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Musings of an Achievement-Oriented Person

I like getting stuff done. Some of my least favorite things include wasting time, being unproductive, failing at something, and doing something wrong, then having to go all the way back and fix it.

I take pride in everything I do; I really enjoy being busy, almost out of breath all the time, packing my schedule full of activities and tasks. I love to solve problems and make things become more efficient. I have to feel that what I’m doing has a meaning and will benefit me or someone else in the long run.

Looking up what the characteristics of achievement-oriented people, this is what I found:

They are leaders

They are responsible

They set high standards

They are constantly learning

They have a positive attitude

That list describes me pretty well. Impressive, if I do say so myself. Okay, maybe I need to work on having a positive attitude, but I have everything else down fairly well.

So that’s cool, right? I’m on the right track.

The other day, my boyfriend and I were having a conversation, talking about a friend. I said, “I love her, and she’s great to talk to. I’ve wasted so much time, just talking to her while she worked.”

My boyfriend stopped me. “That’s one of the worst things you could say about a person. You think she’s a waste of time?”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” I said, pausing. “It’s just that I had so many other things I should’ve been doing… I guess that did sound bad. I don’t know why I’d think people were a waste of time.”

“It sounds like you have a problem there.”

And that’s when I got it. I’m content trying to reach all of my goals, getting praised and acknowledged for everything I’m doing. But I can’t ever have fun being with people, because I’ll constantly be thinking of everything I could be doing during that time. My way of thinking has been hurting me and the people who want to enjoy my company. I’m never fully present; I either have something to work on with me, or I’m worrying about something I should be doing. I carry a book with me everywhere, just in case. I schedule everything down to the minute. The time I spend talking to someone is always carefully calculated. I’m so achievement-oriented, I forget what life should be about.

The problem is that the world reflects the exact same thing. To be successful, you must be constantly accomplishing something. In corporate settings, the employees being promoted are those who work 60+ hours a week and who drop everything to work overtime. At school (at least my college), everyone wants to get straight As so he can become valedictorian, student leader, dean’s assistant…. Even in church, all we hear about are those who have started multiple churches are have led thousands of people to Christ. Everything is about what university you went to, how many degrees you have, whom you worked with, where you’ve gone on a mission trip. There is no rest. It’s cool to be busy. You should be uncomfortable if you have no plans and nothing to do.

So am I wrong to be this way? Is it a sin to want to do everything, be the best at something?

Actually, it is. It is when that becomes your identity. When you find more satisfaction from your accomplishments than from God. Anything that controls your life in such a way is sin. And that’s a hard lesson to learn. I always thought that doing a lot was the Christian thing to do; we are, after all, supposed to “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16), because we only have so much time to do things for the Lord.

Read Ecclesiastes 1. See how the wisest, richest, possibly most successful king in the world felt about all his accomplishments at the end of his life. Verse 11 is quite thought provoking: it says that the memory of everything fades away in time. Someday my accomplishments will be forgotten.

If I cannot be satisfied when I have nothing to do, when I can’t enjoy time spent with others, when I can’t just sit still and pray, there is something very wrong with my inner life.

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