You Are More Than Your Work


[vimeo id="174521105"] Many people exist in a work environment where the expectation is to always be available. I’m not talking about police officers or doctors. I mean the average business person or pastor often does not have a clear distinction between work and the rest of their lives.

If you can scan, email, and interact with work documents and complete tasks anywhere, why not also any time of the day, night, weekends, and holidays? There is a general lack of respect and discipline around boundaries between work and the rest of life.

And this is a problem that fundamentally affects the strength of the family, the quality of life for the individual, and, ultimately, will negatively impact culture. It’s the very thing that books like The One Thing, Essentialism, and Necessary Endings are trying to combat.

I don’t always get it right. That’s OK.

I’ve been in some tough places over the years. I started as a sports broadcaster at a very young age in one of the most competitive markets in the country. I felt the pressure to know every stat, name, and play of any and every relevant game, practice, or scrimmage. As I moved into ministry, I discovered that a pastor’s work really doesn’t have a beginning or an end. And then the transition to education leadership was another challenge entirely as I learned to navigate different people, politics, and policy to survive and thrive.

I didn’t get it right for a long time. In fact, I still don’t keep the right things in the right order all the time. I get consumed with work, and it begins to affect my relationship with my wife, children, and friends. And that’s when I know I need a reset.

Give yourself a break.

I tend to be very hard on myself. I believe that the work I am doing is important. It’s a calling from God. While that is true, such rationalizations can become a slippery slope that can lead to some very bad habits.

Even God created time for rest. He was explicit in separating humankind from work and rest. He didn’t ask you and me to give it some consideration; God was clear in His expectations. If the creator of the Universe believes that work shouldn’t consume every nook and cranny of your life, why do you think it should?

You are More than the sum total of your work accomplishments.

Harvard Business Review wrote about a 24/7 work culture. In the article, the writer states, “To be ideal workers, people must choose, again and again, to prioritize their jobs ahead of others parts of their lives ….” Like the author of the article, I take issue with the implication of any manager or leader that an employee should be available on-call all the time.

Leading like that creates a poor, unhealthy work environment that will lead to your best people finding roles in other organizations. And that is unacceptable. Your organization is only as strong as its people. And without great people, you can’t have great teams. And without great teams, you can’t accomplish the work necessary to turn vision into reality.

Here are five questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not you need to make a change:

  1. Do you take calls from work after business hours on a weekly basis?
  2. Do you respond to email late at night even when it could wait until the next business day?
  3. Do you give up time with your friends and family to catch up on work weekly?
  4. Do you get anxiety when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi for a day for fear that you’ll miss something urgent or important?
  5. What and who are you investing your time and energy in that is not attached to work in any way?

I want to encourage you to answer those questions honestly. If you’re married, ask your spouse. If you’re single, as a trusted friend to answer these questions with you.

Your job will change; your time on this earth will not.

Your job won’t last forever. In fact, you’re likely to change careers and industries multiple times during your working years. The people you love will walk through all of those changes with you, and they’ll be there to help you pick up the pieces when they fall apart.

You were meant to accomplish more than work. Whatever you have to do to break the bad habit of letting work bleed into every crevice of your life, do it. You’ll find that you’ll become happier, more satisfied, and life will be fun again.

The paradox is this: When you’re healthy and rested mentally, spiritually, and physically, you’ll be a more successful professional, manager, and leader.

CHALLENGE: Take inventory of your life to determine if work has consumed your life. Determine what you need to start doing and stop doing this week to rebalance and recenter so that you can become the full expression of God’s divine design.