Pursuing achievement that really matters

059 Ken Shigematsu

By Ken Shigematsu


I have always felt pressure to achieve. Even though I’ve been out of school for a long time now, I still have nightmares about being a student and being completely unprepared for a French or math exam. And I still feel pressure to perform during crucial moments, just as I did when I played competitive basketball.

That pressure followed me into my work for Sony in Tokyo. And when I became a pastor in Vancouver, which is often considered a less competitive, more spiritual kind of vocation, I found that I hadn’t escaped the feeling that I needed to make something exceptional of my life and my ministry.

I wish I could say that I’ve transcended this feeling. But as I look deep into my heart, I realize that even though I want to be faithful, I also want to be successful. Though I want to love God, I also want to be liked and respected by people. Though I want to be loyal to Jesus, I am afraid of being average, mediocre, or ordinary. I am anxious about whether I am accomplishing enough, whether I am enough. This is an ongoing struggle for me.

My friend Jeff, who has keen powers of discernment, observed, “For a long time, you have felt like you needed to be the guy… When you were younger, you felt the need to be the guy on the football field, as a younger man, the guy in the business world, and now, the guy as the pastor.”

I resonated with his words, because I recognized my desire to accomplish something significant—to stand-out in some way.

This desire is strong in a lot of us.

Our desire to achieve may spring from the noble motivation of wanting to make a difference in the world, but we may also be driven by the fear of being labeled mediocre or, even worse, that dreaded epithet, “loser.”

While being completely absorbed in our work can make us feel fully alive, like we are doing what we were put on earth to do, it can also cause us to neglect our most important relationships as well as our soul—the part of us that communes with God, which determines our true well-being and happiness. Though we may understand intellectually that we are beloved children of God, most of us continue to measure our value based on our success, our outward appearance, and how others view us.

At this conference, I will speak on pursuing significant, enduring achievement that is not driven by fear and anxiety, but rather springs from the deep joy and gratitude that flows out of knowing we are deeply loved by our Creator.


Ken Shigematsu is the Senior Pastor of Tenth Avenue Church in Vancouver. This blog post is adapted from his forthcoming book: Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World that Pressures Us to Achieve. 

Ken will be one of the plenary speakers at the 2017 Refresh Conference, May 11-13.