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The teachings of the Baha’i Faith and the advice delineated in don Miguel Ruiz’s Toltec wisdom book, “The Four Agreements,” invite us to live a life of excellence in our pursuit of joy, freedom, and fulfillment. Regarding his fourth agreement, Don Miguel Ruiz summarized this invitation to excellence into four words: always do your best.
In case you’re wondering why it’s important to always do your best, I identified five reasons why dedicating ourselves to always doing the best that we can do is not only an aspirational goal but a profound spiritual way of living that can transform ourselves and our world.
5 Reasons Why You Should Always Do Your Best
1. Doing Your Best Helps You Spiritually Grow and Develop
Man is in the ultimate degree of materiality and the beginning of spirituality; that is, he is at the end of imperfection and the beginning of perfection. He is at the furthermost degree of darkness and the beginning of the light. That is why the station of man is said to be the end of night and the beginning of day, meaning that he encompasses all the degrees of imperfection and that he potentially possesses all the degrees of perfection.
Every day, we have a choice to become more spiritual or more material, because if we stop progressing, we start digressing. So, it’s important to always do our best to pray, meditate, deepen on the verses revealed by the Manifestations of God, develop our spiritual qualities and powers, and contribute to the betterment of the world so our angelic side can overcome our animalistic nature. Abdu’l-Baha continued:
Thus, should the divine powers, which are identical with perfection, overcome in man the satanic powers, which are absolute imperfection, he becomes the noblest of all creatures, but should the converse take place, he becomes the vilest of all beings.
2. Doing Your Best Helps You Create New Habits
Whether you want to be impeccable with your word, stop taking things personally, or avoid making assumptions, as I’ve discussed in the previous articles in this series, any new habit can’t be created without practice and putting forth consistent effort.
“If you do your best, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation,” explained don Miguel Ruiz. “Practice makes the master. By doing your best you become a master.”
3. Doing Your Best Helps You Avoid Self-Judgment
Of course, the quality of your best effort will naturally fluctuate from one moment to the next, and that’s okay. The energy that we can give when we are sick or sad is not the same level of energy that we can exert when we are happy and healthy.
Don Miguel Ruiz wrote, “Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best — no more and no less than your best. If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end, your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.”
4. Doing Your Best Is a Way to Worship God
Baha’is believe that worship can not end in prayer. Prayer must be followed by meaningful action in both our personal and professional lives. So, whether you are a doctor who is doing your best to heal a patient of all their ailments or a poet who is striving to amplify the voices of marginalized communities through their lyrical words, all work that is done to excellence is worship. Even a person “who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God.”
At a talk in London in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha said:
Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.
5. Doing Your Best Serves Humanity
Worship is serving humanity and tending to people’s needs. Can you imagine how much progress could be made in the world if every single person did their work to the best of their ability, always aiming to increase the happiness or improve the welfare of those around them, only putting their efforts towards what would contribute to the greater good? That’s what the pursuit of excellence is all about — not status or recognition, but service. At a talk in New York in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha said:
You must become distinguished for loving humanity, for unity and accord, for love and justice. In brief, you must become distinguished in all the virtues of the human world—for faithfulness and sincerity, for justice and fidelity, for firmness and steadfastness, for philanthropic deeds and service to the human world, for love toward every human being, for unity and accord with all people, for removing prejudices and promoting international peace.