Overscheduled. Overworked. Overcommitted. Overwhelmed. Sound familiar? Many of us find ourselves running from one activity to another, feeling stressed and at the mercy of a schedule of our own making. Busyness can make us feel like we are doing something, but we may be hard pressed to explain exactly what it is we are doing that really matters. If that sounds like your life, we invite you to take a brief "time out" to look at whether you are acting like a driven or a called person.
Driven vs. Called
In his book, Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald describes the characteristics of stressed, driven people (who often are doing very good things). They are all around us. In fact, often they are us! Do you see yourself or someone close to you in some of these symptoms?
A driven person is:
- "Usually abnormally busy. They are usually too busy for the pursuit of ordinary relationships in marriage, family, or friendship, or even to carry on a relationship with themselves-not to speak of one with God....They operate on the precept that a reputation for busyness is a sign of success and personal importance. Thus they attempt to impress people with the fullness of their schedule."
- Most often only gratified by accomplishment. They have little patience for or appreciation of the process leading to accomplishing something. The only worthwhile things are those that produce visible results.
- Preoccupied with attaining the things that symbolize accomplishment. Their goal is the ongoing acquisition of those things that represent power and status.
- Usually pursuing something that is "bigger" and "more successful" than their last endeavor. Tends to have a limited regard for integrity. "Shortcuts to success become a way of life. Because the goal is so important, they drift into ethical shabbiness."
- Often characterized by limited or undeveloped people skills. "Because their eyes are upon goals and objectives, they rarely take note of the people about them, unless they can be used for the fulfillment of one of the goals."
- Usually highly competitive. They see everything in life as a win-or-lose game. "Winning provides the evidence the driven person desperately needs that he is right, valuable, and important."
- Often typified by "a volcanic force of anger," which can erupt any time he senses opposition or disloyalty. This anger can be triggered when people disagree, offer an alternative solution to a problem, or even hint at just a bit of criticism."
Driven people are controlled by their compulsions. When we live as driven people, we
are listening to our culture and our fears, not to God. Drivenness comes so readily to us. "I look inside my private world," MacDonald confesses, "and discover that almost every day I have to wrestle with whether I will be a [driven or a called person]. Living in a competitive world where achievement is almost everything, it would be easy to...be driven, to hold on, to protect, to dominate. And I might even find myself doing those sorts of things while telling myself that I was doing God's work."
But can the driven person be changed? "Most certainly," says MacDonald. "It begins when such a person faces up to the fact that he is operating according to drives and not calls. That discovery is usually made in the blinding, searching light of an encounter with Christ." God loves us! He doesn't want us to be at the mercy of our fears and compulsions. He wants to free us so that we can become the people he created us to be and do the things he created us to do.
In those moments when we glimpse what it means to live as a called person, we can echo MacDonald's words:
Having listened to God's call, I can know my mission. It may demand courage and discipline, of course, but now the results are in the hands of the Caller. Whether I increase or decrease is His concern, not mine. To order my life according to the expectations of myself and others; and to values myself according to the opinions of others; these can play havoc with my inner world. But to operate on the basis of God's call is to enjoy a great deal of order within (MacDonald, p. 65).
God's love, grace and truth enables us to exchange our frenetic life of achievement, acquisition and activity for a life centered on pleasing our Audience of One.
Strategies for Living as Called, not Driven People
The following are some strategies that can help us in the quest to invest our time in the things that matter:
1. Scrutinize your schedule. Take a large sheet of paper and divide it into five columns. In the first column, list all of your activities and commitments in a typical month. (If you have a spouse and/or children, make this a family activity with each family member adding to the list).
In the 2nd column, write down the amount of time it requires each week (include driving time, preparation time, etc.). In the 3rd column, write down why you (or another family member) are doing the activity. In the 4th column list the "pros" of doing this activity; in the 5th column the "cons." (The pros and cons should take into account the impact on both the individual and the family.)
2. Evaluate your activities with at least one other person. We often are too close to our lifestyle choices to see them clearly. Your partner, or small group, can provide helpful insight and feedback. Together, address questions such as: Are there any activities that you (or your family) should remove from your schedule? And, are there any activities you should add? For example, does your schedule have sufficient time built in for building relationships with your family and friends? Is there time for growing your relationship with God, and worshipping him? Is there time for providing spiritual training for your children? Is there time for serving others in your church, neighborhood and community? Is there adequate time for renewal and relaxation?
3. Re-create your schedule based on God's priorities for your life. God gives each of us enough time to do all the things he wants us to do. Ask the Lord to help you (and your family) create a schedule that reflects the life he intends you to live. God may very well be calling you to do less, not more! This is not an easy process; you may feel like you are in uncharted territory.
In the book, When I Relax, I Feel Guilty, Tim Hansel describes our condition of suffering "from a nagging sense of guilt that no matter how much [we] do, it is never quite enough....Words like wonder, joy, rest, and freedom have become faded replicas of what Christ taught. Time becomes a tyrant instead of a friend."
4. Commit your schedule and intended activities for the day to God each morning. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in making wise use of your time that day. Review your mission statements and Action Plan. Ask God to enable you to live your calling "24/7" each day.
The Great Count Down
The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives. Let us join with the psalmist in praying, "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.... And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:12, 17 NASU). God gifts us "24/7" with a new day; 24 invaluable, irreplaceable hours of time to manage. We need guidance from the Creator of time so that we use the hours of the day to live our callings, and not run by or away from them.
If you would like professional assistance with discovering your vocational calling or making a career transition, we invite you to look into our career coaching services. After reading about our services, you can schedule a free consultation session to discuss which career services would best meet your needs. We would consider it a privilege to help you discover who God has created you to be and what He has designed you to do!