I have a theory that life is supposed to be lived somewhat like a car is driven.
When my car is in top gear and going strong then it sits on around 1800rpm. It’s motoring along at a strong, steady pace, but not putting undue strain on the engine.
Occasionally when overtaking I need to plant the foot and hit 3000rpm – maybe even 4K if I am towing the caravan. But those are short intervals and for a specific purpose.
And then when 4wding I expect to push my car hard, regularly hitting the red line when we are in soft sand. Again – it’s ok for a designated period of time, but if I drove my car like that every day it’d blow a motor pretty quickly.
I think the same thinking applies to how we live day to day. When we are in full time work it’s good to know how to settle into ‘5th’ and to get the job done well, to work hard, but with minimal unnecessary exertion. I tell people who work with me never to dig a trench deeper than it needs to be – it’s wasted energy. You don’t get paid extra for super deep trenches!
It’s important to live at a steady pace because there are times when we will need to bend the back and do a bit extra. Living at ‘1800rpm’ means that when the 3k situation hits us we actually have the capacity and the reserve to cope with it.
Not so for the person who lives all of life close to the red line. When you’re already under stress what happens when you need to go harder? Something has to give!
Sometimes our employers may cause us to live in the ‘red line zone’, expecting far more than is reasonable, but too often we live there because of our own insecurities and struggles with inadequacy. We are ‘driven’, by something or someone…
We live busy, sometimes frantic lives not just with work, but often with family obligations, church commitments and sporting activities and then we complain that life is out of control. But it’s not life – it’s us – we allow ourselves to enter a way of life that is unsustainable and then we feel trapped. If we live at 4k rpm every day, perpetually worn out, with no buffer for the unexpected and no sense of how to escape then it’s no wonder we blow a gasket.
I don’t think this what God had in mind for any of us. I have lived on the red line in the past and very nearly blown things up. That was a long time ago now and these days I like to keep it to a steady ‘1500’.
You could say it’s a ‘waste’ of my capacity, but I don’t think it is. I probably don’t get quite as much done when I live at a steady pace, but I do stay married, I do find joy in life, I have time for friends and for fun. I rarely resent the life I am living.
Perhaps it helps you also to think of your life in RPMs and to consider how you approach it?
One thing is for sure – living in the fast lane might be sustainable and maybe even necessary for a very brief period, but for most of us we find life in the steady lane – where we have time to pause and enjoy the space in which we live and the people we share the road with.