“I need you to give 110%!” I just cringe when I hear that. Even people who are not good at math have most likely been told that you can’t have more than 100%. Percent makes it “of the whole”. You can’t have more than a whole pie of a pie. You can however have too narrow a view. Perhaps you are really only considering a slice of the pie. If you give 110% effort at work, or at a sport, what was the cost to the other pieces of your pie? Did you give less at home, perhaps to a spouse or your children? That will cost you in the health of your relationship slice of pie. Did you negate your need for sleep or exercise? Those things will eventually cost you in your health slice of pie. Burnout is right around the corner if you ignore those. Did you skip picking up, doing the dishes, or laundry, or other household functions? Those will eventually catch up with you, so your ability to give 110% to whatever you are focusing on, is time limited. Did you cut out your quiet time with God or your spirituality as a whole? That will affect… well pretty much everything else in your life. Somehow it’s usually the first thing we cut out, isn’t it? Yet it’s kind of the crust to our pie. It’s what everything is built upon.
You could have been thinking about the other valid way to get 110%, though that is still an incorrect way of describing your level of effort. You could be comparing your effort to an expectation level that is actually too low. Did you compare your full effort to someone else’s full effort and determine you gave significantly more than they did? The way that they slice their pie does not change how you sliced yours. Did you expect to be able to do less and surprise yourself? Therefore you feel like your effort was more than your ability to give? I’m guessing you see the issue with the this immediately. Your ability to do more than you thought you could, is either that you underestimated your time and talents, or you took from a different slice of your pie to be able to focus more fully on the task requiring your effort, thus putting it back into our “too narrow a view” idea.
Looking more closely at the estimation of our ability, that we often compare our actual effort against, can easily go both ways. On some occasions we are proud of our selves for achieving more than we thought possible. It was obviously possible, so our theory that it wasn’t was incorrect. Nonetheless, we also berate ourselves when we don’t complete our self-assigned lists, or complete them to a lower standard than self-assigned as a perfect score. My supposition is that often the second one is another piece of the pie catching up with us. It needed our attention previously, but we stole from that piece of the pie temporarily, and now the piper needs to be paid. Frequently the piper that shows up is the ones we can’t ignore such as poor health or need for rest.
The Bible gives us a great example where God clearly expects us to get enough rest and take care of our own needs in the story of Elijah. Elijah had just killed all of those prophets of Baal. He had been on the mountain top in his career, and here comes Jezebel and she’s out for blood. She wants Elijah dead, and she’s the queen. Being hated by those in charge, even feeling like you are disliked, is completely draining. Elijah ran away and hid. Good plan! I think. God sends an angel and tells him to get up and eat, and then go rest. A second time God sent an angel to instruct him to eat and rest. Finally God tells him that he really needs to eat because the journey is too far. This is where most of us think the story starts. This is where Elijah listens for the Lord but the Lord is not in the wind, or the earthquake, but in the gentle whisper. Elijah had to really be listening to hear him.
I often fail here because I was too busy being a storm of my own to stop and listen. I’m also a regular steal-er from the health and rest pies, when I’m completing a different task. It always catches up to me and then I berate myself for not meeting my own standards.
What’s your point already? Right!
My point is we need that balanced life. God designed us to need a balanced life. He then made sure to give us examples in his word where He shows that He values our need to balance our lives. We innately know that we need a balanced life, that’s not news to us. But our need to take pride in our effort is the root of the problem. We get unbalanced when we try to give 110%. When we stretch ourselves in one area of our life and neglect another, we eventually pay the price. Sometimes there can be long term consequences such as divorce or estrangement, or long term health issues that can not be resolved or can’t be resolved quickly.
I believe this pride issue, that gets us out of wack, starts with our thought process. That need to be proud of ourselves or gain the approval of others by giving more than expected is the catalyst. That desire to overachieve in one area of our life, without looking at the whole pie, is the first harmful action. Comparing your slice of pie to how someone else slices their pie, on the other hand, only breeds apathy and disdain. It is even less healthy. Both are a battle in our minds. Changing our thoughts to be kinder to ourselves and others is at least part of the answer. Stopping the internal slave driver, who is fine with you skipping your exercise routine, but forces you to stay late at work. Stopping that internal comparison to others which keeps you driven to be the best you can be, until the other parts of your pie come crashing in around you, never works out the way we want. Instead of expecting 110% from yourself, or that you must always get an A, do your best without stealing from the rest of your pie. Take the whole whole of your life into consideration.
You can’t sleep when you’re dead. You need to do it now and you need to stop beating yourself up for needing to do it now. You can’t have the best relationship with your friends and family if you neglect them now, not without taking from another slice of pie to restore it later. So next time you feel the need to give 110%, acknowledge where you are stealing from. Acknowledge that you are cutting into another needed piece of your life. If you are honest with yourself about that and you choose to do that for a season, then give more. Otherwise look at the whole whole and stop expecting someone else to divide their pie the way you do. Then most importantly, start with your crust. Start by listening to God. Spending time with Him and in His word. Look at your pie the way He does. He’s the recipe holder after all. Who else knows how to make your pie the best it can be?
By Vicki L. Pugliese