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Forcing Yourself to Create Margin in order to Grow

I find myself at home today with sick kiddos. And as I have thought and prayed about what the Lord wills for this day, I find an internal restlessness that is hard to shake. I am simply unable to produce and achieve the way I usually do. I feel stunted, and somehow ripped off, that I am forced into slowing down and just being present with my family.

It is anti-American to embrace a slower way of life. Our identities revolve around a sense of accomplishment that somehow validates our worth. Yet that is not how God views us. You’re not a failure if you aren’t able to accomplish everything on your to-do list. In fact, it might be better if you don’t.

Why Are You So ACHIEVEMENT-Orientated?

Achievement-orientation is not just a series of events, it's a mindset. It comes from fear, desire for control, and a deep need to be liked. Most people are achievement-oriented because they want to prove themselves as worthy; they want to fit in with the crowd. Achievement-orientation is often driven by a desire for power—power over others, power over oneself—and it can lead you astray if you're not careful.

Achievement-oriented people tend to think they know what's best for everyone else; they impose their standards on others and expect them comply (or else). They don't care about people who don't fit in or don't meet their expectations; these people are failures and failures aren't worth investing time in fixing them up...or so the thinking goes!

Do You Have a Habitual Focus on Performance and Results

You are not alone if you have a habitual focus on performance and results. It is a common theme in modern life. In fact, many people define success by their career and financial status.

To help you determine whether or not this is true for you, ask yourself:

  • What does my life look like? How do my days unfold?

  • What am I doing with my time throughout the day? Do I feel like I'm using it wisely?

This type of focus can be helpful when we're working towards short-term goals or trying to achieve something specific, but if we're constantly monitoring our progress and worrying about how far away our end goal may be, then it becomes unhealthy—and stressful!

How Can We Build Margins Into Our Lives?

In order to build in margins, you need to establish boundaries and get a coach or mentor. Set rules of life, establish a spiritual direction and maturity plan for yourself, and create a spiritual formation plan for your family. The more organized you are about your decisions and priorities, the less likely you'll be to be pulled into unnecessary stress.

Forming your life around a simple structure gives you the framework to build margin into your life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. You have so many responsibilities that it can feel like you have no time for yourself. And yet, if you take a step back and look at your schedule, there are probably some places where you could create a little more margin.

Why does this matter? Because when we don’t make space for our own needs, we start to feel resentful or bitter towards others who do have free time—we compare ourselves to them instead of being grateful for what we do have.

That said, if you struggle with knowing how to add rhythm into your life (especially since most people get up early and go to bed late), here are some tips:


It is possible to create margins, and I hope these tips from my experience will help you get started. Some of these habits may feel foreign at first, but once you build them into a routine, they will become natural to you. All in all, remember that it’s okay if things don’t go smoothly at first. Life is about progress over perfection, not immediate success.

  • Start with a clear schedule for each day

It is important to remember your time is not your own. It is an asset under God's management, so learn to open your schedule, clearing it for a holy purpose. That means asking God what is necessary and what is created from the places of our own insecurity or fear.

  • Limit the number of activities on your plate

You are valuable, not because you produce, but because you simply are. If you truly believed in your value apart from your productivity, how would you create margin, and limit the activities on your agenda for the day?

  • Set aside intentional time each day to do something you love

Joy and fulfillment do not always come with achieving or accomplishing. Challenge yourself to do something gloriously unproductive that you love simply because it makes you happy.

By building margin into your life through small changes in habits and mindset, you can achieve the restful and sustainable rhythm desired by everyone. I will write more about this in a later post as we consider creating a Rule of Life, an old Benedictine spiritual discipline that keeps our lives centered around the God who gives life.

Be unproductive, for the glory of God.

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