In any physical endeavor, there is a line between pushing yourself too far and not pushing yourself enough. As I wrote about recently, I have not only been dealing with a shoulder injury lately, I have been pushing through the pain. After all, improvement is always hard.
At some point, however, I have to ask myself the question of whether or not I am going too far? In other words, are the exercises I am doing actually having a detrimental effect to my shoulder? Are they making matters worse?
Am I just pushing through the pain because of my ego?
Because I am plain old stubborn?
Or, because of my pride?
(Yes, to all three. Thank you for your grace, Sarah).
When I walk through the doors of Hoffer Plastics, the same line exists. How many of our initiatives are we holding on to just because we want to push through the pain, or because they worked “in the good old days?” Or, what are the repercussions for the “we don’t fail” mantra that we sometimes willingly embrace to make sure said initiative or project succeeds at all costs? Amazing as those successes are, what are we neglecting because of that pursuit? (And one has to wonder if the answer to the first question is significant if we can claim any success at all).
To be clear, there is no “secret sauce” as to where this line is. And truth be told, it is one of the reasons that as a leader, the most common prayer request I give is for wisdom. It may sound simplistic, but it takes wisdom to understand the difference between pushing through adversity, and saying “enough!”
It also takes a leader grounded in humility. While I can’t speak for you, this is always a struggle for me, just not in the way most suspect when they hear the word humility. C.S. Lewis said that humility “is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Truth be told, my struggle is nailed right here – If I don’t push through the pain, if I don’t hit the numbers I set out to hit, I think of myself as a failure. But in doing so, I’m putting all the focus of my mind on me and how circumstances reflect on me. A truly humble leader doesn’t even care.
I close with humility because it is the antidote of pride. In the spiritual sense, those of us who follow Christ are freed to focus on others because we no longer have to prove ourselves. For Jesus has already paid the price for us, there is nothing we can do to earn our worth. We may struggle, as I struggle, with self-centeredness and pride, but this does not lessen the reality of this truth for us.
Similarly, organizationally we have to get to the point where we are centered on some ultimate reality. We have to know our “true north,” and what our defining metrics really are, so that we can say “enough” when our pride tempts us to continue marching on when the truth is that we are only “marching on” so that we feel better about ourselves.