Have you ever wondered if the heavy emphasis on efficiency in our world, both at work and at home, comes at a price? Is an obsession with making continual improvements robbing us of the joy that comes from contentment?
Can you identify the signs of your own obsession with getting better? Because it may be affecting you—and everyone around you—more than you realize.
Since writing last week’s article on the dangers of an obsession with efficiency, I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback. Like me, many of you can relate to this issue, so I’ve decided to dig a little deeper over the next two weeks and help you deal with this issue on a more practical level.
Last Tuesday’s post identified the problem: too much emphasis on efficiency—producing more with less effort—can backfire. It can rewire our brains for negativity and undermine our ability to be satisfied.
And that includes relationships with the people you love the most.
Since we’ve already addressed the problem, let’s take a few minutes today and diagnose some of the symptoms.
Diagnosing an Efficiency Obsession
Having a lot of experience with this issue, I’ve come to recognize some common symptoms of an obsession with efficiency. For a long time, I knew that I had a problem because I could sense it emotionally and spiritually. I just couldn’t see it for what it was.
With the help of some friends and a lot of time in reflection, I’ve identified 5 symptoms that often occur when a person is obsessed with always doing things better. Do you recognize any of these symptoms in your life?
If you’re obsessed with getting better it means you focus heavily on what’s wrong with things. And as we saw last week, that can lead to a negative mindset. Evaluate your most recent thoughts and words:
- Are you more focused on helping people find problems or solve them?
- Do your conversations tend to celebrate or criticize other people?
- Are people smiling and making eye contact with you when you speak—or do they stare at the ground?
Your own negativity is best identified by how others interact with you. Pay close attention to the way people are responding when you’re around.
This can be a tricky symptom to diagnose on your own. Even the most self-aware person can misjudge their level of arrogance. So ask someone who isn’t afraid to shoot straight with you to answer the following questions:
- Are you frequently defending why you’re right and others are wrong?
- Do people feel valued or disrespected by your words and/or behavior?
- Would others describe you as a good listener?
When you’re obsessed with efficiency, it can often appear to others as a lack of humility. If other people are detecting arrogance in you, it could indicate an unhealthy obsession with getting better.
An obsession with getting better always infringes on your time. When nothing is ever good enough, there’s a constant pressure to squeeze out one more improvement. It’s an unsustainable behavior that will lead to fatigue and burnout.
- Do you frequently get less than 6 hours of sleep at night?
- Does your work life have boundaries—or does work bleed into personal and family time?
- Do you wake up refreshed each morning or are you still tired?
- Do other people find you exhausting to be around?
The fatigue generated by your obsession with efficiency may be showing up more visibly in the people around you. Again, pay attention to your interactions with others.
Unlike the other symptoms, stress can be a good thing. Stressed muscles grow larger and stronger. The stress of a deadline can push you past insecurity or procrastination. Stress can be a healthy and productive force.
But like efficiency itself, it’s all about degree and duration. Too much stress over too long a time will only crush you and the obsession to constantly improve can indeed be crushing.
- Do you regularly worry about things not being good enough?
- Do you constantly feel the burden of responsiblity for how things turn out?
- Do you sense an overwhelming pressure to perform at crazy high standards?
An obsession with constantly making things better will eventually place you and the people around you under an unbearable load of stress.
This symptom is the most dangerous of all. When depression takes over, it really does take over. Along with the symptoms above, here are a few additional indicators of depression:
- You no longer feel hopeful about your situation in life.
- You feel guilty that you can’t get better, no matter how hard you try.
- You’re no longer interested in activities you’ve always enjoyed.
There are many more indicators of depression and you should take them seriously. Unresolved depression is crippling and you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Fighting the Obsession
Becoming more efficient and seeking to improve your life is a healthy and important goal. But taken to the extreme, it will crush you and prevent you from ever experiencing the amazing life that God wants to give you. Jesus said,
What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
An obsession with efficiency will only drive you—and others—crazy. Is your perfectionism really worth your sanity?
Jesus offers you a better way to live and next week, I’ll show you the steps I’m taking to overcome my own efficiency obsession.
But before you move on to the rest of your day, can I ask you for a quick favor? If you found this article helpful, would you share it with someone else right now who might be helped by it, too.
Life is too short and too valuable to live with a “never good enough” attitude!