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I am a big fan of the quote “we are doing the best we can with what we have.” From my internet research, I have found this is a Zig Ziglar quote. He uses it to motivate people to achieve success. In my practice and my life, I use it as a way to understand myself and other people. Usually, people aren’t trying to hurt us by doing something different than we would. They are just doing the best they can. Based on their past coping skills, personality traits, life stress their reaction/action probably makes sense. It might not be our reaction or one that feels good to us, but it is a logical reaction based on who this person is. So by repeating this phrase, it allows me to give them a little room to be who they are and to not take the action personally.
I have a friend, and when the world overwhelms him, he shuts off his cell phone–so you can’t reach him no matter how hard you try–he may do this for a few hours or a few days. From time to time I take this act personally–I mean he should want to talk to ME I am one of his best friends? But it has nothing to do with me–it is his coping skill it is him doing the best he can with what he has. For him when he gets overwhelmed he needs to shut out the outside world, and he does that by turning off his phone. It is how he takes back control. It isn’t what I do–in fact; it is the opposite of what I do. But when I can pause and remember he is doing the best he can with what he has–I can move on without getting hurt or sad, and I know he will call when he feels like re-engaging with the world.
A more serious example, I had client who was struggling with her sister because her sister had done something that hurt the family and they were having a hard time forgiving her. Her family hadn’t spoken to the sister in a few years and my client was experiencing a lot of grief, frustration and anger. When she pulled back and looked at the whole picture in the context of who her sister was (personality traits, family placement, coping skills) it wasn’t that big of a stretch to see why she had engaged in the negative/hurtful behavior. At the time she was doing the best she could with what she had–as was my client.
Once my client was able to see this she began to start the process of healing and moving forward. It didn’t change the fact that my client felt hurt by her sister or take away her sister’s responsibility for the behavior. But it did help my client pull back from the emotions to see that her sister’s behavior wasn’t meant to be intentional so she could move towards forgiveness rather than holding on to the hurt.
We are all just doing the best we can with what we have–most of us try very hard to be good people and make good decisions. And we are all human, we all make mistakes, we all at one point or another have poor coping skills, poor response skills, poor conflict skills, poor listening skills. But the secret is to have a little curiosity and ask yourself in the context of who this person is, are they doing the best they can with what they have? I swear by pulling back and asking this question it will help you Live Happier.