Everybody is doing the best they can. Me too.
If studying and teaching Aikido has taught me anything, it's that everyone is not
doing the best they can. That's what they tell themselves and that's what they want to hear from the people around them. Actually, very few people do the best they can. Those people stand out; they are the exceptions.
I remember Lovret Sensei's little adage, "There are two types of students... Those that train as often as they can and those that train."
For most of us, our lives are a set on compromises, balancing whole sets of competing concerns... The person pursuing Budo as a Path makes choices every day... Do I go to that seminar or do I bank that money for my kid's college? Do I go to class again tonight or do I stay home with my partner who isn't that on board with training. Do I marry this person I've found even though I know it will interfere with my training?
So when someone says they are doing the best they can, they usually mean they have made as much of a commitment as they are willing to make. That is usually far from "their best".
Forget how we balance all the elements in our daily lives with training. Most people have totally scaled down aspirations for what they wish to accomplish. Is getting a shodan REALLY the best you are capable of or is it simply what you are willing to shoot for? Is getting a Sandan or Yondan and opening a dojo somewhere your highest aspiration? Could you perhaps have become a Shihan level practitioner if you had structured your choices differently?
One frequently encounters on these forums those folks who say they want to train but there is no local teacher. The response is: then move to where there is a teacher. Then you get the reasons why they can't move... Of course they can move. It's just that other concerns are more important than Aikido training.
Are you training every day? Are you traveling to seminars, going to camps, reading every book and publication on Aikido and the martial arts? Do you have every DVD worth having and watch them when you can't be at the dojo training? Have you packed up all your belongings and moved to Japan or somewhere else to be an uchi deshi, putting in 5 or 6 hours a day on the mat and having no life outside of training?
When I hear people say they are doing there best, I am usually hearing them justify why they aren't. VERY few of us are doing our "best". We are simply making choices and compromises. We need to be conscious about those compromises and choices. We need to be conscious of when our aspirations are unrealistic when compared to our commitment. We need to be aware of how we settle all the time for less than we could have done.
We do what we do. But very few of us can honestly say that we've done "our best". In every area of my life I can say that there was always something else I could have done, something I should have done better, could have put more time and effort into.
Budo as a Path is about NEVER being content, always seeking. Telling yourself you've done the best you can is usually just an excuse to make yourself feel better about the compromises you've made. As a concept, it has little value. You make choices, you live with the results... In Budo one is never content with what he knows... there is always something more. It may be about attempting to find what your "best" is, but for the vast majority of us, we never actually find out what that is.