Press through! Success won’t wait for those who take breaks, so keep it in high gear. You’ve got to crush it or get crushed. Guzzle energy drinks and midnight coffee. You can sleep when you’re dead! Life’s too short to smell roses, take a breath, or even stop and ask for directions.
We’ve all sensed the pressure to fast-track our lives. Those adrenaline-laced demands fire at us from every media outlet. The books, videos, commercials, and interviews all insist we’ve got no chance to fulfill our best unless we’re burning our life’s core from both ends at all times. Since the motivators behind this movement appear wealthy and influential, it’s pretty convincing.
I’ve considered the push-full-throttle lifestyle myself at times. Watched the online webinars. Bought the books. Rose earlier. Stayed up later. Drank more coffee. I love my java, so a little more wasn’t such a sacrifice. Until I crashed. Okay, a little more caffeine. Then a latte more (you see, dry puns are my primary symptom of fatigue). Extra coffee intensified the crash and left me restless when I finally tried to sleep.
More java summoned less Dr. Jekyll and more Hyde. Though wide awake, lack of sleep spun me out of focus. In less than a blink from the caffeine’s charge uphill, the ride spiraled me toward a crash. And then I got just sick enough to be really crabby. The low point of groggy and ill made me award of how strung thin … and irritable … I’d grown.
I didn’t like how I felt. I liked who I was becoming even less. To ice the nasty cake, I’d failed to “crush it.” The attempt fell far short of the pinnacle of greatness. As a useless, sniffling lump, I realized the pressured lifestyle set me back in the end. All those wide-eyed hours proved counterproductive.
If success required this high-octane pace, I was doomed to failure. I. Could. Not. Do. This.
But then I wondered if my problem wasn’t unique. What if it wasn’t just me? What if we’re not really designed to “crush” life at breakneck speed after all?
To discover the answer, I delved back through time to our original design.
The Lord “created mankind in his own image” (Genesis 1:27) and then modeled the best lifestyle practice for our design when He “blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:3). Humanity later tried to “crush” their way to divine-levels of achievement at Babel. They delivered high-octane messages which included, “let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). Though the Lord often blesses our efforts, this type of striving didn’t line up with His will. The folks at Babel put all their energy into worshiping their personal achievements and failed to consider God in their plans. The Lord had another purpose for them, which won out against their silly, useless striving. He ended the race upward and dispersed humankind across the earth instead. So much healthier. In so many ways.
What if the population of earth hadn’t scattered? Imagine the horrid conditions inside the ancient skyscraper! Even worse, think of who the people would’ve become if they’d bought into the delusion they didn’t need rest or their Creator. I’m not sure if they drank extra tea, chewed coca leaves, or brought on their adrenaline by some other means. But I’m fairly certain their culture’s intense stress on high-achievement didn’t bring out the best in folks. More Jenga blocks on that tower manifested less Jekyll and more Hyde, I’d wager.
Who are we when we don’t take time to consult our Father and rest with Him? What happens to us when we crash from those high, ill-aimed towers of success-chasing?
I discovered how my gracious Father is there in the valley when I’ve crushed myself instead of “it.” Whatever “it” is. He scoops me up and restores my jittery, exhausted soul.
I’m so thankful for His faithfulness to equip me for the right work.
God isn’t insisting we lay around without goals or purpose, of course. He does prepare us “for good work,” in fact. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:6). But our success looks very different from His perspective than from the world’s definition. Four key characteristics highlight the difference between empty striving which leads to burn out and God’s fulfilling life of purpose and meaning.
I check these often to help avert burning out on the road to the world’s counterfeit version of success.
First, I must discern whether I’m building a tower for my greatness or for God’s purpose. I pray and meditate, inviting the Holy Spirit to help me discern whether the plan is my so-called brilliant idea, or if God is truly the architect of the project I’m working toward. If the answer remains foggy, I can consult wise, unbiased Christian counsel.
God’s definition of success is measured by obedience to His will and reflection of His nature. Am I obeying Him? How well am I bearing Christ’s image in my attitude, behavior, and character?
A truly divine purpose depends on divine power. If I can do it easily by myself, or if I find I’m struggling for the power to do it myself, I need to consider whether I’m properly aligned with the Spirit. I pray and meditate on Scripture for answers. For example, the Word reminds me “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). I pray for the Spirit to reveal whether I’m allowing the Lord to work in and through me.
Obeying God to serve His definition of success won’t exempt us from feeling tired. But there are different types of exhaustion. When we pursue success in unproductive ways, it often leads to emotional and spiritual collapse. Burnout can accompany the physical weariness when we don’t align ourselves with fellowship, prayer, and appropriate times of Sabbath rest. Even if we’re doing God’s will, we need to take care to do things according to His design.
Even if I’m physically and mentally tired, serving God’s purpose renews my soul. When I allow the Lord to breathe His Spirit’s blessings through the use of my gifts, I am invigorated with the energy of His presence and power flowing through me. Nothing is more fulfilling than allowing God to use me for His work. In these moments, I feel successful.
How about you? Are you prone to getting crushed in pursuit of success? I’d love to hear how you make God’s definition of success a fulfilling lifestyle.