Running Too Hot
Have you ever been in a car when the engine overheated? The smell is horrible, and the only safe option is to pull over and stop the car. Total shutdown. There are many reasons a motor will overheat - but I am not going to dig into proper maintenance of a motor...I am going to shift into the more uncomfortable topic; are YOU running too hot, or running your team or organization too hot; nearing overheating and total shutdown?
This question came to me while having dinner with a dear friend recently while in London. We were discussing life, ministry and what’s generally on our minds when his observation, (which I saw was a Holy Spirit moment) he shared about challenges he has faced in the past of running his team’s too hot and himself too hot. My friend went on to discuss the problems he encountered while leading a large global organization too hot, describing teams in the red, with no margin or ability recover and respond quickly when needed. Like the example of the motor above, our bodies and organizations are not designed or capable of running beyond 100% capacity for too long. Working too hard and running too hot may feel productive and exciting in the short term, but you will find yourself overheated and nearing total shutdown before long.
I am quickly approaching 20 years in full-time ministry and can say running too hot has nearly taken me out a handful of times. Most of them were in the early days, but honestly speaking a few have happened in the more recent years. I am a born and bred natural workaholic, so running hot and struggling with this area is real life for me.
Here are a few things I have found that personally help me work hard, but prevent me from running too hot.
We live in a busy and demanding world with endless “things” demanding our attention. As Ferris Bueller once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” How true is this? If we don’t stop and look around, life will not only pass us by, but it will also entirely take us over. A life taken over by the tyranny of the urgent will lead directly to running too hot. Our schedule and calendar must follow, and be in line with our priorities. It's critical that your time and energy is appropriately allocated to your priorities. I often look up to, and quote the apostle Paul and value his passion and commitment, heck Paul wrote a lot of the New Testament. But when reading Paul's words, we need to realize at that Paul was single with no children. Our schedules must reflect our priorities as well as the seasons of life we are currently in. My schedule now married with two teenage daughters can not look like it once did when I was single. Look at your calendar and schedule now, does it reflect your priorities and are you taking control of your schedule? Dr. Henry Cloud says it best in his book Boundaries for Leaders: "You are Ridiculously In Charge!"
When we look at our priorities, and start to take control of our schedule let me guide you to the truth. Our priorities must start with putting God first. The principal of priorities starts and ends with God being first, above everything else. If we don’t get this right, everything else will always be out of whack. I wrote more about this here.
Sleep is the one activity we do more than any other. About one-third of each day and one-third of our lives is spent sleeping. Did you realize that sleep is so essential to the functioning of our bodies that we will die if we go too long without it? I didn't! Honestly, early in my life, I made many mistakes around feeling invincible, and thinking sleep was for the week. Working till all hours of the night, and waking up early in full throttle mode, powered by caffeine and sugar! Come to find out, my body was able to handle that for a short period, but significant challenges presented themselves in painful ways such as general anxiety disorder, panic attacks, rage, depression and eating disorders. Yea, I have been jacked up - but that’s another post. Sleep is SO CRITICAL for our bodies and minds, and we need to value it at all costs. Don't miss that sleep is not just for your body, but it is also for your mind, this great article reminds us that sleep is our minds best friend. I have found ~7hr a night is my sweet spot. I also have also grown to love the weekend afternoon nap. Listening to my body, when I feel it needed rest I learned to listen and honor my body and embrace the nap. For me, the 20 or 40 min power nap is vital. Anything more than that becomes problematic due to sleep cycles. I notice many young people, just like I didn't, value sleep or prioritize it. But trust me - if you want to thrive in the long run, get good and regular sleep.
Before I leave this topic, did you realize sleep is spiritual? For brevity of this article, I will encourage you to read this. There is a good reason we sleep, and God doesn't!
For years I struggled with any consistency when it came to exercise. Once I figured this out years ago, it was a game changer. Running too hot can often be just as much mental as it can be physical. Exercise helps me mentally disconnect from work and have other goals, and that is very healthy for all of us. In the cycling days what was terrific was having very limited ability to check my phone, or respond to text and email. I know many executives that have taken up swimming because it's impossible to be connected while swimming laps! I am currently exercising by weightlifting, and I have to work hard to not bounce into email and text between exercises. No matter cycling, swimming, weightlifting, yoga or running, just consistently exercise. I have found the top benefits being; mental focus, energy, improved sleep, strength and overall feeling great.
Social media is powerful, and a great way to stay up to date with happenings in the world and with some connections. However, don't confuse social media "friends" with deep relationships. I am not saying that online connections are not powerful, and beneficial...they are, or I know they can be! But one thing I have found critical to help from running too hot is having significant relationships in place that can be safe places to share, sharpen each other as well as support and encourage one another. Meaningful relationships that are built on trust need to include transparency and "radical candor," so when you are approaching, or in the running too hot season, they can call it out and help you navigate your way out of it.
Last, but certainly not least is the Sabbath. I am unqualified to talk on this topic, primarily because I have slaughtered the Sabbath for so many years. Yes, I did not honor the Sabbath at all for many, many years. So, again I am proof that God has grace and mercy, and in spite of our actions and disobedience, He can still bless us. BUT...I do sometimes wonder what the missed opportunities were, and where I missed out on more of the blessings of God. I will not live or dwell in the past; I am moving forward and encourage you to do the same thing with a weekly Sabbath. One of the best messages I have heard about the Sabbath was from pastor Robert Morris called The Principal of Rest. I wrote about it here.
You see, the creator of everything, the living and loving God is more interested in a relationship with us than He is in what we do. So, while we are called to have a strong work ethic and to work hard at all that we do, we are also called to take times of rest. God in His great wisdom commands us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. I am not sure why, so I won't try and answer this is a broad context - but I will give my personal opinion. For me, I don't need to be told work harder, as I said before, I am a natural born workaholic! I am going to bring everything I have, all the time, that just who I am. But I do need to be commanded and told to rest because that is not natural to me.
Finally, I debated about adding this and opted to include it. The Sabbatical. I said it in my opening, but I am approaching 20yrs in full-time ministry and have never taken an extended period off, or break. I think I have another 20 strong and effective years in full-time ministry left. I desperately want to finish strong, and want to be a model of these verses!
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
I know the only way for me to finish strong, to have the second 20 as effective or even more effective than the first I need to avoid running too hot! I have to obey the list above, but I am also feeling convicted that a sabbatical is going to be required. Why the debate on adding this? Well, it's honestly a trust issue. I am not sure I fully trust God in this area - how He will provide for a Sabbatical. I am praying for clarity, and to fully trust Him and would appreciate your prayers.
Have you ever been in a car when the engine overheated? The smell is horrible isn't it!? How's your engine? Are you running too hot? Are you running your team too hot? May we all be reminded the short-term benefits of running too hot never outweighs the long-term benefits of honoring God with everything we are. Praising God with our mind, body, and soul allowing us to serve Him for the long run.
"Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful."