Why Sacrifice is a Necessary Part of Life
"There is no decision that we can make that doesn't come with some sort of balance or sacrifice." - Simon Sinek, author
Benjamin Franklin said the only things certain in life are death and taxes. He should have added "sacrifice" to that list. Everything we do in life comes with sacrifice - giving up something to make room for something else. Sacrifice is generally considered a negative. The word is defined as "suffering the loss of something; giving up, renouncing, or destroying one thing to achieve an ideal, belief, or desired end." By that definition, sacrifice seems like an action you would not want to take. But, if you shift your thinking and realize that sacrifice gives you the discipline to prioritize what you want to achieve, you can see how sacrifice is beneficial. Life is all about choices; you have to decide what you're willing to give up to accomplish a goal, and that means making sacrifices.
In project management, there is something called the "Iron Triangle." In the triangle, there are three key points: good, fast, and cheap. Your project can be any two of these but never all three. That means there's always a trade-off:
Cheap + fast = lower quality work
Fast + good = expensive
Good + cheap = not happening anytime soon
What are you willing to sacrifice - time, quality, or expense? You have to determine your priorities. In everyday life, people make similar choices. There are about 168 hours in a week. One third, 56 hours, goes to sleep. A recent report found that Americans spend about 50 hours a week online - watching TV or playing games. Say you want to be a pro athlete. That means you have to train extensively. Are you ready to sacrifice sleep? Are you willing to cut down on entertainment? Making the sacrifices necessary to be a top athlete means you can't spend as much time going to the movies or hanging out a the park. It also means you have to take care of your health - you have to eat well and keep physically fit, which likely means you have to give up eating junk food and sitting on your phone all day. Are you willing to do that? Is being a pro athlete that important to you. If it is, you understand the sacrifices and realize you can't have everything. You've got to give up some things to gain others.
There are many kinds of sacrifices - personal and social. Making sacrifices that affect other people can be the most challenging type of sacrifice. You have to prioritize things, but it can be hard to let other people down. An example of social sacrifice is missing out on your friend's Halloween party because you have a big game the next day and need to rest. No matter how tempting the invite is, you know it's not worth it, so you make the sacrifice and prioritize a good night's sleep over a party.
Sometimes it's difficult to say no. You may worry that saying no will make people mad at you. Or you might be afraid that you will lose friends or not receive invitations in the future. Emotions are powerful, and they can hinder smart decision making because even the slightest bit of confusion about what is the 'right' thing to do can lead to procrastination. That is why sacrifice is challenging and vital. If you feel like you have to say yes to everything, you'll end up accomplishing nothing because you won't have the time or resources to get things done. Anyone who genuinely respects and likes you will recognize that you have to do what's best for you. In the same way, you should respect other people's sacrifice.
With so many choices, how do you know if your sacrifices have been worth it? How do you know if you have prioritized the "right" things and made good choices instead of wasting time or missing out on important events? That is one of life's challenges. We live in a culture that promotes the idea of "having it all" and frequently bombards us with images of people pursuing different, seemingly better paths. Feeling confident about our decisions comes down to believing in ourselves. For example, if a friendship is no longer positive (i.e., a person gets mad at you for making a choice they don't agree with), you have to let that friendship go - sacrifice it - to make the time and space for uplifting, valuable relationships that align with the things you want in life.
A sacrifice may be worth it if it aligns with your values. Everyone has different core values—things we stand for and consider as essential for overall life satisfaction. Some people value freedom and integrity. They would never sacrifice their integrity to make money. Consequently, they sacrifice doing business with unsavory people because the internal turmoil of acting without integrity would override the joy of financial freedom.
A sacrifice may also be worth it if you are doing something you enjoy now rather than suffering in the hopes that one way you will be happy. If you find an opportunity that excites you and you feel passionate about, it's worth the sacrifice. But, if it's only about creating some ideal life down the road that may or may not happen, then it's most likely not worth your time and energy. You have to be satisfied with your choice even if you don't reach your ideal outcome. If you are training to be a pro athlete, you have to enjoy the process of training, the camaraderie of the team, and the joy of what you are doing today because you might not join the professional ranks. But, if you've enjoyed the journey and could look at the time spent and conclude the time was not wasted because you had fun, felt a sense of purpose, or made a difference for other people regardless of the outcome, then the sacrifices you made were worthwhile.
So, how exactly do you know when it's right to make a sacrifice? The time to make a sacrifice is when you receive more value than the value you give. If you use that as your guide for every life decision, you will never regret your choices, and you will be better for it in the end.