The $64,000 Question: Diligent or Striving?

MarvaeSuccess2 Comments

For those of you not in the know, “The $64,000 Question” was a radio show in the 40s and a TV show in the 50s. Shows that were around long before I was born! Contestants were asked questions that got increasingly more difficult. After answering each question correctly, they were given a prize that they could keep or risk losing it if they didn’t give the correct answer to the next question. Each right answer moved them closer to the “$64,000 question” – the ultimate prize!

Lately the same question keeps popping up from different people. The most recent person to ask it – my husband. The BIG question: How do you know when being diligent has become striving?

Let’s just say I think that striving is something humans naturally do. I know I want to be successful at everything I set out to do. I am sure you do too! Working hard in and of itself is NOT a bad thing.  In fact, working hard is what God created us to do. Remember Adam and Eve had work to do long before their misstep in the garden. They were responsible for caring for all that God created. (Check out the end of Genesis 1.)

It’s important to be consistent – those consistent efforts add up to results. And sometimes it’s necessary to work hard at tasks, even some you don’t love doing.

But when do you know that you’ve stepped over the line of being super consistent or seriously industrious and have entered the land of striving? Here are 5 ways I know I am striving:

1. Resting is a thing of the past

In order to squeeze more hours out of my day, the first place I to tend to eek out a bit more time…the hours when I would normally be sleeping. Yep! I will stay up later; sometimes even get up earlier – whatever it takes to get “it” done.

Maybe for you sleep is more sacred or too sacred. My guess is that there are other places in your life that you borrow time from. Perhaps you are more likely to skip workouts, or time with God, or even having a little fun. Maybe you spend less and less time with the treasured people in your life. Those are all good indicators that you are striving.

There are times when life’s circumstances demand that I get less sleep than I would like or keep me from engaging with the ones I love. That should be the exception; fleeting moments, not the norm! When my life is out of balance, that’s a good indicator that I am striving in some area of my life.

2. Resentment is bubbling up

Striving makes me feel like I “have to” do this or that. That sucks the fun out of even things I love doing! That “have to” feeling leads to resentment.

I work best when I am operating out of a “get to” mindset. Just this past week I was telling someone that I have the BEST job on the planet. I LOVE what I get to do. But when I am striving it changes everything. It can take work (or any other area of my life) from a happy place to a place where resentment prevails. Striving turns even activities that are typically life giving activities into draining ones.

For me, the whole reason resentment tends to bubble up is because I am not trusting God that everything that truly needs to get done will get done.  When I begin doubting His love and care for me I feel the need to work harder, faster, better – which fuels resentment in me. When I fully trust His love and care for me, there is no need to strive.

3. Results aren’t happening

You would think that striving would produce some super awesome results. In reality, it does quite the opposite. Striving wears you out and nobody is as effective when they are exhausted!

One aspect of my job that I actually adore: following up – following up with old clients, new clients, even potential clients. I love connecting and that’s typically how I begin my day. In the midst of an unusually full week, I felt frustration setting in and something I normally love doing suddenly felt like I was banging my head against the wall! Striving had me going through the motions. That’s when I decided to take a break from my ordinary follow up activities.

It’s easy for me to put so much effort into working that there’s no room for God to step in. That’s what I call working in the flesh – aka…striving. When I ease up and trust God more, it’s incredible the opportunities that pop up or maybe it’s just that I am finally able to see the opportunities. It’s crazy the unexpected ways it works out. I know it isn’t coincidence – it’s God at work in my life!  

4. Releasing the outcome gets harder

I have goals. I know how I want this or that to go. And when they don’t go my way…I get bogged down in disappointment and frustration.

My job is to faithfully do the work. The outcome – that’s out of my hands. When I enter the striving zone, I push harder, work more, and try to manipulate things. It’s not pretty.

When I get too focused on the outcome… that’s a big tip off that I am probably striving. Time to let go!

5. Reacting to my Fear Monster

Perhaps more than anything, my Fear Monster will tempt me to strive. I know I am not alone in this. My Fear Monster tries to convince me that I don’t matter. Attempting to matter – that drives me to strive! In fact, that silly Fear Monster is probably what’s behind my inability to rest, and all the other reasons I resort to striving.

Your Fear Monster might be different. Perhaps what invites you to strive is attempting to be enough, or competent, or something other than ordinary. Whatever your Fear Monster is, it will keep you hustling, but it won’t let you rest!

Making great efforts to achieve or obtain something – that’s the definition of striving. It sounds good on the surface, but striving takes a toll on you! It leads to frustration, burnout, and quitting!

On the flip side, God invites us to…Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) The NASB version of the Bible states it like this: Cease striving and know that I am God. In other words, let go, relax!

How do you know when you’ve gone from being diligent to striving?

© Can Stock Photo / rrbancod

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