So frequently we hear that we need to be giving our best effort in order to succeed in life. But sometimes our best efforts don't give us the results that we desire. So what happens when we give our best effort but don't achieve our best results?
I remember when I first starting running road races and I believed that I should be getting faster every time I would run. Anytime I didn't achieve a new personal best or come close to my personal best I felt like I didn't give my best effort. I felt like I had failed in some way. I didn't take into account that undesirable weather, a poor night's sleep or not eating properly could affect my performance. I just felt like I should always be improving.
Over the past few years, I've realized that achieving a new personal every time you hit the pavement is unrealistic. Some days I know I'm not at my best. I haven't slept well the night before. I might not have trained enough for my competition. I might be recovering from a recent cold or on the mend from a nagging injury.
I've also learned that my best effort can vary depending on my current physical condition. Four years ago after a stint in physical therapy my best effort was walking and sitting without pain. Two years ago, my best effort was running my first marathon. I am proud of persevering through both of these struggles. Even though the results are much different it took the same amount of work, patience and dedication to achieve them.
Inevitably I will also reach a point in my life where I no longer get faster and stronger. My personal bests will no longer be something that I strive for, but something that I remember. Eventually my increasing age will dictate a decrease in physical production, but that doesn't mean that I should stop trying to challenge myself.
If we know that we will not be at our best, does that mean that we do not try? Should we not show up to a race or event because we know we won't perform at our very best? I don't believe so. If anything, the times that I have done less than stellar, failed my goals, made mistakes and been disappointed are the times when I have learned the most. The times that I have failed only fueled my ambition and pushed me to find new methods to try to achieve success.
I believe that if I do not participate when I know I'm not at my absolute best I am robbing myself of an experience to understand and appreciate my true determination, passion and dedication. Improvement is not a linear progression. The valleys of disappointment often fuel the climbs to the peaks of accomplishments. Not every day can be the day when you will achieve your personal best, but every day can be the beginning of finding your way there.