Are you trying to be super human?
You might laugh that one off pretty quickly, but if you pause a bit longer, you may well find that you are.
Here’s a quick test: are you multitasking right now? Have you got anything you feel you really have to do next week? Is there something that would fall apart without you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on. Could it be you are doing too much. Or aiming too high?
More than just trying your best
This might seem like an affront to all the messages we grew up with about setting goals and having the ability to achieve anything we set our mind to. The desire to achieve your best is a positive thing, but I’ve started to think that we have a tendency to push this too far.
You only have to look at the number of celebrities that just aren’t coping with the pressure. Or to think about the rise of depression and mental health issues.
Doing your best with whatever task you find to do is different from lifting expectations to the point where you find yourself stressing, hurrying about like a crazy person with so much to do you don’t know how you’re going to fit everything in.
A major contributor to the problem
I think we’re a bit like a superhero with no inherent super talents, just gadgets or a super suit. In a way, modern technologies give us super powers. We can achieve so much more with the help of fast-cooking microwaves, dishwashers and washing machines accelerating mundane tasks.
We don’t even need to travel to the shops anymore, with delivery drivers doing that for us.Then there’s the power of the smartphone-people, information and work, all in the palm of our hands.
These time-saving devices didn’t make us less busy. If anything, life is far more hectic today. Ironically, reducing the time we need for more mundane tasks, has made us feel like our capacity is so much greater. We have the mindset that we need to maximise every minute.
Permission to be human
With all this technology enhancing our lives, our humanness can often be forgotten. Try this, if you want to be reminded. Remove everything except essential clothing, find a lonely place and lie on the ground for a while. Listen to your breathing. Pay attention to the body your racing mind lives inside.
It might sound like a bit of a crazy thing to do, but removing yourself from all technology and all you have to do regularly is a good way to gain a healthy perspective on our lives.
One thing I have realised in practising a more regular time of solitude is that I have very real limitations. Perhaps I won’t achieve everything I’m aiming for. Maybe I won’t realise the fulfilment of all my dreams.
Not all bad news
If that sounds a tad depressing, there’s at least a couple of really positive aspects to realising your limitations. First, it takes the pressure off. We can be okay with slowing down. Not that we should waste our lives, but that we begin to view quiet moments of being disconnected as a very good use of time.
Second, knowing our limitations causes us to rely on others. This week, my kids brought out their collection of super hero discs they’d collected a while ago from a supermarket promotion. Each character is given a score for different attributes such as strength, speed and durability. We played a simple game where you take turns to name an attribute to compete in and then each put forward one of your characters to ‘battle’ with.
In playing this game, you quickly realise it’s not the all-rounders that you want on your team. The super heroes that are pretty good at everything lose to those that are stronger, but only in one area. You see, if we try and do everything, we’ll only be mediocre in each area – at best! We’ll also try and do it all ourselves.
A better way, and the way God designed us, is to focus on being us.
God has given each of us different gifts and abilities, and it’s true that others can do some things a lot better and easier than we can. Have you ever observed people wasting a lot of time and stress tackling a job that you could do without even thinking? Let that be a lesson to call a friend when you find yourself in a similar situation.
Perhaps we do have a superpower after all. Jesus showed us the power of limitations. He lived a life of simplicity and service and embraced his humanness, despite having all the power of God at his disposal. Maybe there’s a lesson in that for us?
Tom Anderson is pioneering www.haventogether.com, an online church plant supported by his in-person church, Catalyst, Ipswich. He has a young, growing family and enjoys playing backyard sport. Tom is a keen long-distance runner, averaging 21km each day last year. He has worked as a teacher for eleven years and enjoys perfecting a flat white on his home espresso machine. Tom would welcome a visit for a coffee some time… or an online catch-up via Zoom. See the Haven Together website to get in touch.