Be Yourself... But Be Your Best Self

A hiker overlooks the sunset. Text "Not all classrooms have four walls" appears on the graphic.

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 all have smudges? Do we need to be reminded that we need to look at the world from different perspectives?

George Bernard Shaw described this so beautifully, “Keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” 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.”

Never be afraid to try something new, because life gets boring when you stay within the limits of what you already know.

An old Cherokee man 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.

Bruce Springsteen writes, “It’s a sad man my friend who’s living in his own skin and can’t stand the company.” You live most of your life inside of your head; make sure it’s a nice place to be. Oprah Winfrey adds, “There’s no paycheck that can equal the feeling of contentment that comes from being the person you were meant to be.”

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. There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world because you realize there’s so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on. You’ve never seen this version of you. 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?

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.”

Benjamin Hoff in The Tao of Pooh wrote,

How can you get very far?

If you don’t know who you are?

How can you do what you ought,

If you don’t know what you’ve got?

And if you don’t know which to do,

Of all the things in front of you,

It’s just a mess without a clue.

All the best that can come true

If you know What and Which and Who.

I’ve often heard of people who are off searching to find themselves. Where do you go to find yourself? I find myself in my sock drawer every morning and I’m not certain some days if I’ll find a matched pair. Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. Emily McDowell writes, “Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are.”

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. Whether you choose to act or not, the bad news is that time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.

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

Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

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. 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. Recently, I read 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.

"Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection."

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 special, seize the day (carpe diem), and live so honourably that you may reflect each evening: “Whatever came my way today, I did it to the best of my ability.” Sophia Bush adds: “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.

Master the day.

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.

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 lesson.

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.

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.

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.

Sally Field, in Forrest Gump said, “I happen to believe you make your own destiny. You have to do the best with what God gave you…Life is a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Let’s close this lesson with this simple credo for living: leave work at work, always tell the truth, ask for help when you need it, live with less, learn from others, learn the meaning of enough, return everything you borrow, think before you speak, prioritize, trust your instincts, pause when appropriate, 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.

Your energy introduces you before you even speak.

Michelangelo stated, “Your gifts lie in the place where your values, passions, and strengths meet. Discovering that place is the first step toward sculpting your masterpiece - your life. We need to have a realistic perspective on the word strength. The strongest people are not always those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about. In October 2018, Actress Selma Blair revealed that in August of that year, she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She had thought for years that she was suffering from minor illnesses or even a pinched nerve, but the diagnosis finally explained her ongoing challenges, including her occasional falling, dropping things. foggy memory, and left her left side acting like it was asking for directions from a broken GPS. She writes, “But I am doing it, and I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely, but I will do my best.”

All that matters is if you can pass the ‘mirror test,’ at the end of each day. Simply look in the mirror and honestly tell the person you see there, that you’ve done your best. 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?

Food for Thought

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

Get into the habit of asking yourself, “Does this support the life I’m trying to create?”

Do you claim you want to grow and then run away the minute you feel growing pains?

Challenge yourself to do one thing that you have never done before.

Are you doing your very best in all that you do?

Choose one quote every day or perhaps one or two every week if you like. How do these quotes speak to you? What applications do you see in your life? Share your chosen quotes with a family member, a friend, a business colleague. Create a ‘quote of the day’ club at work.

Be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else.

- Judy Garland

I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.

- Maya Angelou

Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.

- John Maxwell

I have simply tried to do what seemed best each day, as each day came.

- Abraham Lincoln

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest compliment.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

You make the world a better place by making daily improvements to become the best version of yourself.

- Roy T. Bennett

I am a work in progress. I am reinventing myself.

- Lisa Nichols

It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.

- John Wooden

Remind yourself that you cannot fail at being yourself.

- Wayne Dyer

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.

- Abraham Maslow

You can’t control how other people see you or think of you. And you have to be comfortable with that.

- Helen Mirren

You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.

- Louise Hay

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.

- Kurt Cobain.

The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.

- H. Jackson Brown Jr.

If you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.

- Dr. Gregory House

The purpose of life after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Always be able to look back and say, at least I didn’t lead a humdrum life.

- Tom Hanks

A human being’s first responsibility is the shake hands with himself.

- Henry Winkler

There is no passion to be found playing small-in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

- Nelson Mandela

Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.

- Ann Landers

If you’re not comfortable with yourself, you can’t be comfortable with others.

- Sydney J. Harris

Over the piano was printed a notice. Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.

- Oscar Wilde

Every ceiling when reached becomes a floor upon which one walks and can now see a new ceiling. Every exit is an entry somewhere.

- Tom Stoppard

The mind that opens up to a new idea never returns to its original size.

- Albert Einstein

Next Lesson: Memory is the Thing I Forget

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