I once had someone ask me “If you were the best in the world at what you did, what would you do differently?”
Before I go on, I’m just going to encourage you to do the same reflection.
If you were the best in the world at what you did, what would you do differently?
This question struck me so hard because it inherently challenged so many things at once.
- Am I ever going to be the best at something?
- Do I think I’m worthy of being the best?
- How do I treat myself if my gifts are prized above everything else?
- Am I worthy of being treasured in that way only when I have “best of” status?
The point of the question was a quick and dirty way to see what drained me and took away from me being able to be at my best, whether or not it was the best. The question is meant to allow us to bypass the question of whether we are worthy of that title and rather just gets us to examine what gets in our way of fulfilling our greatest and highest purpose.
I had a sort of existential crisis while also thinking through how my day would be different. Simultaneously I was thinking “well, I wouldn’t cook so much” while also wrestling with a part saying “this is ridiculous, you’ll never not cook.” And another part saying “it’s a thought experiment, chill out” and another saying “no one is ever The Best Always so, that’s sort of reassuring.”
I know when I pose this question to some people, they immediately think about something they are good at that has nothing to do with their current work. It prompts a mini-epiphany about where their energy is going and how they’re living their life. The realize they’ve fallen into work that “does good” or “pays well” or was a pathway prescribed by their parents or their culture, but doesn’t actually meet more than the needs external pressures have put on them.
For others, this question goes to the heart of what gets in the way of them doing their best. Are they occupied with a particular task or way of thinking that prevents their own creativity? Are they bogged down with particular homemaking duties that are a struggle to execute? Are they in an environment that doesn’t value their gifts and therefore feels like an uphill battle to use them? The mini-epiphany here is less about the nature of the work and more around the execution. What ways of doing things that have been prescribed to me, when actually there are creative solutions to these tasks that can alleviate some of challenges I’m experiencing?
When you see things that prevent you from being your best as problems that are not with you, personally, but with the set up around you, you are allowed so much more creativity and freedom with solving them. It’s no longer about your worthiness. You are worth feeling your best. So instead of asking that, the question poses you examining what is going on around that you inhibits your best self.
Practically for me, that has looked like outsourcing house cleaning, using meal kits, and simplifying my wardrobe. Not worrying about when I was going to get to vacuum or from where than energy was going to come meant I could free up that brain space. And from that free brain space came ideas about free and low-cost options for folks to engage with me and organizational development.
Now I’m asking that question again and seeing that the amount of stuff in my house (which honestly isn’t even that much compared to the average household) is making me itchy. It’s silently telling me all the things I have to do and I’m getting overwhelmed. So I’m starting to noodle on how to either tackle a bunch of house projects, or work with the part of me that’s feeling overwhelmed to chill out.
When I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed, I use it as a sign that it’s time to evaluate using something like this question, or doing my Zone of Genius exercise. It’s a way to make this sort of assessment less about where I’m failing and more about how to coax me into a life that fully supports all parts of me. It makes it easier to cut out the stories I’ve been told about how I should be.
Our lives are constantly shifting and growing, so it would make sense that we would need regular opportunities to make adjustments along the way.
Bonus if we get to treat ourselves like the glorious beings we are while thinking through how to make those changes.
So, I’ll ask again: If you were the best in the world at what you did, what would you do differently?