A Happiness Reminder from Charles Darwin: “I Have Worked as Well as I Could.”

“Whenever I have found out that I have blundered, or that my work has been imperfect, and when I have been contemptuously criticized, and even when I have been overpraised, so that I have felt mortified, it has been my greatest comfort to say hundreds of times to myself that ‘I have worked as hard and as well as I could, and no man can do more than this.’”

–Charles Darwin, The Autobiography

I often comfort myself with the same thought — and often, in advance. When I’m preparing for some challenge — say, one of my books getting published — I think, “I should do everything I possibly can, because that way, if things don’t go as well as I hope, I can comfort myself with the thought that there just wasn’t anything else I might have done.”

Does this reminder strike a chord with you?

  • Maria

    This is so stressful for a Questioner. I have been struggling with this idea my whole life because my mother would always say “Do your best and then you can relax” but how do I know when I’ve done my best? How many hours? How many days? When do I stop? When do I start?

    • Judy

      Yes! When I was in school or have been working on a professional development project, I almost always waited until close to the deadline to submit, because I was constantly trying to improve. Finally, it got to the point where, after several edits, I just said “enough already” finished it.

      • johanna

        Do the best you are able and be happy with it. Nothing is ever perfect and what I feel is “just right” to you may not be to someone else. I believe it is important to do what is ones best but equally important to submit and be happy with the result.

  • bcgirl

    Yes! This resonates with me so much, but only recently. I’ve always heard, “just do your best” and never felt the gravity of that statement as a kid or young adult. Now that I’m in my late thirties, with a very busy life, those words have a lot of weight. It doesn’t mean “do the job the best way IT can be done”, it means “do the job with intention, give the job the respect and attention it deserves, don’t try to be a perfectionist about it, do it as well as you can in the current situation with the current resources and opportunities available — basically be mindful and realistic about it”. After I came to this realization, (and whenever I did things this way), I felt very confident and content about how I handled it, to the point that the outcome was almost relevant…because I did “the best I could”.