Take it from me – a recovering workaholic – WORKING HARDER IS NOT THE ANSWER! We all have things in our life that we want to change – bad habits that we want to get rid of, or good habits that we want to incorporate into our lives. And most of us think about those changes in terms of effort – I need to work harder to accomplish _________.
Well, I know this might sound strange but believe it or not sometimes working harder is actually counter-productive and takes us further away from our goal, not closer to it.
How? Think of it this way. Imagine that I just bought a large plot of farmland out in the middle of nowhere and I ask you to be my security guard. Your job is to protect my land from thieves that want to steal my crops. The problem is that my property has no wall surrounding it so it is very easy for robbers to come and go as they please.
So you – in your desire to do a good job – pick up your weapon and begin circling the 1,000 foot perimeter of the field. The thieves see you walking around and start laughing. They know that they have you beat. All they have to do is wait for you to get tired and take a break. As soon as you do, they will run in and steal whatever they want. They win, you lose.
So you think to yourself “I need to stop being so lazy and taking so many breaks. No more breaks for me!” And you begin marching around the field – non-stop – trusting that somehow God will provide the energy that you need.
Did that solve the problem? Of course not! Not only is that 100% impossible, it is completely ineffective as well. Why? Because the field is so large, the thieves just sit and wait for you to be on one side of the field and then they attack the other. The field is too large for you to protect all by yourself – even if you never got tired.
So you decide that the only way to protect the field is to work even harder. Not only will you not ever take a break, but instead of walking around the field, you will run at top speed the entire time so that you can catch the thieves whenever they try to enter. That’s your plan!
NOW RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU THINK THAT'S A GOOD STRATEGY???
Well, I have news for you: THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE DO! Usually when we come across a problem that we can’t solve, we try to work harder instead of trying to work smarter. The solution for this security guard is actually to STOP working entirely – even if that causes some crops to be lost in the short term. He needs less working and more thinking. Working harder CANNOT solve this problem.
What will solve the problem? Instead of trying to protect every inch of land by never resting and running at a sprint all day long, why not sit down with an architect and figure out how to build a wall around the land to keep the bad guys out?
See the difference between working harder vs working smarter?
Which one are you doing in your life? If we’re honest, most of us are like that security guard – running through life trying to protect our land through sheer effort and hard work. Not only is it not possible, it is exhausting, frustrating and plain old ineffective. You can’t do it. You will wind up expending all your energy and in the end, you are barely staying afloat. This concept applies in every area of your life that you deem important – home, family, spiritual life, career, etc.
Stop working so hard and start working smart. Schedule a break in your week to step back and examine what you’re doing and how you’re spending your time. Don’t pick up the hammer until you’ve first picked up the blueprint. Don’t start the car until you’ve first checked the map. And don’t run out onto the field until you’ve first set up a game plan to win.
The Bible says it this way: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5
The first job I ever had was at a hardware store called Hechinger. There they taught me one of the most important principles I’ve ever learned – a principle which really applies to everything in life:
Measure twice, cut once.
Discussion: In what ways do you think we need to work smarter, not harder?