Despite what you may think, burnout isn’t reserved for only Fortune 500 executives and pastors of megachurches. it can blindside any of us. And its effects are devastating not only to you, but to those you love.
But if we’re not careful, we can unwittingly tell ourselves that burnout doesn’t apply to us. Here are five of the lies we often believe that creep into our work and lives:
You Don’t Have Time to Do What You Enjoy
A few years ago, I had a doctor look me in the eye and say, “Man, you look like $@#!” He certainly wasn’t afraid to shoot straight.
I was in the midst of burnout myself, and it had taken a toll on my mind and body. Beyond addressing the physical issues during that visit, I’ll never forget what he told me when I was walking out the door: “You may think it’s selfish, but you better make time for what it is you love on a regular basis.”
I drove home thinking, “But I need to get more done at work, and if there’s any extra time, it goes to my wife and kids … or I should probably be feeding the homeless!”
You might spend all your time trying to be the big hero to everyone, but you’ll quickly discover by avoiding your own needs, you’ll end up being a total jerk to the very ones you’re trying not to neglect.
So whether it’s hanging out with your buddies, going on a hike, hopping on your motorcycle for an hour, or taking it all out on a punching bag, do it. Everyone in your life will actually appreciate you for it.
People’s Opinions of You Matter
You might be one of those people who can let criticism and gossip just roll off your back. If so, my hat goes off to you.
For the rest of us, it can be all-consuming. On the surface, we think we’re just mad, but subconsciously, it’s conjuring up a pile of insecurity, baggage and ultimately offense.
Do you realize how liberating it would be if you forced yourself to not care about other’s opinions? The reality is, someone is always going to have something negative to say about you, no matter how right you get it.
Be you. Do what the Lord tells you to do, and be ready for the opinions. Jesus knew a thing or two about the opinion of man while following His Father’s will—He got Himself just about pushed off a cliff, flogged and eventually killed. When you keep that in mind, you can realize Jerry’s opinion of your “new house that seems too nice for a pastor’s salary” can’t bug you too much, or soon everything will.
(It should be noted that social media has made this suggestion almost impossible. It’s pretty hard to avoid an opinion that just got tweeted out to 10,000 church members, but your resolve must be the same––what does God think of you, and what do you think of yourself?)
You Have to Isolate Yourself to Get The Work Done
After our last move, we were hours from our friends. By trying to run my business remotely, I had created a host of new problems for myself. It was absolutely crazy for months.
When I finally did meet with some friends, I realized I had gotten a little awkward. I didn’t know what to talk about; what I did say wasn’t grounded, and worst of all, I knew it. That insecurity made me want to further isolate myself.
And keep in mind, you can be in a crowd of people on a regular basis but still be isolated. I’m talking about not pursuing genuine friendship. For me, with no one to keep me real, to confess sin, etc., being overworked didn’t hold a candle to the self-inflicted loneliness. Don’t let the “it’s lonely at the top” cliche keep you from pursuing deep fellowship.
You Can Do It All
I bet your corporate and personal to-do list is at least a good 30-50 lines deep on a daily basis. Of all the books on time management I’ve forced myself to read, the one technique that finally put a dent in my addiction to busyness was to pick 3-5 of the most important items and complete them. If you don’t, you might start 100 percent of the items on your list, but you won’t finish a single one.
The frustration you feel at the end of your day after barely taking time to eat, blowing off your loved ones and responding to every fire as it arrives in your inbox––then realizing you completed nothing––will eventually drive you over the edge. For a while, you’ll pat yourself on the back, proud of how hard you’re working; but staying busy instead of productive won’t just ruin your ministry, it will ruin you.
Confession: When you’re picking those 3-5 priority items, be better than me about asking the Holy Spirit what they should be. I’m really good at putting my kingdom over His Kingdom. Spinning your wheels is one way to lead to burnout, but spinning them while missing out on what He wants is a guarantee.
You Have to Be Perfect
It seems odd that wanting perfection in your organization can be extremely detrimental, but I’m embarrassed to say I’ve spent hours tweaking creative, endlessly rewriting copy and losing hours anguishing over decision after decision.
There are several resources that address perfectionism, particularly in how it relates to your organization. One of my favorites is the approach in Getting Real. It promotes the idea of creating awesome outcomes, but getting work done incrementally.
The word perfect actually means “complete.” Somehow the meaning has evolved to “flawless,” which is a lot like how saying ASAP has evolved into “RIGHT NOW!” So in order for something to be complete versus flawless, you need to define steps. That way when you reach the first milestone, you can press GO. Is it the best it could possibly ever be? No. But it’s the best it needs to be right now.
In conclusion, these five points could be summed up in one: Jesus prayed that we’d be one with the Father like He was. If you’re connected with Him, then none of these five lies will take you down.
Dave Wike is the president of JCA Company, the parent company of Pastor Resources, which recently launched a brand-new website at PastorResources.com to provide encouragement, inspiration and emotional support to church leaders and their wives.