I don’t have a lot to say here, just a couple things that have been on my mind that I thought were important.
I was in the middle of writing this when I realized it would probably be good context to include the fact that I place an unhealthy and incorrect amount of worth on a person’s knowledge, skills, and work ability, which is most likely at least *part* of the reason why I wanted to succeed at managing my work so bad.
I have, for a long time, thought that anyone could accomplish anything given enough willpower. If someone was willing to work hard enough and think hard enough then they could accomplish anything. This is in tune with the American dream; work hard and pull yourself up from your bootstraps, right? Of course I had theoretical limits for myself, but they were high. My thought process was that any workload I was given I could handle. I would work harder to accommodate any extra work. If it proved too much, I would develop some sort of method to more efficiently deal with the work. The range of efficiency of which people work is extremely large; if I could just develop the right system or methods of tackling the tasks then I could get it done. Now I know this sounds like insane thinking, but on paper it works, and I am a sucker for theoretical plans, however disconnected from reality they are. Additionally, I knew, or at least it *seemed* to me, that the workload I was balancing was nothing special; other kids who had bigger goals (college goals, etc.) took on way more than me, and I would recall reading Booker T. Washington’s *Up From Slavery* and how hard he worked to achieve freedom. I thought that all I needed was to summon up the willpower to work as hard as that and I could succeed. There are a couple problems with the ideas I had.
(1) I was not trying to strive for God. It was mostly so I could actually get my work done and have time to do stuff for myself. Not necessarily a bad goal (everyone needs time off sometimes), but the level to which I was focusing on it was unhealthy and I was not focused on serving or honouring God during my striving. I was also not truly relying on God’s strength to get my work done.
(2) I was (and still am) a perfectionist. Everyone thinks this one is funny and/or a good thing to put down on a resume as a ‘thing they struggle with’ because it is something that the employer will appreciate. However, I have spent time seeing what not even fully-fledged perfectionism will do, and if I was an employer I would only consider it a hindrance to someone’s productivity, unless of course I am a Swiss watch maker of I am building nuclear power plants, because everywhere else perfectionism is *not needed.* This world is not made for those types of people; it is made for people that can get things done and who understand the law of diminishing returns. I did not, of course, notice my perfectionism or the fact that I took twice as long to do basic tasks as others, because I didn’t think that mattered, but looking back I can see how trying to do the little things near-perfectly can really slow you down. This of course made it hard to manage what I believed to be a fairly simple workload.
(3) I also had other small things that were habits and regular activities that took up my time that others may not have had and of which I didn’t factor into my helplessly ignorant ‘paper-calculations,’ which of course made me feel worse about how much I was getting done.
(4) I also kind of psyched myself out. By thinking so much on trying to work faster, smarter, and harder, I was in reality distracting myself from actually doing that. Ironic how that works out, right?
What this really boils down to is that I was playing a giant comparison game with made up characters (friends and such that *seemed* to be handling so much work so *effortlessly*). Instead of trying to think on whether or not I was simply working hard on what God gave me for his glory, I wanted to be able to handle all of the big things that *I thought* those around me were handling, without thinking of whether or not my own situation might should have been taken into account. We are all different and have different abilities and environments that we work in. All that we should think about is whether or not we are working hard with what we have been given, and doing that to glorify God and out of love for Him.
The main ideas I took out from these trials though, were that life
~~sometimes~~ will oftentimes hand you more work than you think you can manage. Whether it’s trying to be a good friend while also trying to balance lots of homework, or helping someone with home projects after your boss gives you an even larger assignment, or maybe you have to work long hours at your job in order to provide for your family, but you also need to spend time with your wife. Sometimes it can feel like even if we had all of the energy in the world we still would not have enough *time* to accomplish what we need to do, and the longer we live the more things we find in day-to-day life that need to get done. Through all of this though your aim should not be to depend on your own strength to accomplish all of these things, but to trust God. If what you are trying to balance are things that are God-honouring and good, then all that you are responsible for is to do your best and let God decide what he will enable you to do. It can be frustrating because sometimes we will not be able to do all that we want, even if some of the things are good, like helping neighbors, but we just have to trust God to do what He wills, which, of course, He will do.
Also, just as a side note for anyone reading this that thinks like me: you should not *literally* do your best. Anyone that thinks literally like me will understand that to truly do your *best* would require hyperfocusing on every current task you are doing, giving every ounce of energy into it, and all the while you’re trying to think about how you can do the task more efficiently, and while it may not be clear to someone like me, this type of work style is *not* what God requires of you, or even wants you to do. This is something to be saved for reactor mealtdowns and other serious situations. You are not capable of working that hard for any extended period of time, and it will rob you of enjoyement in almost any task you do.
The subject of work can be tricky. It’s a good thing fundamentally, and yet it can cause us so much worry and stress sometimes, especially for people who put pressure on themselves to always get the job done. I think part of this could come from the workplace mentality of “this is your responsibility, now do whatever it takes to get the job done.” This makes some people do just that, only to a lesser degree. This mentality ignores God’s Providence, however. Yes, sometimes we must all work harder to meet new demands, but if your work is so much and has been that way for so long that you focus on it all day long for fear you will fall behind, then you most likely need some life changes or a mentality change. God loves you more than you could possibly know, He will take care of those He loves. “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds” (Luke 12:24 NKJV). Paul writes in Chapter 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NKJV). Remember that if you are too focused on work and try and refocus back on God, that is not something He will punish you for. You are to serve God and not man. If you are still supposed to be getting those tasks done, He will help you to do that 🙂 Hopefully this has been encouraging and maybe even a wake-up call for someone out there. It is definitely still a lesson I am learning daily, but I figured waiting to share a hard-learned lesson until I am perfect is not the wisest choice, considering we are all being sanctified daily 😉
– Much love,
– Samuel Mayfield (Pickleroot)