In order to gain something, you have to give something up.
This is a pretty simple principle that we all live by. It’s deeply interwoven into our daily lives whether you are consciously aware of it or not. Money is exchanged for something you want to buy. You negotiate with other people to get what you want. You trade your time for a paycheck in a full-time job. Consider something so simple as your body has to burn fuel for it to move and function. Something is always sacrificed in exchange for something else.
Let’s go full nerd a bit and reference this quote from the “Fullmetal Alchemist”:
“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost… all things do come at a price, that there’s an ebb and a flow, a cycle, that the pain we went through did have a reward, and that anyone who’s determined and perseveres will get something of value in return, even if it’s not what they expected.”
Yes, that is some amazing wisdom from an anime. It articulates the whole concept so well in that excerpt. Take note of the last part: “even if it’s not what they expected.”
Yes, when you sacrifice something you might or might not get what you want. You’ve experienced that before, right? You could put all this time, money, and energy into something, and you might not even get the results you want. Then you have to take stock after the fact to determine whether those sacrifices were worth the result you get. (Hopefully, you’re taking forward the learnings from that experience to do better next time.)
Now, with all that context set, the question I have for you is…
Do you always consciously know what you are sacrificing for your goals?
A workaholic who has their complete focus on their job…
An entrepreneur who is building a new business…
Those who are grinding away at a startup or even a corporate job…
(Honestly, this could be applied to anyone out there who’s reading this. If you have a goal of any sort, this message is also for you.)
Do you consciously know whether you’re giving up your free time, your golden years, your social life, your relationship with loved ones, your health, your money (or other people’s), your sanity, your passions, your standards, etc. in exchange for… (fill in the blank)?
Are you consciously choosing to sideline things or letting things be sacrificed unconsciously because you just had more “important” things to focus on?
Use this as a gut check
Use this to gut check to see if you’re consciously aware of your sacrifices: Are you surprised by any side effects you’re experiencing as you’re working towards your goals?
If the answer is “yes”, then sorry, you were not conscious of your sacrifices.
Because if you were, nothing would have come out of the left field for you.
Let’s tie all this in with goal setting
If you were intentional about your sacrifices during your planning, you would have a better understanding of what you’re prepared to face and can skillfully maneuver around those challenges. You could even avoid them because you have prepared for or communicated ahead of time your sacrificial intentions.
There would be less stress, frustration, and guilt because you’re not trying to manage your goals and handling the fallout from the sacrifices you made all at the same time.
You can use those potential sacrifices as a gauge to determine whether the results from this goal is worth those particular sacrifices you have to make. You might not even pursue this goal or make the appropriate changes ahead of time to make sure you’re not sacrificing anything you don’t want to.
Create the right support system
If you’re working with other people, do they know ahead of time what is needed to be sacrificed to achieve this goal? Which projects or tasks are now being deprioritized? Where do they need to focus their time, or possibly put in overtime for? Having these discussions ahead of time makes sure everyone is on the same page and can function well as a team. (Quick soapbox: It’s really not productive or helpful to your team that “everything” is important and “nothing” can be sacrificed. Be sure to take a hard look to determine what is truly realistic and be clear with your priorities!)
Your “team” can also be your partner, friends, and family, too. They're your team in life. Are they aware of your goals? Are they supportive of you and your goals? Do they know what you're sacrificing with them to achieve your goals? How can they help or step up to make it easier for you (and everyone else involved or affected)?
Make the conscious choice
I learned from my mentor Dr. Matt James that if you embrace the fact that you have to sacrifice something in order to gain what you want, then you can actually choose ahead of time what you want to sacrifice. This was something I haven’t consciously considered before while goal setting.
Once I’ve implemented it, I had a much better picture of what I was getting myself into. I knew what to expect, and how to maneuver around known challenges. There was less regret, blame, and guilt about my decisions because it was MY intentional choice to sacrifice those things. Plus, I was able to communicate it ahead of time to those involved, who appreciated the heads up and were able to rediscuss strategies.
Make your sacrifices intentional. Make it clear to yourself and to those who would be affected by it. Plan for your sacrifices and set yourself up for success.
You have the power to choose.
Psst, the featured photo is by Jan Genge via unsplash