The BEST way to do everything!

Thanks to the information age and technology, anyone can look anything up at any time from pretty much anywhere. That also means anyone can answer any question in any way they want and put it out there for others to take in.

Every day I pull up my browser which lands on the MSN “news” home page and sprinkled amongst the stories of what might be news are other stories…the best way to lose weight, the best hair products, the best way to cook chicken, the best lunches to pack for your kids, the best way to clean a bathroom, the best food…and of course there’s also the “worsts” and the ways “you’ve been doing it all wrong.” Why are these stories so prolific?

Because we search for them. Because we read them. Because we give them weight simply by paying attention to them. Because we share them with our friends. Because we want someone to tell us how to do it so we don’t have to figure it out for ourselves.

And because they don’t work.

I know. That sounds totally counterintuitive, but hear me out.

We (the entire human race) are all individuals. We are all different. We have different lives, different thoughts, different beliefs, different capabilities, different comfort levels, different situations…need I go on? With the billions of variables that make up a single person in a single situation, what is the probability that one answer is the best for all? Do the people out there that claim to know actually take into account all these deviations and overlaps in these variables, or is the “best” simply what worked best for that person, in that person’s situation, with that person’s variables?

I’m not saying there doesn’t exist a right and wrong way to do something. The right way to cook chicken is to make sure it’s cooked all the way through, whereas the wrong way is to not. But how you get there is pretty much up to the individual (or group of individuals) for whom that chicken is going to be dinner. And you know what? Even that can be situational! I have personally undercooked chicken (not on purpose) and eaten it anyway with no ill effect. I wouldn’t recommend it, or even say it’s ok. But I’ve done it. It was still delicious. And no one got sick.

We torture ourselves constantly with hopelessness, searching, and needing to belong. We don’t know an answer immediately, so instead of actually thinking about something, we head off to find everyone else’s opinion. And if the results are even slightly acceptable, in our particular situation, in that moment, then we go off to share this great new thing that will fix everything for everyone else too. If it didn’t work, or the results were not sustainable, or were not quite perfect, we go through the same cycle of hopelessness and searching until we find a new thing to try that probably won’t work any better.

Even so-called science feeds this cycle.

Remember when red meat caused cancer. And then when it didn’t. And then when everyone started that diet that DOCTOR came up with. And then when that was bad. And then when people went paleo or raw or meat only….

Remember when courses of antibiotics had to be completed to ensure a new resistant superbug wouldn’t develop and re-infect you. Check out what science is saying now.

Remember when soap was the way to clean everything. And then bleach. And then {insert any brand cleaner here}. And then essential oils. And then…

If any of the things or ways or whatevers was ever actually The Best, then there wouldn’t be a new or different The Best out there, and no one would still be looking.

Everything is individual. And everything changes for each individual. Even what worked for you 10 years ago may not today. And that can make you feel very hopeless and alone. So we search for a way to not feel hopeless and alone, but that endless superficial searching just perpetuates the hopelessness and alone-ness…and the cycle goes on.

And now I’m going to tell you THE BEST way to overcome all of it!

Just kidding! I’m just going to share my thoughts and my stories with you. That’s it.

I have actually searched for all the answers I have cited in this post, and so many more. I’ve tried umpteen different methods to do pretty much everything. And even if something mostly worked, I still kept looking just in case someone came up with something new and better. All that just led to constant searching, constant trying and failing, and constant dissatisfaction and hopelessness. That was not where I wanted to be.

So I did some deep thinking and asked MYSELF some questions for once:

  1. What was I not searching for? I wanted to know which areas of my life I didn’t need help in. Which areas I had down pat or was at least confident enough in that I didn’t feel I needed to ask for help or research extensively. The places I was content with just doing it my way and figuring it out as I went.

 Photography and cooking.

I’m not a great photographer. I’m not a great cook. But I do love them both, and I especially love the process of learning them both on my own, and talking about them to others, and just doing. I don’t love all my photos and I don’t love everything I cook. But I always have the feeling of “I’ve got this!” when I’m involved with either one. My victories are that much sweeter because I figured it out on my own, and I chalk my downfalls up to another learning experience and push on.

Dealing with the tough stuff with my kids.

I’m not a perfect parent. I don’t have perfect kids. I don’t believe either thing exists; we are all just parents and kids muddling through life hoping it all turns out ok.

When it comes to parenting, my dad taught me through example to always have an answer. Once I dyed my hair a really dark purpley black color that was horrible. I called him at work, crying, asking how to fix it. He calmly told me to get a can on condensed tomato soup from the pantry and “wash” my hair with it. Really get it all over, let it sit, and rinse really well. As I walked to the pantry, a woman he worked with snatched the phone from him and told me to stop and how to actually fix it (as best as it could be at that point). When she asked him why he would tell me that, his response was, “I’m Dad. I need to have the answer.” The funny thing is, I have no idea what the woman told me to do, but I do remember the tomato soup, and I do remember my dad’s response. And even now, as I think about it, tomato soup might have worked. Or it might not have, but the 14 year old me who thought purpley black hair was the end of the world at that moment trusted her dad 100% because he always had an answer.

So when it comes to my kids, I try to always have an answer, especially to the tough stuff. And I have an answer right then, not after I’ve googled and searched and researched and read and polled social media. Whether the answer ends up being right or wrong, in that moment, I am able to set their mind at ease, let them trust me, and let them move past that tough moment. (If the answer is wrong, I do go back after and revisit the topic and admit to my mistake.) Most importantly, I don’t leave it up to my kids to find their own answer through searching the internet or polling their friends for any of those “the best” answers I’ve been talking about.

2. Have I ever searched and found an actual answer that I’ve stuck with?

YES! But…99% of the time, the answer/solution/method/whatever came from a person, like in real life. A person I talked to, who I trusted, who knew at least enough about me and my situation to feel as if they could contribute. (Yes, there are plenty people around who will try to contribute who have no idea anything about you or your situation just because that’s the kind of person they are……um, there’s something familiar here…..)

I have loved to cook for years and years. I have only just begun to discover the joy of baking. My best friend is a baking queen! So I ask her when I don’t know something. She knows my skill level. She knows my equipment (mostly because she gifted me most of it). She knows my willingness and my laziness tendencies. And she gives me tailored advice that generally works for me. And, bonus, we have a conversation. There are thoughts exchanged. There are specifics covered. And I can share my victories (and defeats) gleefully with her, which gives us both another boost. Win, win, win.

 

Armed with those two questions answered, I tried to figure out how I can apply that to all the rest. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. I try to figure it out myself. I actually put some thought and effort into it and then learn from my trials and inevitable errors for next time. I have faith in myself to be able to come up with something, even if it’s not the best thing. I’ll learn more that way.
  2. I seek out actual people. If I know someone who might have some advice, we have a conversation. And the weight of their advice is totally dependent on how well they know me/my situation, and how much I trust them.
  3. If I am strictly limited to research and reading, I research the author first, to see if there’s a reason I shouldn’t trust this persons ideas through fact checking, other writing, background, etc. And then, I only take the data and go back through #1 and #2.

The biggest thing I had to learn is that ultimately, I am responsible for my own answers. I can talk to a friend, or look for it on the internet, but I am the one who has to decide, in all situations, when to go with it or when to not. And when it fails, no matter how much I point at someone/something else like “he/she/they/it told me to!”, it’s still on me. So why not cut out all the ever-changing and completely impersonal crap, and make my own decisions that I believe in.

The wins are so much sweeter. And the losses, well, I learn the better from them because I know exactly what led me to that point and I can backtrack to find a better way next time.

This is my way. These are my thoughts. It’s all part of my journey.

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