Trying to have your cake and eat it too can be a good way to end up with neither
It’s been said that people will do more to avoid pain than to seek pleasure. There are few things in life worth having or achieving that come easy. This is why we instinctively assign higher value to more expensive products or more scarce resources. We know that abundance lowers the value of something.
Most people seek comfort and security. Very often people chase a “magical cure” for their problems such as making more money, getting in shape or finding love. Often, they believe once this goal is attained, they can “relax” because the journey is over and their life will be comfortable and predictable moving forward.
In reality, the journey of life does not end until death. The way to find “well-being” is not through attaining a particular goal, but by having the willingness to do what it takes to eliminate the cause of our suffering. This takes the form of “sacrifice”.
A very harsh but clear example of this would be chopping off a badly damaged or infected limb. In a situation where keeping the limb causes constant suffering and maybe even puts the rest of your body in danger through infection; a choice must be made. You can either suffer with the limb until it kills you or “sacrifice” the limb.
While this example is extreme, many decisions people make every day are closely related. A toxic relationship or high stress job makes a good analogy. Many people have a hard time letting go of long-established relationships, jobs or habits due to trust, fear, memories and even guilt. However, sometimes a situation becomes unhealthy and a person must make a choice. They can keep enduring the pain or “sacrifice” the relationship, job or habit.
Life rewards those with the strongest capacity for sacrifice. There are countless stories about people who had their lives re-invigorated after making a major sacrifice. It could be leaving their home town for the first time, quitting a high stress job, ending a bad relationship, changing their diet, etc. Like most things worthwhile, the sacrifice is never easy.
The wise person knows it’s better to be loyal to your future self than your past self. Where you came from is less important than where you are going. Your past can never change. Where you came from can never change. But your future has various possibilities depending on the choices you make today. Do you have the foresight to suffer now so you don’t have to suffer later?
There are times when loyalty to the past will rob your future. And many people rob their futures every single day by making choices that support their past.
Sacrifice is a form of adaptability to the changing world and changing situations. Those who cannot adapt to change are destine to suffer for it sooner or later. Anyone seeking to grow and thrive in their life must be willing to sacrifice and ensure some degree of suffering. It is very much like exercising at the gym. You torture your body today so a stronger, fitter, leaner body can emerge tomorrow. Alternatively, you can sit in comfort and snack on junk food while drinking alcohol. It will feel great today, but your body will be weaker tomorrow.
Making difficult sacrifices shows wisdom and foresight. It comes from being able to see the big picture beyond the short-term pain and discomfort. It comes from having a life purpose that goes beyond the pleasures of today. And finally, it comes from understanding the inherent competition of life. If you are not willing to do what it takes, someone else will.
Many people never reach their full potential simply because they never try. Often the difference between a thriver and a failure is trying.