I've been rethinking my own capacity and I want to invite you to re-think your own capacity. In the next few blogs, I'll be exploring my need to re-think what my own capacity is; Why I am having to re-think my capacity and your need now to re-think your capacity; my progressive revelation of the fallacy of such terms as "high capacity leader" and most important is this--if we do not understand our own limits in this life, we will never be content, satisfied or happy!EXCEEDING OUTPUTOver-extending yourself is stretching your physical, emotional, financial, vocational, and relational boundaries to the point of depletion. Have you ever heard the expression someone says when the money is running tight. It goes like this: “There is too much month for too little money.” Translated it means, “I’ve run out of money to pay all my bills and it’s only the middle of the month.” That’s what happens when we overextend ourselves; there’s more being asked of us than we can give.This overextending causes stress to accumulate: the stress at home, in the workplace, during travel, it all piles up like a huge stack of dirty laundry. Stress, as we all know, is deadly to our health. Every doctor and therapist will tell you that unresolved stress is going will “do you in.” Stress works itself out through our blood pressure, and attacks our vital organs. Stress releases a toxin that when built up leaves it’s marks inside of us. We live with a tyranny of the urgent mentality with drives us, manipulates us, and sucks life and passion right out of our marrow and veins. Everything must be done now. Everything has to be quick.Professions that call for high emotional investment in people, otherwise known as “helping professions” need to take note. Examples include ministers, counselors, social workers, nurses, doctors, teachers. The principle that anyone involved in a helping profession needs to uphold is this: Those who care must be cared for. No one is the exception to this, not even you! An important step in learning to live your life within limits is to confess, “There are no exceptions to this principle. Not even me!”In the military world, men and women who have repeated multiple deployments, living in harms way for extended periods of time apart from loved ones, experience signs and symptoms of the burn-out and depletion I am describing. I have three sons who serve as officers in the United States Army. When they are deployed, I see firsthand the stress on their wives, children, and in their own souls. I also sense my own stress rising when they are deployed. Sometimes, I can’t sleep if I know they are truly in harm’s way.I’ve worked with numerous people who work in the area of disaster relief and in crisis situations for large organizations. After flying overseas or travelling to a site where a hurricane, earthquake, or human plight has developed, they go into fierce action-mode, doing everything possible to save lives and alleviate suffering. IT always takes a toll. One relief worker who is employed by a United Nations relief agency came to our retreat and introduced himself with these words: “I’m DOA. Dead On Arrival. I’m spent and have no idea where I left my heart along the way.”PREVENTATIVE CAREMost people in the developed world know to wash their hands before eating. By washing your hands, you are preventing the spread of germs that can make you sick. In developing countries, many cross-cultural workers will teach people about drinking water that is safe. They say, “Urinate over there and keep this area clean and pure so nothing bad will go into the water.” Again, it’s a simple truth to keep people healthy. Learning to live within your limits is a simple preventative principle that will help you stay healthy. All aspects of caring for yourself are really preventative work. Preventative care is an important part of the work within the work. It’s never a selfish act to care for yourself! Never! In the bigger picture of life and health it is stewardship.I tell people this simple proverb: “Know before you go!” and what I mean by that is you need to know some basic life principles before you go and give your heart away for a cause, a mission, an organization or a company. This by far is the most identified regret of my entire life.To explore your own limits, consider these categories that will help you as you begin setting realistic limits for yourself.First, consider how you can conserve energy, as in “your” energy. We need to learn some conservation skills. We simply cannot give all of our energy all the time. No one ever told me this. I was taught to give my all and that my all was needed, if not demanded. I was also taught, via sermons, and books, and stories, that even God expected my all. Now I know this is simply not true. Even Jesus did not even begin his thirty-six month mission on earth until he was thirty years old. With the kind of thinking that was ingrained in me, I found myself wondering “Jesus wasted a lot of time. What if he had begun earlier in life; hung up his tool belt by age 18 and started out then…look at how much MORE he could have done.”Winston Churchill, the undeniable leader of the Free World has much to teach emerging leaders here on the “know before you go” principle.In Paul Johnson’s biography of this legendary British hero, Churchill, we read these words:In 1946, I had the good fortune to ask him a question:“Mr. Churchill, sir, to what do you attribute your success in life?”Without pause or hesitation, he replied:“Conservation of energy. Never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down.”Johnson then goes on to explain the idea of conserving your energy on an every day basis:Churchill was capable of tremendous physical and intellectual efforts, of high intensity over long periods, often with little sleep. But he had corresponding powers of relaxation, filled with a variety of pleasurable occupations, and he also had the gift of taking short naps when time permitted. Again, when possible, he spent his mornings in bed, telephoning, dictating, and receiving visitors.Second, embrace the idea of living life in rhythm, not in balance.As we have already seen, the idea of balance is a lie. It simply cannot be maintained. Despite all the seminars, books, and TED talks, balance is bunk. Rhythm is doable and allows you to develop your own understanding living life in limits. I have a friend who is a Registered Nurse in a Cancer Ward at a leading hospital. She works three days “on” and four “off.” Her three days on are twelve-hour shifts that sometimes extend to 13 hours—even 14 some days when there is so much documentation needed. Her first day “off” is useless to her. She is so tired, so exhausted, so “spent” that she told me, “On my first day off, I’m no good to anyone. I just sleep, “veg” and eat. By the second day off, I’m sensing who I am again, and go out for lunch or dinner with a good friend.” It’s a necessary limit and rhythm that she has come to understand about her own life and need for recovery. In my book, THE JESUS LIFE, I explore rhythm in three important chapters. Order it here!Third, steward your output by mentally and emotionally disengaging after you work. I coach leaders to leave their work at work and do not do work in your home if at all possible. If you work at home, define a definite workspace. Hint – this should NOT be your bedroom. In defining work areas, you actually create mental and emotional space.My wife and I do not speak, mention, or chat about the name of our work, people we work with, or issues relating to space on our days off or in our home after work hours. To talk about our team is to talk about work. We’ve set high boundaries here and limit our conversations to issues pertaining to us, our kids, grandkids, close friends, and vacation plans. We literally try to set our mind to ease by saying “This is not a Sabbath conversation. Let’s talk about this tomorrow.”After every great output of energy, plan and schedule a time for input. Give yourself what brings you life. Give yourself permission to live and not just work. After you spend enormous time and energy involving yourself in a project or travel obligation, know that you need some recovery time. You cannot simply give and give and give. This is a deadly mistake that will lead to burnout and depression. You have to replenish.I travel internationally and after doing this for several years, I’ve learned that just the trip alone and the changing of time zones and the stress of waiting and delays and security issues requires that I need to set aside calendar time to re-coup. Last year, I traveled to India. I flew all night and half of the next day to get there. I arrived and was whisked away in a taxi to give a talk. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I was completely zoned out. Now I know better. I “know before I go” and build in a day or two to get adjusted, to rest, and to have time to collect my thoughts.After a time of intense work, how about taking a couple of days for yourself—to go see a “sight” or to have some life giving experience? Could your spouse join you for an extended time “off” knowing that you’ve been “on” so much lately? By thinking like this, you will insulate yourself from the crisis of cramming too much in and doing too much. Build in your time off before you go. Work this out with your boss and team and call it “Compensatory Time” or something that will give you permission to take good care of yourself. This is vital and key to learning to live within your limits.Fourth, face the truth that you cannot do everything and do everything well. We cannot burn the candle at both ends. Jesus wisely asked three penetrating questions to his followers—not to people who were considering following him—but to those who had already signed up. His questions were:Are you tired?Are you worn out?Are you burned out on religion?These three questions give us permission to know our limits and grow in our own self-awareness of how we are really doing and to care for our souls. So many people are living in one of these three unhealthy spheres that Jesus describes: physical exhaustion, mental anguish involving guilt and shame for not doing more, and then the big one which leaves us totally worn out - being burned out - that state where we live like we’re fried without the hope of recovery.______________________________________________The above is taken from the chapter in Inside Job titled: Understanding your Limits: Learning to say No in order to say Yes! Check the book out here: Inside Job
What makes a person happy? That's a question, men and women through the ages have tried to answer. We, like those who came before us, try to live a life that will marked by happiness and contentment. But how can we find some assurance that the way we are living will actually bring us happiness?Following Jesus is about the transformation of our attitudes about life--those inner dispositions that rise up within us from time to time as we live our life; do our job and raise our family. Jesus was concerned with the inside--knowing that we'd be concerned with our outside world and the outer markers of success in life. He will not allow his followers to camp out in the suburbs of the Kingdom he is ushering in. He wants the Kingdom to be birthed within each heart. [tweetthis]The Beatitudes are nine needed attitudes to find happiness in this life--right now. [/tweetthis]His Beatitudes --nine statements about the inner life of his followers focus on nine specific attitudes that followers of Jesus need to cultivate to truly be happy and to really live in the blessing of God.One of the best ways to understand what the Beatitudes of Jesus are about is to realize that the beatitudes are about our attitudes. The transformation of our attitudes in life—those inner dispositions about life, our self and God. Each of the nine attitude statements offered us by Jesus reveal a shifting of the tectonic plates of our soul. These nine attitudes challenge our long held and often fortified beliefs about what really makes a person happy. We have long held and closely maintained systems that have shaped our own understanding of how a person finds happiness. Many of our beliefs are cemented in our ideas about security, position, money and success. Yet, Jesus turns our programmed systems of belief on it's head. Each attitude shows us a whole-other-way to live.There is a specific call to action in each of the attitudes. We are told to BE the attitude—not just hold to a certain belief. When we become the actual attitude that Jesus describes—then the blessing comes—then our happiness is anchored in something more real that circumstances, temporary events or nice geographical settings such as mountain vistas and sandy beaches. Happiness is not circumstantial not is it related to positions we find ourselves in at any particular moment. True happiness and blessing is inside—and reveals to us a Kingdom within each heart right now.When we cultivate the attitudes of Jesus, we sense a shifting inside:
- We discover a true sense of happiness and well-being.
- We discover our programmed way for happiness that is shaped by culture both in the church and around us in the world.
- We find a whole, new way to live that begins on the inside and centrifuges to those around us.
- We learn to live with a new foundation, authored by Jesus and lived out by the early church—modeled by the early church fathers and mothers yet, ignored in our current state of affairs.
- We live less obsessed with our daily crisis and challenges and live in a Kingdom perspective of the wider, greater dimension than just self.
- We see in a whole other way of looking at life, self, and the world. In holding to the larger story, we tolerate the smaller story of trials and tribulations right now.
The first four beatitudes focus on our exaggerated and embellished view of life as we see it on our own. The first four attitudes are dispositions within each person. These are the lenses through which we look at life, other people and ourselves.
- Blessed are the poor—reveals our obsession with security and what security really is.
- Blessed are those that mourn—shows the necessity of giving up that which we clinch and crave and learn to relax in the letting go of what we hold most dear and vital in life. Inner freedom comes as we let go.
- Blessed are the meek—lays the foundation that by giving up control in life we learn to receive all that God desires to give us.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst—uncovers the deep desires for what will gratify us—but never satisfy us.
The need for security; our propensity to hold tightly what we think we know and value most; our issues of control and the deep desires for what we think will satisfy us and our “rights” to pursue the fulfillment of self are confronted with a clarion call to live in a whole, other way is foundational to living well in the heart of Jesus. The Beatitudes show us the way.The next three Beatitudes flow from the first four attitudes being transformed. As we cultivate the right inner attitudes, then we are ready to extend our lives for the sake of others.
- Blessed are the merciful—shows our need to accept others no matter their circumstances and to realize their Belovedness—not just our own.
- Blessed are the pure in heart—reveals the holiness of everyone and everything and to observe the mystery of God in our dailiness, events and world around us not just the epiphanies.
- Blessed are the peacemakers—shows us that peace flows first from within us and is our inside job to cultivate and then give to others.
The last two attitudes are about embracing suffering not ignoring it. Suffering is inevitable in following Jesus. He suffered—so will his followers. It cannot be avoided and our attitude towards suffering is important.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted—lays down a core truth that the followers of Jesus must move beyond self-interest and the daily obsessions with our own lives to the plight of others who are less fortunate.
- Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you—helps us understand the role of criticism and rejection and helps redefine our true identity as the Beloved sons and daughters of another world.
(If you're new the blog, you'll want to look back and scroll through earlier entries where I'm trying to give my voice to each attitude and Beatitude).