Excellent observations. A related thing that I find difficult is determining what constitutes "best" effort. If you don't push yourself to collapse and beyond, have you really given it your best? I wish I'd established baselines for "perfectly reasonable, honest, good try" efforts and "best that time and circumstances allow, let's move on" efforts, and "this should not be a case of driving yourself to exhaustion, we can stop now" efforts when I was younger. (Why is it so often difficult to recognize the point of diminished returns?)
I think maybe because you have to make the decisions about diminished returns just when you're getting tired and losing perspective?
I love cooking. But my least favorite thing about cooking is that you often have to do it when you're hungry, and that's the very worst time for cooking.
Hey. I have just figured out one of the things I love about baking. Cool.
I wish I'd established baselines for "perfectly reasonable, honest, good try" efforts and "best that time and circumstances allow, let's move on" efforts, and "this should not be a case of driving yourself to exhaustion, we can stop now" efforts when I was younger.
Yesssss to this (as well as to Mris's post!), and also a tangent: I see so much frustration and disappointment from folks who are getting "reasonable honest effort" results in return for the "reasonable honest effort" they're putting in...but are so committed to the idea of always doing their best that they can't or won't see anything more (or even just anything different) that they could be doing.
And maybe there indeed isn't anything, or maybe there is but it isn't feasible or desirable for all sorts of good reasons, in which case: as you say.
Yes--unfortunately if this plays out wrong, one of the casualties can be internal honesty. I am really glad that no one has leapt in to reassure me that the dinner I made Tuesday night really does somehow count as doing my best--because it doesn't, and it's okay
that it doesn't. It's very much a reasonable honest effort results for reasonable honest effort situation. And it's useful that I keep that in mind.
When the Year of Sick kicked off all this vertigo fun, one of the things I had to learn was that it was okay for me to not put effort into dinner we were serving for people, especially if it meant that I could do nothing else that day. Having markgritter
order and pick up pizza for the godkids and then eating ice cream timprov
had gotten from the store did not have to represent putting my best foot forward. It was okay if my best foot was curled up under me on the couch and I had energy to do other things that week.
Yes yes yes!
Thank you for the original post, but all the comments in this threadchime for me.
Amen, heartily seconded, THIS, huzzah.
Yes that thing. I think that is the most valuable thing I took away from my last job, was learning how not to care, when caring is not helpful.
Words to leave by, even.
Set your priorities. Pick your battles. Know your limits. </p>
Because knowing whether it's worth dying on a particular rock is a matter of great importance. Some rocks just aren't worth it.
Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself overwise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Ecc. 7:16. Please forgive me for quoting another Bible proverb, but your thoughts are an astute exposition of its meaning, and very wise.
I never get offended by people quoting the Bible (or other texts, when it comes to that). I get offended by people misquoting the Bible or trying to use it is a blunt weapon counter to its purpose, but your quotes are so very not that.
Another quotation your entry brought to mind was by famous computer programmer on optimizing code: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can put off forever.”
One of my prouder moments of college was during junior year when several hours' work on a Spanish paper disappeared when I tried to save it the final time. I emailed the professor and said, "Hi there, the computer ate my paper. It's 5pm and I have a Physio test tomorrow as well as turning in your final paper, so that's not going to happen. Could I have an hour after class to work on this? Because while I could technically get the work back, I have other things on my list tonight."
I hope your professor said "sure." Because that is a very sane and adult way of handling the problem, and deserved to be treated as such.
Though, I've noticed that children running out of effort (at least before bedtime, and often for a significant period after) is rarely a significant difficulty.
And now to wave my geek flag: perhaps we should use the "do your best" metric for overall effort and outcome, as opposed to any one specific event.
Of course this would imply certain critical specific events, but others must be sacrificed or reduced for the greater cause.
Right, and while it's true that some things are a great deal more important than others, I think a lot of adults don't want to trust kids to pick which is which.
Which is foolish; kids are not dumb, and they learn from experience, and when it's their effort, they're going to have to make that choice somehow. Providing assistance and guidance is better than making general rules that don't work very well.
I'm going to have to disagree. Many times have I spotted a kid who is still able to do stuff but has lost focus and ability to cope with new variables.
When my godson was a toddler, and then when his sister my goddaughter was, they would pull the trick of walking in circles in my library to keep themselves awake so they wouldn't miss anything. Cuddling one of their parents or godparents might lead to sleep! Do not want! But they basically had the available effort to put one foot in front of another and that was it. If I'd tried to talk to them about magnets or asked them to color a picture, they would have burst into tears. Completely out of effort.
Edited at 2013-08-22 11:34 am (UTC)
When I was a teacher, and when I could, I would tell my students just this sort of message. Seriously, if someone's acing my class, and struggling in Calc, or needing to go to work to pay for school, or such, I would even encourage that person to skip my class.
That would leave me the students who needed my help, which meant they could get more of my help, and it would enable students to think for themselves about what the best ways to spend their time would be, which is a vital skill.
Then my administration got wind of what I was doing, and, well, I got talked to. Policies even were re-written. Attendance was required, and the college took another step towards being just more of the worst of high school.
Hard work can be useful, but it's often not. Smart work is good. There's a difference, and we should teach it.
Good on you for teaching sense.
I know in the UK we would do a lot better trusting our teachers about judgements like these, sounds like you have exactly the same problems in the US.
Edited at 2013-08-22 02:06 pm (UTC)
My university students were always shocked when I acknowledged that optimising is a valid choice. They would apologize to me for not doing something of mine completely or putting more effort into it, and I would explain that I don't take it personally and they don't need to apologise, and I would also affirm their totally appropriate decision to optimise - meaning make good decisions overall about what to spend the time and energy on and when to stop.
The other thing I've experienced and seen about why "do your best" isn't helpful is that people who have internalised that motto sometimes find it hard to accept, in themselves and others, that people are doing what they can at that particular time. I'm thinking of in sports, where I don't think it's a useful thing to say to children - it sounds like the adult coach/fan is suggesting that the kid isn't doing his or her best right now, but they probably don't know what else is on the kid's mind, how the kid is feeling, etc, and the kid is probably doing what he or she is capable of right now.
Very yes. Prioritizing effort has been essential to my adult life with disabilities, dear God. I know some people who just can't seem to help trying to throw themselves at anything and everything 110%, burnout and frustration be damned, and I find just watching that exhausting.
Edited at 2013-08-22 04:36 pm (UTC)
My family has several variants on "better is the enemy of good enough." These were particularly relevant to my father's habit of massively overbuilding woodworking projects.
I think that much (a lot? most?) of the time, what a person actually does is their best. It may not be the best they could have done on another day, in a different place, or under other circumstances, but when all aspects of life are taken into consideration, it was in fact the best they could do right then, right there, in that exact situation.
The other thing is that always doing your best keeps you from doing other things, and so,e of those things are worth doing. I had in mi pond my experiences of doing lots of sports badly, but it even fits your dinner example. With limited energy available, it's you'd done something fancy with the meat, you might not have managed to make the other things and have a balanced meal - and some of us like side dishes. (Actually anything fancy I can think of to do with andouille is inherently balanced, like jambalaya, but work with me here.)
Well, it's me, so it would have been more likely that I would have optimized the wax beans and made no main dish. But that doesn't negate the point.
I would humbly submit that one of the core problems of parenting in 21st century America is that it appears to be aimed at creating better adolescents (i.e. people with limited autonomy who are still basically in thrall to someone), not at creating better adults. In my experience, adulthood requires either 1) optimization; 2) underachievement; or 3) unhappiness. 2 and 3 don't sound that great to me.
(One example that drives me a little nuts is how parenting books suggest giving your child a feeling of agency. To which I say, "No, no, no! They don't need a *feeling* of agency - they need agency.")
I wish to surround my son with influences like yourself.
And good heavens, yes. My folks and I have talked about this before--about how I got more responsibility each year, so that when I did leave home, I had had practice with making actual decisions and generally taking care of myself, rather than having it all dumped on me.
(This process is, I think, part of what led me to be able to say, at 14, that we needed to speed up the timeline by a year. Because I could look logically at what was ahead at my particular high school and see that it was the wrong thing for me--and could lay it all out for my folks and convince them logically, and then have them as my best advocates for dealing with the rest of the world. I think if they had not been aimed at raising an adult rather than raising a child, I would not have been in the place where I could make that assessment and feel confident that it would be heard. And as I have said elsewhere, graduating from high school a year early was a really, really, really important and good decision for me, one that set me on the road for bunches of important and good decisions later on.)