“All you can do is the best you can do” was a mantra that I used a lot when my kids were growing up. When they were nervous about a presentation or test at school, an upcoming try-out, game or meet, applying to colleges or for scholarships and lots of other occasions when they felt they might fall short of their own expectations or those of others, this phrase would often be the opening salvo in my attempt to calm their nerves. I wanted them to focus on their strengths and capabilities. I wanted them to do the hard work of studying, practicing, and preparing for the challenges ahead. More importantly, I wanted them to know that they had a responsibility to do their very best and in giving that maximum effort they had nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the outcome. Because they learned early that wishing and hoping wasn’t enough to achieve the things that they desired and were important to them, they did work hard to achieve their goals. And most of the time they did, but not always. Life isn’t always fair, but there is some comfort in knowing that you did your best.
I am a proponent of doing the best you can do in all that is important to you throughout your entire life. Treating people the way you want to be treated, staying informed on what is happening in the world around you, knowing the facts before you make false claims, keeping in touch with those you care about, being generous both with your time and resources, and working to stay healthy in both your mind and your body are just a few examples. It would be disingenuous of me to claim that I am always successful in accomplishing these goals and even if I am, the results aren’t always what I would hope for. But I can only control what I can control and sometimes I still need to remind myself of that. I think of myself as the eternal optimist, believing that if you do all the right things, life will go your way. The reality is that you can do all the right things, or what you believe to be the right things, and life can still throw you a curve. You just have to adjust your swing and step back up to the plate.
One example I can think of right off the bat (no pun intended) has to do with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I come from a long line of long-livers. With few exceptions, my relatives on both sides of the family have lived well into their 80s and 90s. With that kind of family history, I had to assume that I might live a long life as well. I didn’t want to be the stereotypical senior who was just biding time rather than living a rich, full life. While I didn’t always eat the way I should when we were raising our kids, I have been more disciplined in the past 15-20 years. But I have always stayed active and physically fit, walking, hiking, biking, working out at the gym, and etc. I got annual physical exams, took no prescriptions, had never been hospitalized (except for the birth of my children) or any outpatient surgeries. I thought that I was doing the best I could do to protect myself from the infirmities of old age. Then while on vacation in June, I was playing racquetball with my brother when I fell while making and awkward swing I and broke my wrist. I had surgery the next day that left me with a titanium plate and nine screws holding my left wrist together. Now, all I can do is the best I can do to rehabilitate my wrist, though it will probably never be the same. Life goes on and I intend to make the best of the rest of it. That really is all you can do.