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What drives you?

Passion? Or adrenaline?

Passion is an intense desire or enthusiasm for something. Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, especially in conditions of stress, increasing rates of blood circulation, breathing, and preparing muscles for exertion.

Also called epinephrine, adrenaline is a crucial part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, but over-exposure to it can be addicting.

A 2004 article by the Table Group points out: “There is something particularly insidious about adrenaline addiction that makes it hard for many leaders to kick the habit. Unlike other addicts whose behaviors are socially frowned-upon, adrenaline addicts are often praised for their frantic activity, even promoted for it during their careers. And so, they often wear their problem like a badge of honor, failing to see it as an addiction in spite of the pain it causes.”

Pastors and other ministry leaders may be some of the most adrenaline-driven people on planet earth. We often confuse passion for our calling with adrenaline addiction. And it comes at a great cost to our health, relationships, and longevity.

At what point does passion for our work degrade into an adrenaline addiction? Let me point out a few differences between the two:

Passion gets us out of bed in the morning, ready to take on the day. Adrenaline keeps us up at night, unable to let go of the cares of the day. Passion energizes us to carry out our assignment. Adrenaline often propels us beyond our assignment and into responsibilities that belong to others. Passion produces an appropriate sense of urgency. Adrenaline makes everything seem urgent. Passion draws us, adrenaline drives us.

So . . . how do we determine if we’re simply passionate—or in reality, adrenaline-addicted? Let me throw a few thoughts into the mix:

If you can’t detach yourself from your smartphone and always check your email late at night . . . you might be an adrenaline addict.

If people praise you for how hard your work . . . you might be an adrenaline addict.

If your sense of value rises and falls on how busy you are . . . you might be an adrenaline addict.

If you can’t sit still . . . you might be an adrenaline addict.

If you have no time for a personal life . . . you might be an adrenaline addict.

So . . . if you suspect you might be adrenaline-addicted, what can you do?

1. Admit you’re an addict

“Hello, I’m [insert your name], and I’m an adrenaline junkie.” Simply acknowledge your current state with brutal honesty.  Drug addicts can’t begin the journey toward healing without admitting they have a problem. Adrenaline addiction is real, on the rise, and often leads to both physical and psychological problems. It damages relationships, especially family relationships. The first step toward freedom is admitting you have a problem.

2. Acknowledge you need accountability

Adrenaline junkies can’t kick their habit alone. Freedom requires community. Surround yourself with a mentor or a coach or a good friend who isn’t afraid to speak freely to you. Submit your calendar to their review and give them permission to call you out when necessary. Listen to the people who love you the most when they point out you’re pushing too hard. If you don’t know where to find a trusted mentor, Converge Coaching mentors provide confidential and competent help to leaders struggling with adrenaline addiction.

3. Attack the actual root

Try to figure out why you run so fast. If you have the need for speed—ask yourself: “What is broken inside of me that drives me to live at such an insane pace?” “What am I hiding from?” Ask God to reveal what’s fueling your addiction. In addition, attacking the root often calls for the assistance of a skilled  mentor or counselor. And you may be thinking “Who has time for mentoring or counseling?” I’ll let your question speak for itself.

4. Applaud your advancement

Celebrate wins such as taking a day off each week; regularly exercising; having energy for your spouse and children; enjoying a hobby; getting a reasonable night’s sleep (6-8 hours). For some of you, battling adrenaline addiction will be a long-term fight. You’ll fall off the wagon from time-to-time. Celebrating progress helps you pick yourself up after a fall.

So: what motivates you? Passion—or adrenaline? Here’s the truth: We can be passionate without being driven. Devoted to a cause without becoming devoured by it. And obedient without being obsessive.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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