Most people would call me an overachiever, a label that for me has generally positive connotations. I enjoy staying busy. It makes me feel productive. Being productive also often translates into accomplishing goals, which typically lead to some kind of reward. It's an appealing cycle, and one that I've practiced much of my life.
In my life, I have found that the benefits of being an overachiever have typically outweighed the disadvantages. The pleasure I have taken in accomplishing a goal usually has trumped the long days and sleepless nights. Throughout my life, I have been rewarded (at least in the worldly sense) for my accomplishments. Whether it was praise from my parents, acceptance by teachers, or wins on the soccer field, my achievements always seemed to translate into the value I offered to the world. In turn, I overbooked my schedule with activities in order to stay busy, and therefore productive.
One February morning a few years ago, I achieved the pinnacle of my goals when I was accepted into one of the country's top business schools. At the time, I couldn't imagine a more perfect reward for all my hard work. To top it off, I was engaged to a wonderful man, and we were busy preparing for our wedding.
My life looked pretty amazing, clearly the result of a lifetime of hard work (or so I told myself). Not one month later, however, the perfect little world I had worked so hard to build suddenly fell apart. My fiancé died of a heart arrhythmia. I remember waking up the next morning wondering how I could be in this place after all I had accomplished in my life.
It has taken a while for me to realize that my destructive pattern of motivation came from an insecurity of wanting to prove my significance to the world. And, yes, I've even been tempted to work hard at fixing that. The good news is that we don't have to fix ourselves, because God has already done the work for us.
In Ephesians 2:8, Paul reminds us that it is by grace we have been saved, not by works. God wants us to work, use the gifts he has given us and not to stand idle, but we must remember that we do this work not because it will save us but because we are already saved. Our motivation for work must be gratitude and praise for God's mercy. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works" (v. 10).
Point to Ponder
No accomplishment or act we can do will save us. It is only through God's grace that we are saved.
Questions to Consider
1. Do you attempt to achieve goals just to achieve them? Does achieving a goal sometimes feel more important than the reason for achieving that goal?
2. When you analyze your work habits and your schedule, what do you find truly motivates your actions every day?
3. Where do you find your worth and significance as a person? Is it found in the things you achieve or in God's love for you?
Originally posted March 31, 2008