Is it true that people do the best that they can?

Is it true that people do the best that they can?

Well, I believe it is. Now, before you hit delete, hear me out.

Our actions are merely a byproduct of our thoughts, our emotions, our level of energy. Yes, we are certainly capable of, and can change our actions, but we first have to make a shift in how we think. So, when someone says (and yes, I’ve heard this countless times in response to my “they’re doing the best they can”), “But what about the person sitting on the couch, watching tv, or playing video games, when they should be out working. Are they really doing the best that they can?”  Yes, I believe they are — with the tools, strategies and mindsetthat they have at that moment, they are doing the best that they can. In order to do any differently, there must be a shift — a shift in their thoughts, in their beliefs, in their emotional state, in their level of energy. While they know that they need to get a job, the thought of it might be enormously overwhelming. So the mind shuts down and does what’s comfortable — watch tv, play video games, etc. Or perhaps somewhere in their mind they truly believe that it’s just not going to get any better. How motivating is that thought? How much energy is there to get moving?

So, yes, I do believe that we do the best that we can. That’s not to say that we allow for certain behaviors because it’s the best they can do. Hardly! But that’s a discussion around boundaries. (We’ll save that one for a later post.)

What if we approached the situation with that mindset, believing that the person is in fact doing the best that they can in that moment, how does that change our response? The reality is, there are situations that we cannot change. We are then left with the choice to change how we think about it, and how we react, or respond, to it.

In Dr. Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong, she recalls a conversation she had with her husband, Steve, in which she poses the question, “Do you think people do the best that they can.” His response was, “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment, lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” And I say, if it makes my life better when I choose to believe this, then why not?

So, maybe, just for today, believe that they’re doing the best that they can!

PS If you’re not familiar with Brené Brown or her books, I highly recommend that you listen to her Ted talk.