Success Slave: Rethinking Ambition and Drive
What is it about success that makes people go crazy? It’s the ultimate American dream and what nearly every single person desires to some extent, but can also be the destruction of many people.
Today I want to talk to you about the side of success that is often overlooked. The side that takes ambitious, well meaning people and turns them into success slaves.
I am the first to admit falling into this trap myself. I have been very open about my struggle with being a workaholic and accomplishment junkie in the past; and I have finally found such an incredible freedom from the bondage that had in my life.
Once I began to open up about my struggles with wanting to accomplish more, not letting myself rest and constantly feeling pressure to strive and attain the next check point, I came across other amazing ambitious women who had similar struggles. I don’t think it was by accident. I believe God placed them in my life for us to support each other, and to gain some perspective. Sometimes it takes seeing it in someone else to see the problem in yourself or find the answer.
Women are tough on themselves. I think much more so than men. We think fast, we work fast, we pay attention to detail; and if you are blessed with a type A personality in addition, that can sometimes get very unbalanced, very quickly.
I was recently out with a girlfriend and as we sat there sipping tea and catching up, we both realized we were in a similar place in our lives. We were trying to run our own lives, we were stressed, exhausted, and never measuring up to our own expectations. We began to joke about the stupid things we do in the name of success or productivity; and as we made light of it, we both had a-ha moments on how silly we had been.
We committed to taking time off to seek the Lord and relearn how to be ambitious and effective in a healthy way.
What I learned in that extended break was incredible. I learned the power of surrender. I learned what really mattered and I learned that half of the things I stress about don’t matter at all!
I was constantly comparing myself to other entrepreneurs online who seemed to have much more success than I did. I would constantly keep myself from resting because I did not finish all the tasks on my to do list. Those of you who have a to-do list with any sort of content on it, know that they just typically don’t get done in a day. Because things come up, projects take longer than expected, headaches happen, you have to break to eat and breath and live from time to time; and as a result it just doesn’t all get done.
Once I realized the bondage it had on me, I found the inspiration to value myself enough to step away from the self-destructive success slave way of life. I began to give myself much more margin in the day; time to do whatever I feel needs to be done without a time crunch. I started spending more and more time with God. In fact, I now cannot start my day without my quiet time with the Lord, because in that time I remember what matters, who I really am, and seek his guidance on what He wants me to be doing. It sets the pace for my entire day. I even changed my angle of my writing and music so that I can stay focused on the important things in life and have every piece of ‘work’ I do be full of purpose and passion.
Ladies, we live in a culture that tells us we need to do more, be more and fill our schedules with more and more.
I cut back the appointments and engagements on my calendar. I prioritized what really matters in life. I spent time seeking Jesus and asking him for guidance. I had to do what needs to be done to get off the path that leads to nothing but headaches, stress and no time. Because God made us to be. He made us to do what humans do. To love, to eat, to enjoy each other and to be lights in a dark world. We are the ones that overcomplicate it. We are the ones who turn a simple life into a complicated mess.
Once I realized what a hold success had on me, I was able to step away with lots and lots of prayer and grace. And as a result I found a complete and total different vision of what success looks like to me.
Success is truly not definable with a blanket definition for everyone. For some the most incredible accomplishment in the world is being a mom, or a teacher, or a good wife, or an encourager, or a happy person, or a healthy person, or someone who makes others laugh.
Once we realize that we each have a unique plan in the Kingdom of God with unique gifts, strengths and joys, I believe we can breathe a little easier.
Now all of a sudden we can find our value in Christ and find a confidence that goes much deeper than a good hair day or an amazing accomplishment. Now just being us, is enough.
Being me is enough. Success is something we will always want. Of course. But being a slave to success is where we ambitious women get into trouble.
The world pressures us to be high powered career women and then criticizes us when we don’t get married or leave our kids with a nanny; and on the other side of the spectrum the world looks down on us who feel called to stay home with the kids and be an incredible wife and mom because were not out having careers and changing the world.
The reality is, there will always be pressures and opinions, but once you learn who God made you to be and the amazing plan he has for your life, it becomes a lot easier to take a deep breath and just be.
We are enough. Even if we never accomplish anything else productive or ‘successful’ by the worlds standards. Because I do not live to please the standards of the world, but the one who created the world.
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