I find myself pushing, striving, and struggling. I’m in this vicious, venomous cycle of seeking to achieve.
I am an achiever. I know it. There are personality tests out there that categorize me as an achiever. I haven’t taken those tests. I’ve been too busy achieving. But if I were to, Achiever must be at the top of my list.
Give me any goal, prize, rank; I will reach for it. I will give it everything I’ve got! I will go through the blood, sweat, and tears to not just reach it, but to be the very best at reaching it! And if I don’t hit whatever “it” is… I will destroy myself over it.
Enter the last six years of my life. (Okay, seven if I’m being honest.)
When I left college, I had big dreams. I had just come off of high praise for being the best at my internship. I completed 18 credit hours in my final semester, which I’m pretty sure I got all A’s in. Throughout college, I gave enough effort to have good grades, while leaving time to really experience college life. I joined the rowing team. I rushed a sorority. As far as I was concerned, I “colleged” perfectly.
After that, I did what every 22 year old was supposed to do in my mind… I traveled! My best friend and I packed as much as we could fit into her little Ford Focus and ventured across the country. Our final destination was: “Somewhere in Southern California.” And we were in no hurry to get there. We explored every adventure we could along the way.
When we got to California, we still lived a bit of a vagabond life. We did find a little apartment in San Diego, but we had no furniture. So I bought a $50 trampoline on Craigslist. We put it in our living room, and called it a bed.
Even in that ridiculous adventure, I was doing it all right! My life had been a series of check-boxes, and I had marked them all off.
🔲 High School: Get above a 4.0 GPA & be a leader in multiple extracurriculars to get into a good college. ✔️
🔲 College: Get good enough grades. Have a good time. ✔️✔️
🔲 Post College: Go on an adventure. Be a free spirit. Live it up! ✔️✔️✔️
Then I moved to LA.
In LA, I’ve been all over the map. I’ve tried acting. I’ve tried screenwriting. I’ve tried publishing a book. I dabbled in the corporate world. I became an essential oil educator. This isn’t even mentioning all of the little side gigs I picked up to pay the bills along the way.
And please don’t think I attempted each one of those feats separately. I auditioned while trying to publish a book. I wrote my screenplay on the side of my corporate job. I treated my pursuit of real life, much the same way as I treated high school. I got involved in as many “extracurriculars” as I could, and aimed to be the best at all of them.
My result? I became a Jack of all trades. Master of none.
Once I hit my late 20s and realized– I have never been published. I haven’t started some life changing non-profit. I haven’t won an Oscar. And I haven’t saved the world– I was destroyed.
(Haha, she’s using over exaggeration to bring humor to her point… No. Seriously. I thought I would win an Oscar by age 28.)
All of my life I was striving to be the best! And not just the best at one thing. I was trying to be the best of all the bests. Let me check as many bests off my list as I can!
Guess how well that went?
I spread myself so thin that the only thing I became the best at, was beating myself up over failing to be even successful, let alone the best.
There is a great flaw with “best.” In order to be the best, you have to compare.
We have all heard that “comparison is the thief of joy.” But have you ever reflected on what that really means?
“Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. For each one will carry his own load.” – Galatians 6:4-5
Jesus longs to free us from comparison.
God made us with flaws. The only perfect human to walk this earth was Jesus. But in calling us to be Christlike, God isn’t asking us to be perfect. In an effort to be Christlike, we are called to be merely the best versions of ourselves, and trust that God fills in for the rest.
The Message version of this verse presents it like this:
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
Despite what the coffee mugs might say, we cannot hold ourselves to the standard of being The Best, Ever. That is impossible. Instead, we must take responsibility for doing our own version of our creative best
Find stillness for just a moment if you can. Take a deep breath. Then:
Make careful exploration of who you are.
Make careful exploration of the work YOU have been given.
Sink yourself into that.
If God can construct each of our fingerprints to be different from anyone else’s, would He not craft each one of our purposes and prominences to be different too?
Creative best looks different on everyone:
For some organized folks, it might mean using their organization for God’s glory. For me, it means being able to find things among my cluttered mess.
For some well focused humans, it might mean getting through the menial tasks quickly to be able to immerse their time into serving their community. For me, it means embracing the creativity that comes with distraction.
For some, it might mean sticking to the straight and narrow. For me, it means using my twisted, bumpy, dirt covered, beautiful path as a testimony, with faith that God will fill in the holes of my vagabond journey to bring healing and hope wherever He needs it.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I recognized: In trying to be the best at it all, I was losing my chance to be my creative best at anything.
I decided to strap down and pull myself out of the debt I created in all of this galavanting by focusing on one thing only. Once I become successful at that one thing, I can use my financial and mental stability to explore one of my many other dreams.
So I calculated the most profitable, yet still rewarding avenue, and decided to focus on my essential oil business. Since honing in on one path, I finally started to see results. Slow, steady results… I’m definitely not “achieving” as quickly as Keeli, or as organized as Kalli, or as effortlessly as Kelly. But that would be playing the comparison game.
So instead of dwelling on how greatly others are achieving, I must sink into my own creative bests. Everything I’ve done since choosing to only focus on one pursuit has allowed me to be the best I am capable of being at the things God has called on my creative bests for.
With only one focus, I am able to be exactly the best mother God planned for my new little baby boy.
Because I chose to pursue the focus of essential oils, I have been able to bring healing to people in the best way I can figure out how to.
I am bringing financial stability to my family at the best, perfectly slow and steady pace that I am able to.
And I’m filled with purpose as I do it.
I hit ranks when I hit ranks. I get raises when I get raises. But I have achieved purpose. I have achieved fulfillment in pursuing God’s best for me, instead of my own. And that is better than any best I could’ve asked for.
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
– Jeremiah 17:5-8