The Art of Balancing Ambition & Relaxation (And Resting In God’s Grace)

When Professionalism, Perfectionism & Ambition Become Workaholism

Most of my readers, maybe like you, are high achievers, and highly ambitious people — just like myself. With that being said, if you are like me, you most likely strive to be the best that you can be. You work hard, you play hard, you have a strong morning routine, you have high standards and you are always trying to tweak habits and improve yourself around every corner of life. You are a perfectionist and a high-achiever, and you rise to the top of everything that you do.

But what about when perfectionism becomes a curse? What about when professionalism, perfectionism and ambition turn into workaholism? What about when you can’t learn anymore, or you feel overwhelmed with self-analysis or self-improvement and you are paralyzed? What about those times perfectionism is the never-ending teacher that crams your head full of new knowledge every second of the day, and your desk and schedule are stacked full of new books, meetings, and stuck full of sticky notes overflowing with appointments to the point that you are so stressed out and need to just relax?

I’ve been there before, because like you, I strive to be the best that I can be.

In fact, I actually sold my T.V. at one point, because I decided there are so many wiser and more fruitful things I could do with my time: learn a language, go on a hike, volunteer somewhere, start a company, learn another instrument, get to know a stranger, mentor someone etc.

The list goes on. It never stops. But sometimes, we need some chamomile tea for our super-charged soul. Sometimes as high-achievers and perfectionists we need some calm in our life. Other times, we need to fight hard to understand the contrast between service and resting in God’s grace, We need to learn the art of balancing ambition and relaxation while learning to rest in God’s un-failing un-performanced-based grace, shut off, and enjoy His creation.

Why? Because, we never want to become lazy, shut off, or uninterested in helping people etc. But we can’t always work ourselves to the ground and burn ourselves out on every end either. That’s why in this post, I hope to show you the contrast and help super-charged souls find the balance of when it’s time to kick up their feet and drink a nice cup of chamomile tea for their super-charged soul. So if that is, you, grab a coup of chamomile tea, sit back and read on:

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTRAST:

#1 – Understanding our Culture:

The first step to understanding the contrast and finding the balance is to look at the cultural context in which we live in. Clearly, we are over-run by a busy-praised culture. To prove this, all you have to do is ask a few people, “how they’ve been doing?” To which they will most likely reply: “I’ve been busy!”

This is our cultural context. It’s our reality. Busyness is King. And if you aren’t busy then you are deemed as lazy, unsuccessful or even strange. Outside of that, there is so much stuff that we can do in our North American culture of freedom, success, and ‘North American Dream’ culture. If we truly look around at all the opportunity available to us, it’s insane. So insane, it’s turned most us into money-hungry, dream-chasing, 50 hour/week workaholics, in which the below statics proves:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that 20 percent of the total workforce is working at least 49 hours a week. In the U.S., 85 percent of men and 66 percent of women work more than 40 hours per week. The productivity for the average American worker has increased 400 percent since 1950.

This is an insane statistic. The fact that, productivity has increased by 400% is mind-blowing. Clearly, we are over-run by a success-driven and busyness-focused culture. But does God view things different?

#2 – Understanding Our Faith:

Next, our faith has to enter into the equation. The fact that God has equipped us to be purposeful over-comers and more than conquers (Romans 8:37), means that we have supernatural tools to succeed and a God who has conquered death and sin on the cross. That means we are born into royalty and we are born winners. We have every tool we need for godliness, and for salvation. That eternal battle for our soul has already been won.

I don’t know about you, but when I really came into alignment with understanding my that concept and understanding the power of my faith, the power God has given us, and how He alone is the one that allows us to succeed or not succeed. Two things happened:

First, I realized, I can do far more than I ever thought I could and this caused my confidence to greatly increase, because I finally knew who I was and how successful my Father in heaven is. That means, if He is behind what I am doing, I can literally do anything through Christ’s strength (Philippians 4:13). In many ways, this fuelled my already ambition and over-achieving personality. I also, learned that we were meant to serve (Mark 10:14), and that provided a challenge for me knowing that God doesn’t need another King. He actually just wants more lowly servants, and that humbled me, quick.

The second thing that happened, is that I finally realized that I was accepted, and that I was not defined by how “successful”, I am. When this happened the world’s measure for success fell away, and I was introduced to God’s measure for success. So in many ways, God’s grace pierced through my insecurity. It broke down my false walls of egotism and manufactured pride, and it silenced the voices that always told me I had to do better, be better, and accomplish more in terms of worldly gain.

But there in lies the struggle, because, as men, when our masculinity become so much more secure in Christ. Suddenly, we realize we can do even more, and do almost anything (Philippians 4:13). So why set the bar low, right? We are born to be over-comers, to live purposeful lives, and to be more than conquers (Romans 8:37).

The answer is: Yes. But, we also have to find that fine line and walk the tight-rope of rightly administering God’s grace and mixing in humility and a servant nature into the high-achieving, I-can-do-it-myself motors of our lives that tend to run our high-achiever motors. These things, — as inhuman and unnatural as they are — we always have to be injected them into our pride and our ego which sometimes thinks we are defined by our ability to do great things and think that we are the King, when we aren’t. Instead, we have to understand that God actually doesn’t need us, and that we can’t save the world. That’s His job. He is the King. We are the servants. That’s when grace enters the scene…

RESTING IN GOD’S GRACE:

Grace is an incredible thing. Grace stops us dead in our tracks and tells us we are loved, accepted, worth-it, and that we don’t need to perform for God’s love. It’s unconditional. For high-achievers — or anyone — this is something that is hard to compute, and is something we always need to work harder to learn and focus on. We must master the art of slowing down at times in our lives, and this can be truly hard for us. Especially, for us high, high-achievers.

That’s because, it can be so easy for our types of personalities to get bogged down and stressed out with the constant hustle and bustle — the rush and chase of learning and obtaining mountains full of wisdom, tweaking our habits, building a second chain for our company, eating the right foods, and making more money. There is always more to do, right? Networking more, reading more books, writing more books, or reading the statics of how many people read our blogs. With all of these things to always do, we can get so stressed out, so stressed we begin to run the risk the show, and we risk the danger of building our own Kingdom, and becoming the King, instead of building God’s Kingdom, and being the servant.

It’s an easy mistake to make especially when God has wired us to be high-achievers, champions and over-comers. While not all of us are built with quite high standards of achievement, in a sense, it’s built into our very nature. That means, it’s natural to create and design, to build company’s, plant churches, speak on stages, author books, and to do purposeful things with our time. That’s just how we are wired and how we enjoy living.

Now, if you are a high-achiever, you can multiply all of those things above by 100, and sometimes the ambition of feeling like we have to do everything and build 300 companies world-wide can crush us. Especially, if we are super high-achievers. Because as high-achievers we feel like we are right in the epicenter of God’s will for our lives when we make big provisions, lead well, build organizations, inspire hundreds, and reach many for Christ. Especially, if you are a natural born leader. You simply won’t be able to sit around and go with the flow. You will feel like you need to stand up and wonder why no one else around you is. That is what makes a leader, a leader. They stand up, when no one else does, because they don’t know how to be silent or how to follow the crowd a cause they don’t believe in.

While not all of us are high-achievers, we all have our pursuits — big or small — we all serve in different capacities, and how big or small of a capacity we serve in doesn’t matter. As long as we are serving well and stewarding what we have been given. It’s about what we do with what we have, not how high we jump.

That’s because, what we all do with our talents and our time is our form of human worship to God and doing purposeful things is how we properly steward our gifts. So, although, I understand that high-achievers feel like me, and you, feel like we are right in the epicenter of God’s will for our lives when we are making big provisions, leading well, building incredible organizations, inspiring hundreds, and reaching many for Christ. Sometimes, we have to learn to listen to God, who is our King, and to go where He wants us to go, and sometimes that won’t look like leading for a while. Other times, it won’t look like anything glamorous at all. Still, other times, God, just like Moses, will call us away from everything that seemed successful so that we can go to a desert to be prepared to lead thousands of people.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE:

My point is, and the two challenge I have for you today, in this post, start with telling you to do the opposite of what I usually am programmed to do, and instead of challenging you to raise the bar, work harder, think smarter, maximize time, become more productive, wake up earlier, do more, give me, read more or serve more.

Instead of doing all those things, that I love to write about. My message for you today is to simply rest in the beauty of God choosing you, designing you and saving you or dying on the cross for your sins, and accept His gift in it’s entirety. Unpack it for all it’s worth, and learn that sometimes God just wants us to relax, and other times he wants us to go. But learn to do what He says, not what you say you should do or the world says that you should do. Learn the balance between ambition and relaxation, and how to master the art of resting in God’s grace.

That’s my first challenge for you.

LEARNIGN TO RE-UNPACK THE GIFT:

Secondly, learning to master the art of ambition and relaxation forces us at times to think consciously about what was accomplished on the cross, and it challenges us to remind ourselves to re-accept the initial gift, and remember to rest in God’s grace and his strength for our lives. Sometimes, we need to learn to do this daily, or minutely. When we don’t know where to go, what to do, have no more titles, have lost our job, or are sent into the desert like Moses. Sometimes, we just need to stop and rest, to be still and know that God is the King, and that He is sitting on His throne and that His grace is enough for us to rest, to know that He knows what He is doing and where He is sending us (Psalms 46:10).

We need to learn this, because sometimes it gets so easy to think that we need to perform to gain God’s love, because we as high-achievers and leaders are often ‘performance-based’ people. Sometimes, we run the risk of thinking that we need to always be going running, moving, striving or sprinting forward. Instead of remember, that the christian life is all about endurance, not sprinting or getting there right away. It’s a progressive heart change of becoming more and more like Christ daily and yearly. But it’s progression. It’s over time.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER:

While we are certainly called to work hard, be wise stewards of our gifts, serve others, and preach the gospel to people in order to fulfilling the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20), and we are called to be perfect like Christ (Matthew 5:48). We also, just like anyone else, have the grace to just shut down, unplug from all the craziness, take a nap and rest.

This we need to understand, the fact that we would not be at fault and shouldn’t feel guilty to, at times, just sit one day and rest in God’s never-failing and never-ending and unsurpassable grace. Just rest. That’s all. No studying — no striving. No performance. Simply resting, for one day. Why?

Because, even God rested on Sunday (Genesis 2:2). And he often went up to mountain tops to rest and other areas to pray, and re-charge. If God rested and we are called to be like Him. Then, I think it’s cool if we rest once in a while. Of course we must find the balance between ambition and relaxation. That is the point of this post, to find the balance. To work hard, but to also find time to just be a dude serving Christ while relaxing over a nice chill game of golf with our buddies on a Saturday morning without feeling guilty. Because, we need that time to re-charge.

So what is your work to rest ratio like? Have you been booking enough time for yourself? Or maybe you have been in a period of too must rest? Maybe, instead, you aren’t striving for enough and using your gifts in the world to be a light? Whichever one you need to re-orientate and re-balance. Take the time today to do that, today, and work on it!

If you’ve been super stressed out, or more focused on what you can do for God’s kingdom then simply stop performing, and trying to do things for his kingdom. If you’ve been more focused on how to achieve more, improve your habits, improve your study habits, increase your running time in the morning or increase how much money you made this year. Just let this sink in. Believe God is happy with you, and believe that God allows you and gives you grace to have rest from time-to-time, and know that He doesn’t expect you to perform to receive salvation. It’s the belief and the action of living out your faith, that makes faith, faith. It’s not performance.

Know that God made you beautiful and that he made you in his image (Genesis 1:27), and (1 Timothy 4:4), say: “That everything God has created and made is good and not to be rejected.” Today, take a minute to tell yourself that you are worth it. You are not rejected. You are safe, your salvation is secure. You don’t have to prove yourself to the guy above you on the success ladder. Nor, do you have to sell more books than your favorite artist or author or have more blog hits.

We all struggle with this from time to time, as high performers.

Take today and rest in God’s grace for you, to simply — be you.

Learn the art of balancing ambition and relaxation. 

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Jeremy Siggelkow

Writer. Speaker. Teacher.
Jeremy Siggelkow is a Husband, Trainer, Writer, Bible-teacher, Speaker and a sinner saved by God's grace who studies theology at Foundations Baptist College. He is passionate about health, fitness, art, architecture, history, music and is passionate about helping people develop better life-rhythms and create better life-stories through behavioural change and the hope and power of the gospel.

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