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Why "trying my best" does not always result in "no regrets"

As the previous week was Teacher's Day, I thought of sharing one of the common comments that I have heard from my students: "Try my best, no regrets".

This is one of the common responses that I get when I ask students about their plans for their upcoming examinations. "I shall try my best I guess. Then no regrets right?" I too find it often that as teachers, we remind our students to try their best so that they will not end up in regrets. However, this often fails to address, in my opinion, one of the most important factors — what exactly does "my best" mean.

"There is no best, for there is always a better."

At the mention of trying our best, the term "trying' usually mislead us into thinking that hard work is the main ingredient required when it comes to defining our best. Yes, working hard not only help us derive output through our effort, but it also embodies the determination to push through difficult moments to achieve success (which is critical to success). But as we all know, hard work does not always yield (as much) progress as we hope for.

Thinking back to the times of regrets, we would often lament the fact that we should have done XYZ instead. Even if what we have regretted was "I should have worked harder", I do think that the key reason was that we were not able to find a compelling reason to motivate ourselves to do so. Of course, these were said in hindsight, but the fact remains that "if only we knew", things might have turned out different. At this point, I hope to highlight the importance of knowing in addition to doing. It is critical for us to figure out what should we be doing in order to bring out our best.

As such, I tend to challenge myself and my students to think a few steps further — (i) what does "trying my best" look like and (ii) will doing this yield me the progress I am hoping for (at a fast enough rate)? If the answer to part (ii) based on part (i) is a "no", then it would be worthwhile to invest some time and effort into brainstorming for more creative ways to "try your best" before doubling down on it!

The guaranteed product of hard work is "exhaustion", not "satisfaction". 🤪

As always, thank you for reading. I am learning to balance my energy level — juggling the additional requirements in work and life, so pardon my infrequent posting! Still, determined to keep up to one post per week. Let's go!

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