cover of The Four Agreements
 
Taking a Deeper Dive into The Four Agreements [Part 4]
 
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RSCP
 
Heart-Centered Career Transition & Job Search Coach 
 
This post is the fourth and final one in a series that I have been writing based on a leadership presentation I provided at a Toastmasters Conference a few months ago.
 
 
Last week's post was on the third agreement, "Don't make assumptions."
 
 
The week before, I wrote about the second agreement, "Don't take anything personally."
 
 
And the first post in the series was based on the first agreement, "Be impeccable with your word."
 
 
The title of the Toastmasters presentation was "The Four Agreements of Authentic Leadership." It is based on the principles outlined in the classic bestseller, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz.
 
 
When I was growing up, my Dad told my siblings and me that the only thing he ever expected of us was that no matter what we did, we would "do the best we could."
 
 
Thankfully, he didn't expect us to be the smartest kids in class. And he didn't expect us to win any talent pageants or beauty contests or to be all that athletic. Had that been his expectation, I am sad to say he would have been sorely disappointed.
 
 
He was ridiculously and unabashedly proud, however, of whatever we did. He was proud of the fact, for example, that I played the piano for our church in spite of not being very talented at it. He was proud of my brother the lone year he played JV football. He was exceedingly proud of my sister's artistic abilities and creativity. 
 
 
Regardless of whatever we undertook to do, he only expected that whatever it was, that we would give it our best shot.
 
 
I have been using the book, The Four Agreements, in this series as they relate to authentic leadership because I believe that are fundamental to effective leadership.
 
 
Today is the fourth in the series, and it covers the fourth agreement: "Always do your best." 
 
 
I think you agree that we expect our leaders to do their best when leading, and by the same token, leaders have a right to expect their followers to work at doing their best in whatever capacity they have.
 
 
 
always do your best signs
 
 
 
Don Miguel Ruiz offers the simple wisdom that you can only ever expect yourself to do the best you can. Expecting yourself to do better than your best is unrealistic! 
 
 
 
On the other hand, doing less than your best and making excuses for it is not acceptable, either. At least it isn't acceptable if you want to be behaving with full integrity.
 
 
 
Dr. Renny McLean of McLean Ministries has said, "Mediocrity is the enemy of excellence."
 
 
 
Yet how many of us do just what is required of us at work to get by instead of actually striving to do our very best every single moment of every single day?
 
 
 
How often do we accept mediocre service when we are in restaurants and stores?
 
 

How often do we settle for mediocre leadership these days?

 

 
We sometimes hold other people to higher standards than we hold ourselves.
 
 
 
You are indignant when you learn that someone has tried to skip out on an important responsibility.
 
 
But you might do just what is required and no more for a big project at your job.
 
 
You tell yourself you didn't have all the time you needed to do your best. Or, maybe you tell yourself you weren't given the resources that you needed.
 
 
Maybe you convince yourself that your boss wouldn't appreciate your efforts anyway, so why bother?
 
 
None of these excuses are acceptable, however, if you are committed to always doing your best.
 

Consider what you must do if you want to hold yourself to the high standard of authentic leadership in your day-to-day life.

 
Don Miguel Ruiz says, "If you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation. Practice makes the master."
 
 
Consider this, too. Doing your best today may not be the same as your best was 10 or 20 years ago.
 
 
Heck, it may not even be the same that it would have been yesterday.
 
 
And your best today may not be the same as what your best will be in another year or five years or 10 years.
 

Our capacity to do better is always changing because we are ever-changing, learning, and growing.

 
Maya Angelou said, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
 
Quote by Maya Angelou
 
This illustrates the point of the fourth agreement perfectly. You should strive to do the best you can every day.
 
 
As you learn, grow, and change, the best you can do tomorrow may be better than it was today.
 
 
Or it may not be. Maybe you were up all night with a sick child. Or perhaps you are sick, yourself. Your best on a day when you are sick is different from you best when you are in tip-top condition.
 

Your best may be relative to what else is going on in your life.

 
And the only person who is in a position of knowing what your best is is YOU!!!!
 
 
 
No one else is in a position to judge that.
 
 
Your boss may be pleased as punch with how you performed on your last project. But if you know in your heart that you could have done more or you could have done something better, then you know you didn't do your best.
 
 
And it is up to you to make the change within yourself that will allow you to do your best on the next project.
 
 
I am not speaking in terms of any sort of competition here, either. I am not suggesting that you have to be the "best" at anything. You don't have to beat anyone else at anything to be the best you can be. This particular rubric is one only you hold.
 

Only you can know in your heart when you have done your best work or made your best effort at something.

 

When my marriage was coming to an end during another phase of my life, I relied on some advice I had heard Dr. Phil (Phil McGraw) offer on one of his television shows. In one of his marriage counseling episodes, he said something that stuck with me.
 
 
 
Loosely paraphrased, what he said was something along these lines. If you can leave your marriage with a clear conscience, believing that you did the best you could to make it work, don't beat yourself up over it not working.
 
 
I wasn't perfect, and I surely wasn't blameless when it came to my failed relationship with my ex-husband. But when I left, I didn't leave wondering what else I might have done to make the marriage work.
 
 
I need not go into the details here. 
 
 
What I knew at the time, however, was that I had given making my marriage work my best effort. I left with a clear conscience. I knew I had done my best in spite of it not working out the way I might have liked.
 
 
 
Of the four agreements, I generally find this one, "Always do your best"  the easiest to keep regularly.
 
 
I don't know if it is because of my father's early admonitions or from being the oldest child. I haven't spent much time thinking about that.
 
 
But I do know that I consistently strive to do my best in the different areas of my life.
 
 
So, consider, have you always done the best you could in every area of your life?
 
 
If the answer is no, don't beat yourself up over it! When you know better, you do better, to loosely paraphrase Maya Angelou.
 
 
We are all works in progress. None of us are perfect, and not one of us will ever do anything perfectly all the time. To hold yourself to that standard is a recipe for unhappiness, for sure.
 
 
But the thing is to strive for excellence. Work at being the person you want to be including developing yourself into the kind of leader you aspire to be. Learn, grow, change, and become. That is the journey we are all experiencing.
 
 
 
How to give your best
 
 

To recap, The Four Agreements are:

  • Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  • Don't Take Anything Personally.
  • Don't Make Assumptions.
  • Always Do Your Best. 
 
Just FYI, Don Miguel did later come up with a 5th agreement which is "Be skeptical, but learn to listen." But it came in a later book and wasn't included in The Four Agreements so that I will leave it at that for now.
 
 
 
Until next time.
 
P. S.
 

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Kitty Boitnott
Boitnott Coaching, LLC

Glen Allen, VA 23060
United States of America