Honestly, how full or empty is your cup?

Recently one of my coaching clients, attended a Leadership Network meeting and saw something based on a concept in Wayne Cordeiro’s book, “Leading On Empty.” As soon as he explained it to me I knew it was something I was going to profit from personally as well as share with other leaders.

It’s a simple idea (cup illustration) with profound implication.

Here are two questions you are going to want to find solid answers to if you are going to be a leader who lasts as opposed to a leader who crashes and burns:


What truly restores, refreshes and energizes you?  What kinds of activities or people add rather than detract from your emotional, mental, relational, physical and spiritual capacity? Not what fills others or what others say should fill you, but what actually does, based on your own experience?


What depletes you? What sucks the life out of you? What wears you out quickly? Some people bring joy when they come and others bring joy when they leave. What kinds of people drain you?

Now, here is the key. If the activities (the people) that drain you outweigh the activities (the people) that fill you day after day and week after week, you are headed for trouble. When you set up each week and each day (which I trust you are in the habit of doing) make sure you have sufficient filling things to offset potential draining things. I am not advocating staying away from draining things or draining people or you would have to move to a deserted island. I am suggesting that you strike a healthy balance between filling and draining.

What the cup illustration is saying is that over a period of time if what drains you exceeds what fills you will be slowly but surely heading for the cliff.

Lorne Sanny, former president of The Navigators, use to say, “If your output exceeds your input, then your upkeep will be your downfall;” In essence, the same idea.

In the inside of the cup, there are three stages a perennially drained leader will go through:

Exhaustion . Burnout . Moral Failure

First you are tired; bordering on exhaustion a good deal of the time. You seem to have no motivation, can’t get going on much of anything. Then you slip into burnout which is an extreme stage of exhaustion. This can be accompanied by depression. You don’t even have enough energy or will power to get out of bed.

When you are in this stage of burnout is when extremely poor decisions can be made. It is my observation that moral failure doesn’t happen suddenly.  It is a process that begins with more draining than filling things in our lives, then exhaustion, then burnout.  When you or I are well into burnout, financial, relational and sexual decisions are often flawed and not healthy or biblically based. Trouble, big trouble may be just around the corner.

In my 14 years of professional coaching and 51 years of ministry, I have seen the cup illustration played out in the lives of many leaders. It’s never a pretty picture and seldom has a happy ending.

May I encourage you to take a few hours by yourself for reflection and prayer; then spend some time with a coach, mentor and your spouse (if you are married) and take your temperature. Are you exhausted? Are you entering, or well into, burnout? Are you toying with some destructive decisions that could spell the end of your leadership?

To deal with where you may be in the process, begin by making a list of what drains and fills you and then set up each day and week in such a way that the draining doesn’t outweigh the filling. On the filling side, time alone with the Lord in prayer and scripture along with a caring community should be at the top of your list. When we get super busy these two are often the first to go.

These few hours could very well be the most significant self-examination you have done in a long while and can set you up for a tremendous 2020.

Please, please, for the sake of the Kingdom and for your family, don’t be the next leader to fall into moral failure and destroy what Jesus has been building into your life for years.