The Striving Illusion


Working out on a treadmill burns calories and gets the heart pumping. Yet, even if you crank up the pace, you will still find yourself in the same place.

As I work with leaders, I often find that they are frantically expending energy and barely have a minute to spare; and…getting nowhere. They are on the leadership treadmill. I call that striving; just another way of being stuck!

It’s a leader’s job to guide things from point A to point Bin order to successfully reach specific goals. Striving gives you the illusion of working hard, yet what you are investing your time in may not get you the crucial results you are after. Oh, you might be maintaining some things – running on a treadmill does that too. You just don’t get anywhere.

Wondering if you are striving? Are you…

1. Perpetually in motion?

Busy, busy, and rarely taking breaks, vacations, or resting on the Sabbath – You might be striving! Do you find it hard to relax or struggle to limit the number of hours you work? Vacations – do you remember what those are?

Striving leaders often confuse effort with results.

2. A creature of comfort?

If you are going to get from point A to point B you will need to take some risks and venture into unknown territory. You will need to try new things, fail, and try again. That’s uncomfortable.

Lingering in your comfort zone and doing what’s familiar and easy will never bring about the results you desire.

3. Focusing on the wrong things?

Reaching goals necessitates focusing on the actions that will actually move you in the direction of your goals. Without disciplined focus, jam packed schedules, being consumed with the urgent over the important, and plain old being weary will distract you from investing your energy into the actions that will enable you to realize your goals. Being in perpetual motion also makes it all the more challenging to make time to evaluate what you are doing so that you can work smarter, not harder.

4. Helping God out?

Neatly tucked underneath all the striving is the belief that reaching your goals is utterly dependent on you and what you do. That’s a lie! God will let you work yourself into the ground trying to make things happen, and He will also be there waiting with open arms when you are too frazzled to keep going. He longs to work on your behalf – not as your genie, but as a loving Father who enjoys delighting His children. So stop striving!

Rather than striving, be diligent.

Striving: fighting or exerting yourself vigorously

Diligent: steady, hardworking, and careful

You can be more diligent leader by…

1. Setting clear goals

If you don’t know where you are trying to go you will never get there. Your goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) and produce results – make the desired difference in your organization or contribute to your ROI.

Let me just emphasize again how important it is to have ways to measure your progress towards your goals. Do you need to write a blog post every week? Contact ten potential customers? Send a hand written note to two people in your Bible study group? How will you measure and track the little steps that will eventually make reaching your goal possible?

2. Planning

Your daily to-do list is just one part of your planning. Create lists for what you want to accomplish in the future – long term, this year, this quarter, this month, and this week. There is a rhythm to it. Remember, what’s on your list should bring your closer to your goals.

Create your daily to-do list with your long term planning lists in mind.

3. Identifying your MITs

What are MITs? They are your “Most Important Things” – the things that are going to have the greatest impact in helping you reach your goals. Keep in mind, that sometimes what’s most important is the very thing you have been avoiding, that thing that is outside your comfort zone.

There can only be so many MITs – no more than three. MITs are a way of forcing yourself to prioritize. While you may have other matters that must be done in a day, start with your MITs. If you can make this a daily habit, you will be surprised by how quickly you begin to see results that bring you closer to your goals.

Did you know that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts? Your efforts invested into the most important things will eventually lead to your success.

4. Being flexible

What’s most important can change. Part of being a great leader is being able to quickly reprioritize when surprises come your way and things don’t go according to plan. Being flexible also means making space for God to alter the direction of your steps if He sees fit.

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

5. Keeping your eyes open

When you are striving, the opportunities God has orchestrated for you are a blur as you surge forward at break neck pace. Slowing down makes the possibilities easier more visible.

6. Trusting God more

Yep! Doing your part for sure, and then leaving the rest up to Him.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, Colossians 3:23.

Where have you been wearing yourself out with significant effort, but not getting the results you desire? Striving! Step off of the treadmill and begin diligently taking the baby steps that will bring you closer to your goals!

What’s your first step?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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