criticizing someone.


Sometime this month, do one thing that you have never done before.


Read this month’s quotes. Really focus on them. Share them with colleagues at work. Have a quote of the day discussion.






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