My husband recently asked me whether I believe everyone is doing their best. With my general belief in people’s mindset, I responded that I indeed believe people are doing their best with what they have. I proceeded to explain that people have limited skills in many regards, and this shows up in the way they work, parent, live and love. For other people it may seem like the specific individual is doing the bare minimum, however, for the individual, their efforts may be their best.
I have since wondered a lot about the question and my answer. People often share at random that they know many key changes they need to make, but they do not make these changes. For example, reducing time spent on social media eating healthy or saving vs. debt. It makes me wonder if people know how to better take care of themselves and they do not act on it, could it be possible that people know how to better take care of the people they love and they still don’t do it?
Can I therefore truthfully conclude that people are doing their best at living, working, parenting, and loving?
Without getting into the science of behavior change and the factors that drive it, I will acknowledge that knowledge alone is not sufficient. Knowing what the right thing to do is, does not necessarily translate into doing the right thing. From daily interactions with people, from my own experiences and from listening as well as observing the experiences of others I can see that knowledge on its own is not enough. This brings me to one of my lifelong questions, is knowledge truly power as the old saying goes? I feel more comfortable with the notion that knowledge applied is power. Knowledge can only work for us if we put it to work.
We therefore need ability skill and will (motivation) to act on the knowledge we have. So again, I ask, are we doing our best in the way we live? Ability, skill, and will be unpacked about the specific behaviour. All the elements considered so far focus on the individual only. In attempting to answer our key question we cannot ignore that people do not live in a vacuum and we must consider the role society plays. Again, as with the individual consideration, we will barely scratch the surface when considering the impact society has on us giving our best.
Society seems to rarely provide a neutral environment as it either supports and nurtures individual efforts or hinders, limits or destroys individual efforts. We know countless stories and have our own stories to tell of how systems, structures, rules, societal expectations, and many more have prevented us from living the lives we believe we should live. Keeping us from showing up in the ways that are meaningful to us. We may have the knowledge, the skill, and the will and still not do our best by our standards because of the world we live in. Unfortunately, for most people society hindered progress more than it enabled progress.
Are people doing their best? This question seems to become the question that calls for more questions. Every explanation brings me closer to an answer and yet creates an avalanche of questions that seem to take me away from a concluding answer. Can that be the answer? There is no concluding answer. Doing our best is as unique as we are.