Be Overwhelmed by Purpose Rather than by Performance
by Kay Wills Wyma
Performance pressures are a part of life. Forms are necessary. As are résumés. As are applications and business cards.
Performance pressures become overwhelming when we define ourselves by such things. We define ourselves according to the boxes we have checked (or have not checked)—and inevitably how our checks compare to those of others. And boxes can do a number on us as we try to amass checks and build résumés in the race to perform, because we’re all just people, people with sneaky little self-doubts hiding below our well-crafted exteriors.
Rather than be overwhelmed by performance pressures, we can instead be overwhelmed by purpose and unique giftedness. But seeing, recognizing, and celebrating such things can be a challenge in our show-me culture. We all have something worthwhile to offer, even if it might not be revealed by a lengthy résumé. We all come out of the womb with a natural giftedness created to bless those with whom we share life. But we often let thoughts of less-than stifle the use of our gifts. Or we long for a talent or gifting du jour—whatever might be in vogue at the moment.
Purpose, at its core, is the common strand that ties gifting together. Purpose is the soul of giftedness, spurring giftedness’s use for the good of more than simply ourselves. Purpose grounds. It gives reason.
And it taps into that loving others aspect of life—a reflection of God’s kindness.
For years we got to watch purpose lived out, up close and personal almost every morning—driving from one school to the next. I am often reminded of a certain carpool ride not so long ago.
“Boxster! Hey man! Good to see you! You have a great day. Work hard.” All topped off with a loud “Whoot!” by our school’s off-duty Dallas Police Department traffic officer, Le’Shai Maston. Then, to be sure his message was heard, Le’Shai pointed in our car window, catching the eye of my shotgun passenger.
Boxster looked out the window with a sheepish grin and nodded. We had just dropped off one kid at our first carpool lane of the morning and were turning out of the school’s drive, heading for school number two.
This greeting mirrors the one from the day before. Every day, rain or shine, sleep or an all-nighter, Le’Shai acknowledges the people in each car that comes within a quarter of a mile radius of his location. The result? Hundreds of smiles each day, thousands a month, practically countless over the years.
As we U-turned and made our way past the school, and past Le’Shai, one last time for the morning, I looked at my shotgun passenger as we heard one last whoot.
“How does that make you feel when Le’Shai stops and shouts to you that way? When he says your name?”
“Uh, it feels good. Really good.”
Whoa—a response! Which means he’s listening. I’m running with it. “Remember that,” I told him, “what it feels like when someone does something small like smiling and calling you by name.”
The great thing about the car is that conversations are shoulder to shoulder with limited eye contact—something I’ve noticed can be a positive, especially when communicating with teenagers. So there’s that and the seatbelt. Nothing like a captive audience.
“In fact,” I continued, “look at what Le’Shai is doing to each and every person he comes into contact with. He doesn’t even know the people in those cars passing by him, but he points, waves, whoops—making each driver feel like a million bucks. Directing cars might not seem like a big deal, but Le’Shai takes that job to a much deeper level. He takes it down to purpose—what he’s doing is making a difference in the lives of each person whose path crosses his.”
Le’Shai knows what he’s doing. He influences lives every morning in a highly unlikely way—a deeply meaningful way that would never be found as a box to check.
Le’Shai hasn’t always worked for the proud blue. Before Dallas PD, he achieved the pinnacle of what every boy thinks would make his life complete: a career in the NFL. A college All-American, he played for Houston, Jacksonville, and the Washington Redskins. But people he regularly sees might not know he played professional football—he never broadcasts his fame. He’s not that kind of guy.
I kept on pontificating to my kid. “Are you getting what’s important? Not fame. Not an NFL football career. Not signing with Nike or making a million dollars. Not winning a Nobel Prize, not getting a million views or whatever pinnacle someone sets for himself. None of that’s bad. But if checking the box is all there is, life becomes about the boxes—not people.”
“What Le’Shai is doing certainly involves doing his job well—he’s probably the best—but he also genuinely touches people every day. In his unique gifting, as only he could do, he actively cares for the people around him because people matter. This carpool thing is just a small portion of his job. I can only imagine the impact he has on his beat.”
With examples like Le’Shai, maybe my kiddos will catch on sooner rather than later to what’s important in life: people not performance.
Our unique purpose begins to deflate society’s pressure-laden burdens to be someone, to be seen, and to be the best as it quietly, steadfastly steers us away from performing toward resting in who
we were created to be.
But where do we place our identity? Do we believe that every day when we wake up we have to hustle and perform to prove our worth? Or do we believe that our worth and value on this planet have already been decided and therefore we get to embrace purpose—which still involves action—over performing.
We are going to believe something. Why not Truth?
Kay Wills Wyma, Not the Boss of Us, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group [link to Baker Publishing Group’s website (http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com)], © 2018. Used by permission.
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