As promised from Part 1, we will explore more tips and tricks on how to cope with overwork. In the last blog, I suggested breaking the large problem into manageable pieces and calling for help. Here are some more which I hope will work for you.
Stop obsessing about the outcome. I once read a proverb that goes something like this, “Do everything as if they depend on you. Pray everything as if they depend on God.”
Many times as we tackle intimidating tasks, we paralyze ourselves with worry. What if the results do not turn out the way we want it? I know how it’s like to be biting my nails if my output is good or bad. But we should learn when to grab the bull by the horns and when to let go.
Do something else for a while. Philip Yancey, a best-selling writer, was once asked, “What do you do when you have writer’s block?” He replied that he would turn off his computer, go to the movies with his wife or do some mountain hiking. Then when he goes back to his desk, the creative juices just flow again.
Sometimes the more we try to slog through the work, the more our minds resist. But when we give ourselves a break, our subconscious mind may start percolating and brilliant ideas may surface that will lighten your workload.
Turn to God. Actually, we should turn to God all the time, whether we are starting that project, in the thick of it, or winding it up. I have my share of anxiety attacks but I discovered a powerful antidote. It is Jesus’ promise: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Whenever I am tempted to panic due to looming deadlines or crushing assignments, I tell myself, “I am hiding behind the Man who overcomes the world.” I do not mean hiding in the sense of an ostrich burying his head in the sand. But hiding like availing the refuge of a cave while there is a furious storm outside.
Let God intercept the pressure. Ask God for clarity of thought and calmness of spirit amidst the storm. Then do your best... and trust God do the rest.
Photo credit: The Economic Times
Sooner or later, we will feel overwhelmed with our tasks. It seems that 24 hours a day, seven days a week aren't enough. But over the years I have used these survival tips whenever an avalanche of to-do’s crashes onto my head. I hope they will work for you, too.
Break the large problem into manageable pieces. How do you remove a forest? Chop down one tree at a time.
Okay, this example may not sit well with environmentalists, but it carries a gem of wisdom. Look at that massive project and organize it into smaller, bite-size pieces. That way, we can tackle one issue at a time. Chop down that tree, then this one, then that one…
This will relieve us from drowning in the enormity of the task. What’s more, it may also guide us as to what is the most strategic way to begin. Sometimes all it takes is to start somewhere, anywhere, just to get the ball rolling. As we close one issue and move to the next, this generates a sense of progress and momentum.
Call for help. They say Rome was not built in a day. It was not built by one man, either. So don’t fall into the trap of doing it all by your lonesome. A burden shared is a burden halved. So find people (or ask for people) to whom you can delegate certain tasks, especially if they can do it way better than you can.
Also, marshal a team of advisers and experts. Why reinvent the wheel and repeat mistakes that others have done? I believe that every organization has a reservoir of experience or wisdom we can drink from… if we know where to look.
Don’t despair that you don’t have all the answers. Chances are, your superiors don’t expect you to know everything either. But they do expect you to know where to find those answers. Perhaps someone in the organization had done a similar project.
Remember to be genuinely humble and appreciative as you solicit their advice. And who knows, while you are externalizing your thoughts and concerns, the solutions may be forming in your head.
I will share more tips next week in Part 2. Meantime, hang in there and recharge over the weekend. Do drop me a line email@example.com for comments or questions.
In a marriage seminar, Rick Warren once told the husbands in the room, “Do you know why you have problems in your marriage? Because you married a sinner!” Before the husbands could gloat and the wives could gasp, Warren quickly added, “and she married a bigger one!”
Sometimes I wonder which is harder: the offended party to forgive or the offender to apologize. If you find it hard to say sorry, let me share some tips on smoothing the ruffled feathers:
Apologize without exception. Believe thou me, I heard people saying “Why should I apologize when I have done nothing wrong?” Well, if the other party was hurt, that is evidence that you indeed have done something wrong. When you stubbornly refuse to admit your mistake, you are actually hardening your heart and if that becomes a habit, it’s all downhill from there. While this sounds counter-intuitive, even though it’s not your fault, it won’t hurt to say “sorry.”
Apologize without excuse. Doesn’t it infuriate you when someone “apologizes” only to insist he is still correct? Many apologies go “I’m sorry but…” The ‘but’ has a nasty habit of negating the contrition. Rick Warren has another gem that goes like this: “When you’re right, you don’t need a defense. When you’re wrong, you don’t have a defense.” So learn how to say “I’m sorry. I was wrong. No excuses.”
Apologize without ego. Why do we hate apologizing? Because it feels painful. Why is that? You have to do some soul-searching for yourself, but my experience is that we usually pride ourselves for being smart or right all the time. When we fall short, it wounds this pride.
So what’s the antidote to such pride? It is to look at the Cross. Jesus died for us so that when we put our trust in Him, God sees and accepts us as His dearly beloved children. Therefore, our identity is no longer based on how our spouse regards us. In Christ, we are already utterly loved, accepted and complete. Thus we have nothing to prove or defend. Saying “sorry” won’t diminish us.
So there you have it. Apologize without exception. Apologize without excuse. Apologize without ego. And if you still hate to apologize for doing something wrong, then don’t do it in the first place.
After all, the best apology is a changed behavior.
Photo credit from Grammarly
What do you do when people or circumstances have put your dreams on hold?
If you are familiar with the story of Exodus, God freed the Israelites from cruel slavery in Egypt. They were supposed to go the Promised Land but they failed to trust God. Instead, they clamored to hoof back to Egypt. So God sentenced those who were 40 years old and up to die in the desert, except Moses, Joshua and Caleb.
Fast forward four decades later. Moses had died; his successor Joshua was leading the second generation to conquer the Promised Land. Guess who stepped up with an audacious request? Caleb, who was by then a senior citizen!
In a stirring speech, he told Joshua, “Now, then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty five years… So here I am today, eighty five years old. I am still as strong today…. I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard that the [enemies] were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
Wow! He kept his dream alive by about 40 years! How did he do it? Here are Caleb’s secrets:
Keep your mind on God’s purposes. God wanted to give Caleb a piece of the Promised Land. Despite the arduous forty years of wandering in the desert, the vision of his inheritance continued to blaze within Caleb. He never let go of his dream. After the forty years were over, he had a second chance to claim the hill country that was his share of the Promised Land.
What is the “hill country” that God has laid in your heart? We need to be energized by a compelling sense of what God wants us to do with our lives. Without a vision of that hill country, we slide into mediocre living.
Keep your heart from regrets or bitterness. Have you noticed that there was not a trace of rancor in Caleb’s speech? Remember that the first generation were stuck in the desert for 40 years... and blameless Caleb was stuck with them!
He could have grumbled, “This is unfair! I should be exempted from this punishment!” His spirit could have been soured by deep resentment not only against his fellow Israelites, but against God Himself. But no. He remained as vibrant and faithful as ever.
Keep your body in great shape. Can you imagine Caleb thundering, “Now give me this hill country!” then wheezed and collapsed? I love the part of his speech where he boasted, “So here I am today, eighty five years old. I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.”
On a practical level, we are to stay physically fit. We want to pursue our lifelong dream, but we can’t do it if we are battling diabetes or incapacitated by a stroke.
It is not that life gets to take things from us as the years crawl by. It is what we put into life. Or more precisely, it is what God will put into our life as we travel with Him. Like Caleb, let us put into our life a passion for God, a spirit brimming with grace, and a body kept fit for the challenge.
In due time, we will conquer our hill countries!
Photo credit from Rostyslav Savchyn, Unsplash
There was one time I was rushing a business report that I skipped lunch. Yep, bad idea. When I discussed the report with a co-worker that mid-afternoon, I was already weak and cranky. My stomach was rumbling so loud that I couldn’t understand what the other guy was saying. Only after taking a very late lunch (at 3 pm!) did my focus and sanity return.
I wonder if many people feel that way, too. Not famished for food, but emotional nourishment. I am referring to that deep human need for affirmation. Some of us won’t admit it, but I believe all of us yearn to be recognized for our worth, what the Bible calls us “being made in the image of God”.
On the other hand, people get recharged from affirmation: a pat on the back, a sincere “well done” or as the Americans say, “Attaboy!” Mark Twain famously said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
I don’t think there is anything wrong in wanting encouragement. However, the problem is when we depend on it so much. Some people are addicted to approval. They go through emotional roller coasters: they are high when they are applauded and crash when they are not.
Therefore, it is much better that we learn to affirm ourselves. We heighten our appetite for excellent work such that it would not really matter if our employers commend us or not. We reflect God’s self-sufficiency as He created the heavens and the earth and called it “good.”
But there is a deeper solution to starving souls. It is to transition from man’s affirmation to God’s. That is why it is important to imbue our jobs with a divine purpose. Why do we work? It is not just to earn money, although that is good. It is being God’s partners to provide products and services to our fellowmen.
For example, have you noticed that God could have just dropped bread from the ceiling down onto our breakfast plates? But He chose the more “natural” way of allowing some people to be farmers to grow and harvest wheat, others to knead the dough and bake the bread, and still others to provide the capital to set up the bakery business itself. The farmer, baker and investors are all God’s partners to bring bread to people.
When we view our jobs this way, we want to know what our Heavenly Boss would say, not just our human bosses. Two of Jesus’ beloved parables end with an employer exclaiming, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master.”
Therefore, let us resolve to do a great job and trust that God is pleased, even if our superiors seem to withhold their appreciation. Once we mature in this area, we are ready for the next step: affirming others.
I am blessed by this advice from Charles Spurgeon, a 19th century preacher, “Do not ask to be appreciated. Never be so mean as that. Appreciate yourself in the serenity of conscience, and leave your honor with your God.”
Make it our life’s mission to be the best workers we can be. Leave our affirmation in the hands of God who sees all, judges impartially and rewards lavishly.
Photo credit: Marcos Paulo Prado, Unsplash
Some years ago, I led a discussion about Jesus saying "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10." My icebreaker question was "What do you think the abundant life means?”
One participant actually rattled off a list like this: “Happiness. Good job. Nice salary. Beautiful wife…” In hindsight, I think he was being facetious. But it struck me that perhaps much of our confusion and distress is because we jump into our own definitions of “abundant life.”
The more I study the passage, the more I am convinced that “abundant life” is that which flows from a Shepherd-sheep relationship with Jesus Christ. In context, the promise of John 10:10 lies smack in the middle of a discourse about Him being the Good Shepherd.
Security. Shepherding is a dangerous job. When a wolf appears to ravage the flock, the shepherd puts himself in its path to protect the sheep. Jesus said the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep and applies this to Himself, “… and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Most people would interpret this as His death on the Cross. But security also applies to everyday, earthly living. The shepherd goes ahead of the sheep. I once read a devotional that goes like this: We need not be afraid of difficulties and temptations, because first they have to pass through the Shepherd before they can get to us. What a wonderful thought!
Sustenance. Security means nothing when one is starving. Jesus said that the shepherd calls his sheep and leads them out.
To where? The sheep “come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:11). The shepherd knows the patches of green where the sheep might graze. He personally leads them to these pastures. While the sheep blissfully munch the grass, the shepherd keeps an alert eye against predators. The element of security is interwoven with sustenance.
Jesus does not shove us with meager rations. He spreads out a sumptuous buffet before us! The believer-sheep need not starve. True, he can hunger for God and actually go through stretches when God seemed to be distant or absent. But we are assured that in due time, He satisfies us with good things.
Significance. Ever been to a party where nobody knows your name and couldn’t care less? We would feel unimportant, don’t we? But the Good Shepherd calls each sheep by name.
We would think sheep are sheep; they all look alike. But the experienced shepherd would say something like, “Do you see Long Ears over there? He doesn’t give as much trouble as Hide-and-Seek right here. This walking pile of wool keeps straying from the flock. I lost count of the times I had to look for this darn critter. Oh, have you met Frisky? He’s the nervous type who will never eat unless he’s sure there’s no wolf prowling around…”
The same God who knows each star also summons us by name. We are important to Him. By extension, He knows us far more intimately than we know ourselves. He knows our hurts, dreams, regrets, worries, hopes and joys. He hears our every sigh. He watches over our every step. The good news to the lonely and overlooked is that we have value to the One whose opinion matters the most.
What now? People squander millions of pesos, destroy themselves in addictions and wage wars for far less. But in Christ, we have an unfailing Champion, a generous Chef, and a loving Companion.
Let us commit to have Christ as our Shepherd and we His sheep. True, we start by believing in Him. But let us also hear His voice and follow Him. How? By reading our Bibles, praying, joining the community that is His flock, going where He wants us to go, doing what He wants us to do.
Then we would taste – perhaps for the very first time – the utter delights of the abundant life.
Photo credit from Science Node
“You complete me…”
Chances are, you have heard of these three famous words which Tom Cruise uttered in the movie Jerry Maguire.
That’s why many people get married. We dream that our spouse – and later, our children – will satisfy our hearts. But we are rudely awakened when we discover that one can be married, have kids and still be lonely. It does not need to remain this way.
Loneliness springs from frustrated desire. We all yearn to relate to others in a special and intimate way. But our spouses and children are not robots. We cannot simply push a button and have them end our loneliness.
Notice how our problem depends on the decisions and actions of people over whom we really have no control.
One powerful way to break free from the loneliness trap is to focus on what we can do, not on what we want other people to do for us. Instead of demanding to be loved, we give love. Eventually, we will reap what we sow. By taking initiative to cherish and to serve our loved ones, we are cherished and served in return.
But what if one feels so “dried up” in loneliness that to be loving, rather than seeking to be loved, looms like an impossible task?
Have you seen a cup filling itself with water? Of course not. Someone has to pour water into it. Our hearts are just like that. We need someone to pour love into our thirsty, broken hearts. The good news is that there is someone who has an endless supply of love to give.
His name is Jesus. He invites us to give Him our aching hearts that He will fill with His love. Then, like an actual cup held underneath a raging waterfall, our hearts will overflow with His love which in turn will refresh the hearts of our spouse and children.
We need not journey in loneliness. We can count on Jesus to be by our side and, along the way, discover that He can do what Tom Cruise was looking for. He completes us.
Photo credit from Desiring God
Someone once told me, “Many people don’t work to succeed. Rather, they work not to fail.”
What he meant is that many employees play it safe. They are terrified of making mistakes and being criticized by their bosses. So they do the bare minimum in their jobs and keep their mouths shut. However, they stunt their professional growth and limit their career enhancement.
In contrast, “working to succeed” means taking initiative and delivering more than expected. They tackle their jobs with passion. They welcome new assignments as opportunities to stretch and flourish. When their boss gives them a “sermon,” they don’t take it personally. Rather they consider this as valuable feedback to learn the ropes and, more importantly, learn how to improve themselves.
What makes the difference between “working not to fail” versus “working to succeed”?
One basic reason is that the former is dominated by fear. Specifically, fear of failure.
Based on personal experience and those of others, I can tell you that working out of fear is a terrible way to live. It makes one dread to get up in the morning, sucks the gusto at the workplace and kills rapport with co-workers.
I think it is normal to be afraid of failing, especially if those blunders can cost the company lots of money and time. But there is a healthy fear which acknowledges the risk of failure and takes steps to minimize the risk. Beyond that is a pathological fear that paralyzes one from doing anything at all.
The antidote to fear of failure is thorough preparation. We do our homework, ask a lot of questions, clarify our objectives, double or triple check our data, and challenge our assumptions.
One more thing: most people neglect the valuable resource of seasoned and trustworthy mentors who can alert you of what mistakes to avoid. They will share things you won’t learn from books and guide you on how to maximize your chances of success.
Let’s face it: nobody really knows everything, let alone absorbing them all at once. It takes humility, curiosity, resourcefulness, initiative and, most of all, time to learn.
May you work out of courage and no longer with a twinge of fear.
Photo credit from Knowledge@Wharton
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