When Achievement Becomes an Addiction


For the last two years I’ve had the same goals. All my weekly goals and daily to-do lists somehow fed into this overarching dream – one that seemed far from being realized. I prayed, wrote, proposed, saved, and plugged away at them month after month, always looking forward to the end of the ‘tunnel’ but never quite sure what I’d do when I got there.

And then I got there. I arrived.

In a matter of two weeks every goal we’d worked toward was suddenly achieved: we paid off $30,000 in Mr. M’s student loans; the career position I’d prayed and worked toward was implemented and I was given the job;  I finished my bachelor’s degree; and we found out we were expecting a baby. After all the excitement settled down I found myself sitting in the living room wondering what in heaven’s name to do with myself.

In order to achieve our goals I had integrated them into the very fiber of my being. Everything I did was meant to help us reach those ends. When the goals were gone, it was as if a part of my identity was gone, too.

Don’t get me wrong – I rejoiced to be done paying student loans and doing homework until the late hours of work nights. I was delighted to have my new job and an upcoming new baby. But it left me with a void: questions about who I am as a woman apart from what has driven me for the last two and a half years.

The truth is, goals can be idols. Dreams are good, drive is good, and achievement is good – but achievement had become my qualifier. It was not just something I did; it was who I was. Without the need to achieve, I was left on my pink sofa, tea in hand, racking my brain for something new to live for.

But in that moment I realized something shocking to my ‘Christian woman’ self. If I’ve been living for my goals, my to-do list, my achievements… have I really been living for Christ?

Every goal we’ve set is housed within our Christian worldview: our views on finances, marriage, birth control, and work are all founded in what we believe the Lord has lovingly commanded for His people and their lives. But once we had the vision, I became so wrapped up in achieving the vision I forgot the why behind it. It was not just something I did for the good of the family and the glory of God; it was a reflection on me. I measured myself in terms of achievement, so without new goals, my identity became an empty shell.

These were deep thoughts for my pink sofa. The realization that I was no longer making goals but letting goals make me was hard to swallow at first. It had become so necessary for me to achieve that the very thought of an idle, in-between stage made me anxious.

But it’s in those ‘in-between’ stages that we are still enough to hear God’s direction.

If I make goals just to keep busy and keep up this ‘achiever’ persona, they won’t be blessed by God, I realized. My achievements must reflect the priorities of the kingdom of God or they are nothing more than pride-driven to-do lists.

Then there’s fear: the fear of stillness, the fear of people’s opinions, the fear of stopping the ‘busy’ long enough to let the inadequacy creep back in. Achievement has been my crutch against insecurity; I never dealt with the wound, just patched it up with my busy lifestyle.

So as I look at the rest of 2015, I’ve taken a new stance when it comes to my goals.

I stopped setting goals that would make me seem like a better person, and instead set goals that would change my heart.

I stopped letting achievement define my person, and let my God-ordained identity define what I achieve.

I stopped living for my resume’, my portfolio, and my quantifiers and chose to arrange my life around our only Qualifier: Jesus Christ.

Living isn’t just about doing – something so hard to grasp for those of us thrilled by a complete to-do list and bolstered resume’. If “to live is Christ” I must go on living even if my goals are not accomplished; even if I work for years and never see the fruit of my dreams. To live is to know the abundant love and justice of God and use each day to reflect Him with that same abundance into the lives around us.

I’m not sorry I achieved what I set out to do. Our goals were, and are, founded on biblical principles for all of life. And I didn’t stop setting my monthly, weekly, and daily goals to help me accomplish those things that are important for our life and family.

But my goals will not become my identity this time around. They will not control me; I will control them. And while my personality may remain classified as ‘Achiever’, what I accomplish will not be a duty but a privilege; not slavery, but a freedom.

Our accomplishments are a product of who we are and what we believe; they do not define our worth and identity. God defines our worth and gives us the passions necessary to define goals that will benefit us, but ultimately will glorify Him.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” Prov. 16:3 (NIV)

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Prov. 16:9




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