Do More

It’s Time To Re-Think The Idea Of “Being Your Best” Everyday

Diti Bhasin, MBA, Principal & Chief Strategy Officer

I think one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves in workplaces all over America is that it’s possible to be your absolute best every single day. Even worse, that you should be your best every single day.

I recently came across a quote that blew this notion out the water - and it resonated with me in a big way:

“You can want to be your best but you have to accept your best changes every day.”

I don’t know who said that. But it really does ring true!

First, I believe the relentless pressure many employees face to outperform themselves in the workplace every day is, to some extent, at the heart of the rising discontent we see around us (dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’).

Research is showing us that people are walking away for two main reasons: pay and a sense that they’re not valued, or worse disrespected.

What does that have to do with being your best? Everything.

When workers face relentless pressure to perform consistently at incredibly high levels every day, the result can be anxiety, leading to hopelessness and, eventually, the tough decision to walk away. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that employees don’t feel as though they have permission to be human at work. This leads to my next point…

Sometimes the pressure we feel externally is nothing compared to the pressures we put on ourselves.

That’s why that quote hit home for me: being my best is a no-exception, hard-and-fast standard that I believed for the longest time, that I had to live up to.

Perhaps, part of it comes from being a woman, and part of it comes from having ADHD, maybe it’s because I’m a person of color. All of those identities come, it seems sometimes, with an in-built obsession with overachievement. It’s almost an overcompensation like you have to prove yourself in certain spaces our ancestors were not allowed to be in before.

Recently I reached a major milestone: completing my MBA. It’s an achievement I’m proud of and profoundly grateful for the many people who helped me along the way. I won’t lie: some (read: a lot) of that journey was a struggle. Couple that with working full-time and you can only imagine the number of deadlines I was juggling.

There would be a day when I needed to write something to meet a due date, and I would find myself sitting in front of my laptop, unable to conjure up the words or thoughts I needed. Even though I know that putting that kind of pressure on myself is never helpful, time and again I would find myself trying to force it anyway.

What else could I have done? Plenty of things. Walked away. Taken a breather. Revisited the task with a fresh mind. But, I didn’t. I forced myself to sit there, tormenting myself. Because of the own pressure, I had placed on myself. Yes, the work needed to be done - but I could have allowed myself some grace.

And this is something that we confront in workplaces all the time.

Showing Up Daily

We’re stuck in that 40-hour, 9-5 workweek, where productivity is pinned to a clock. It’s a model that doesn’t account for the fact that not everyone performs optimally and identically on the same schedule. I know I don’t.

Fortunately, this mindset is changing. With remote working being more widely adopted, hours at many workplaces have become more flexible. Provided overall deadlines are met, employers are starting to realize that it doesn’t matter whether work is being done at 8 am or 2 am.

But the flexibility and compassion on the part of employers have to be met with the same on the part of employees. Compassion for themselves.

If you’re constantly beating yourself up because you can’t be your best every single day, it’s time to break the pattern:

1. Silent that nagging inner voice

The cruel inner voice that insists you never stop isn’t the driving force you think it is. It’s just the opposite. Forcing yourself to push through pain can ultimately cost you more in the long run that simply walking away to take a breather. What drives you is a sense of purpose, a need to express your talents, or simply a desire to put food on the table.

2. Be kind to yourself

Accept that you can’t do everything all the time. It’s simply not possible.

3. Get comfortable asking for help

This is often the hardest thing to do for an overachiever. Having a conversation about when you’re able to perform your best is a win-win situation for you and your employer. You don’t burn out, and they get the results they’re after.

And remember, your brilliance is not tied to your productivity.