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Why Hard Work is Severely Overrated

by Robert Dickie III February 6, 2018

Hard work matters, in fact it’s biblical, but it’s not the only factor in your success. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that hard work can be overrated if done the wrong way  “Work heartily unto the Lord”, but be a good steward of your time and talents.

The Power of Mentors

The most successful people are helped along by mentors who open doors for them and give them advice on how to build a fulfilling career. If you say, “I’m just going to work really hard and see what happens,” you will spend your whole life waiting for your big break.

What’s Your Career Plan?

Mentors aren’t the only factors in your career success. You also need a plan. A clear plan for what you want to achieve and how you’ll get there is vital to building a satisfying career. Mentors can enhance that plan by offering their insights into which companies and experiences will help you land your dream job one day. They’ll also have valuable advice to offer as you navigate radically changing work environments that are being reshaped by technology.

You may need to adjust course throughout your career, which may seem daunting. But making a career change is less terrifying if you’re in the habit of forming and setting goals and seeking expert advice on how to achieve those. If you’ve found yourself at a career crossroads or are struggling to discern your calling, check out our Career Direct Assessment to find your perfect career fit.

No matter how many times you pivot professionally, you will always need mentors and you’ll always need a goal-oriented plan. As long as you define your goals and keep those at the forefront of your mind, you’ll be working toward something instead of for nothing.

Surrender, Then Assess

You can start building a better and more fulfilling career today. Before you reach out to mentors or brainstorm your five-year plan, surrender your work to the Lord. Ask that He guide you toward a role that serves His purpose. Then stay open to the direction He gives.

Once you clarify God’s purpose for you, that understanding will focus your efforts and lead you to achieve more than you ever imagined.

God does not want you to become a slave to your work, even if you are doing it for His glory. People often work themselves to the point of burnout, even as their bodies, minds, and loved ones send them signals that it’s time to make a change. Here are a few signs that you could be working harder instead of smarter:

Your health suffers.

How’s your sleep been lately? Are you getting your full eight hours, or do you toss and turn all night? Do you feel rested when you wake up, or do you feel even worse than you did the night before? Fatigue and lack of quality sleep are surefire indicators that you’re overworked. They’re also warning signs that you need to attend to your health. Lack of sleep correlates with increased risks of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, not to mention impaired driving and decision-making. You can’t serve anyone when you’re sick and exhausted, so prioritize your well-being over work.

You spend more time at work than with your family.

Everyone from CEOs to pastors falls into the over work trap. They justify the long hours and sleep deprivation by saying, “I’m doing this for the Kingdom.” But the Bible is very clear: God and family are more important than work. Our spouses and children are blessings from God, and you cannot give yourself fully to those relationships if you’re constantly checking your email, talking to clients, or missing your kids’ bedtime stories so you can finish a report.

You prioritize work over worship.

The day you say you can’t go to church because you have to work should be the day you realize that you have a real problem. Our relationships with God should be at the center of our lives, and we should live according to His mandates. Yes, He wants us to serve His mission on earth. But He doesn’t want us to do it at the cost of our connections to Him.

You’re physically present with loved ones but mentally still at work.

Have you ever held your baby in your arms and instead of admiring the miracle of their smile, mentally prepared for a staff meeting the next morning? Maybe you were on a romantic date with your spouse, but rather than enjoying your time together, you silently reviewed your to-do list for the coming week. We’ve all been there — in fact, in our always-on culture, it’s hard not to let work bleed into our personal lives.

But we need to draw healthy boundaries. Again, our families are blessings from God. They’re even more important blessings than great careers and successful companies, and we should treat them as such. Work smart (and hard) while you’re on the clock, but then go enjoy the abundant personal life God has granted you.

Slow Down to Speed Up

Once in a while, I meet people who tell me they work so much, they hardly have time for their families. But when I suggest that they change their habits, they tell me they can’t. “I have to work this much,” they insist. Well, I call nonsense on that. Most people who refuse to change like working all the time. They’re addicted to work; it becomes their idol. Some give themselves a pass by saying, “Well, I’m doing it for the Lord.” No, you’re not. You’re doing it for your ego.

But here’s the thing. Working hard but not smart eventually leads to burnout. Some people have more stamina than others, but the crash will always come. With so many of our peers multitasking and trying to do everything at once, working smart often means slowing down and focusing on one priority at a time. It’s better to do one task well than three tasks haphazardly. Taking the long view ensures that we build sustainable, lifelong careers instead of flaming out.

I’m also a strong advocate for saying no. Sometimes we feel pressure to say yes to everything asked of us, even when we don’t really have the time or inclination to do it. While saying yes makes other people feel good in the moment, we end up disappointing them when we don’t deliver on their expectations. Saying no, however, allows us to stay in our gift zones.

When we focus on nurturing our innate talents and using those to the best of our abilities, we’re truly doing the work God has ordained for us. We also perform better. Although it can be tough to decline someone’s request, you’re doing them and yourself a favor by emphasizing your strengths and not overextending yourself.

Hard work is critical to career success, but it’s only one component. Good mentors, clarity of mind, work-life integration, and a strong sense of your strengths and weaknesses are essential as well. When you develop each of these traits, you’re well-positioned for a successful, rewarding career and life.

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