Purposeful Leadership: Balancing Being and Doing for Personal Well-Being

Published on
May 16, 2024

Where Do You Find Your Purpose?

Last Sunday, our pastor preached a message from Philippians 3:7-14. During his conclusion, this young pastor shared about his struggle with performance. He shared about wanting to win high school at a local Christian school. David recounts how he sat on the platform during graduation while other students received various graduation awards. Each award went to another person until they arrived at the final award - the one that exemplified the model student his school wanted to produce. The master of ceremony called his name for this award. David said he had never felt smaller in his life, “thinking of the vitriol, and pride, and sin going through my heart and mind to then be told, ‘model student.’” Before graduation, the staff and faculty of this school select a Bible passage they sense is a vital reminder for each student. Upon walking across the stage, the headmaster told him that the faculty and staff had selected Philippians 3:12-14 as their verse for him,

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Pastor David recounts how he felt at that moment: God was telling him, 

I don’t care about any of that stuff. All that stuff you did in high school was great. But don’t think for a second that’s what matters most to me. And don’t think for a second that you have arrived at what matters most. David, I need you to forget what is behind and press on toward the goal, the one thing, the only thing that really matters.

He demonstrated a mentality of striving, doing, and accomplishing. He would have eventually burned out if he had continued down the rabbit hole of this mindset. I am grateful that he learned this lesson early in his life.

Unfortunately, many leaders learn this lesson too late. Last week, I wrote about burnout. In the book I am working on, I discuss being and doing purposefully as an antidote.

In this post, I offer this discussion for your consideration. 

We may think that purpose is what we accomplish in the various spheres of our lives. External things do not define who we are. Purpose comes from who we are in Christ. It is who we are in our interior. It is being the best version of ourselves for the ones we love the most.

I remind myself of this each morning in my journal when I respond to the prompt, “Who does God say I am?” My usual responses are: “I am God’s beloved” and “I am God’s adopted son, his child, a loved member of his family.” My daily response to this prompt daily reminds me that my worth does not come from the external and my doing. It comes from who I am in God.

Being and Doing

We live in a doing culture, and leaders may feel indispensable to an organization. When I lead workshops on the topic of this book, I lead the group in a discussion about being and doing. We discuss not basing our worth on productivity and getting done (i.e., hustle culture). I remind leaders that the organization will continue if they take time off. It does not stand or fall based on the level of their doing. 

As purposeful leaders, we know that our lives require doing. Our doing should never overtake our being. Our lives must reflect an ebb and flow, work and rest. I found that “learning to be” requires me to learn new life rhythms, surrender old behaviors, attitudes, and practices, and allow new ones to shape me. Ruth Haley Barton writes

For the follower of Jesus, rest is not optional; neither is quiet humility a source of weakness or shame. These virtues are essential to the Lord’s plan of salvation, for ‘in returning and rest you shall be saved, in the quietness and trust, shall be your struggle.’ (Isaiah 30:15).

Our work is essential, and so is rest.

I’ve had leaders express concern about all the reflection we do on slowing down and living a more reflective life. Sometimes, they think that if we overemphasize this idea of rhythms, some people will take advantage of the conversation and only do the resting part. Often, leaders suggest that it is important to pull away and take seasons of rest to equip us for the work in front of us. I advocate leaning into your being. And keep your doing in check. Being is the call of our Christian faith. Our call to be is why I must acknowledge each morning. “I am God’s beloved.” There is nothing about my doing in that statement; it is focused solely on being.

Hurry Sickness

What if instead of defining ourselves by our busyness, “we encouraged one another to work with greater self-awareness and to live grounded and at peace?” What if we led meetings with conversations over our internal beliefs and values, checking on each other's motivations, checking ourselves to see if we are living with distorted self-perception, and giving each other permission to lean into being part of ourselves?

Too much doing is dangerous for our souls. A life focused on doing leads to hurry, “...not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.” It reflects a hurried, unhealthy soul.

John Ortberg recounts a time when, after telling him about his family rhythms and the state of his heart as best he could discern, he asked his friend, Dallas Willard, for spiritual direction, “What do I need to do to be spiritually healthy?” Ortberg describes his friends' response this way:

Long pause. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” he said at last. Another long pause.
Okay, I’ve written that one down, I told him impatiently. “That’s a good one. Now what else is there?”
Another long pause.
"There is nothing else," he said.

The late Dallas Willard was one of our generation's profound thinkers and writers on Christian spirituality. He contended, “Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life of our day.” He believed nothing was more important in the spiritual life than eliminating hurry.

Hurry and stress exist in many parts of our lives. The conversation Ortberg recounted above was written in 1997 and reissued in 2002, 22 years ago. Dallas Willard was at the peak of his writing on Christian spirituality in the 1980s and 1990s. In an interesting turn, Ortberg quotes Carl Jung, “Hurry is not of the devil, hurry is the devil,” and he suggests we suffer from hurry sickness. 

Over the years, I’ve learned that when I am in a hurry, I miss the essential things of life. I become distracted, rushing through life, skimming the surface instead of living in the moment, living my best life now. Hurry takes the place of living a deeper life and living with a more profound sense of self-awareness. Hurrying and being busy can be an avoidance mechanism for not addressing the more challenging parts of our lives.

Purposeful Leadership and Soul Rhythms

Various areas of our life must be carefully cultivated and evaluated. Purposeful leaders exhibit markers of a well-tended soul: settled in spirit, able to offer an unhurried presence when attending to others, not quick to agitation, demonstrating evidence of a disciplined life, and evidence of a well-rounded soul care model in their life demonstrating the careful weaving of the threads of relational, spiritual, physical, and emotional rhythms.

Effective self-leadership and leadership of others require knowing ourselves well. Over the years, I have learned many lessons through difficult experiences, allowing me to build an effective rhythm of life and deal well with life challenges. Intentional living requires you to know yourself well and know what rhythms and practices are essential to lead purposefully during the different seasons of your life.

Your Turn

Circle back to David’s story. We don’t find true purpose in the accolades and achievements of this world but in our identity as God's beloved children. The call to "forget what is behind and press on toward the goal" is a profound invitation to shift our focus from performance-driven doing to a more profound rootedness in our being.

This week, I challenge you to step back from the frenetic pace of life and ask yourself, "Who does God say I am?" Allow this question to permeate your heart and mind, reshaping your priorities and leading you to greater peace and intentionality. Remember, your productivity and accomplishments do not define your worth; instead, the unconditional love of God defines your worth.

As you ponder this journey of being and doing, consider the following questions:

  1.  What specific practices or rhythms can I implement to cultivate a more profound sense of self-awareness and soul care?
  1. How can I foster an organizational culture that encourages reflection, rest, and a healthy balance between being and doing?
  1. Where do I feel the temptation to define myself by my achievements, and how can I combat that tendency with the truth of my identity in Christ?

May your leadership be a powerful testimony to the transformative power of living from a place of being, not doing. Embrace the freedom to be who God has called you to be, and watch as your purposeful actions flow from that deep well of identity and belonging.

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