Benefits: Shift your mindset when you think of making sacrifices.
So That You Can: Look at making sacrifices as a positive thing.
Go From Inspiration to Action With the Worksheet Below!
A Candid Look at the Value of Making Sacrifices
Sacrifice — what an ominous word. A word that elicits a sense of dread and foreboding.
So why do we use this word when we’re encouraging people to live their best life? We say things like, “Making sacrifices is the only way you’ll ever reach any level of success — happiness — love — etc.”
While the sentiment is true enough, why do we make it sound so negative? Can we shift our mindsets and look at making sacrifices as a positive thing? So that when we think of making a sacrifice, we don’t think of it as losing something that we value. Instead, we think of it as gaining something of higher value.
That, my friends, is exactly what we’re going to Deliberately Think about today by discussing:
- The value of making sacrifices,
- Three categories of sacrifice, and
- What can be gained by making each one.
We Make Sacrifices to Ease Suffering
This overly simplistic statement showcases one of the values of making sacrifices in a very succinct way. Its message is clear: the purpose of making sacrifices is not to cause suffering; it’s to alleviate long-term, or future, suffering.
The purpose, or value, of sacrifice was recognized by the Stoic philosophers. They believed that living a virtuous life would lead to freedom from suffering. But living a virtuous life isn’t easy, and it certainly requires a lot of sacrifices.
For starters, you have to sacrifice idealism, comfort, pleasure, cowardice, and self-righteousness. But stop and Deliberately Think about that a minute. If you could sacrifice each of these things, wouldn’t your life have more value? Wouldn’t you be well-adjusted, wise, and maybe even calm? And wouldn’t possessing these qualities lead you to live a life of minimal suffering?
After all, you cannot control the external world. It’s going to try to break you down. But, you can control your reactions. You can control whether you suffer or not by learning to control your emotions and impulses. And you gain this control by sacrificing some short-term pleasures and comforts.
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Humanity’s Main Concern is Fulfilling a Meaning
When we seek comfort, rather than meaning, we find ourselves in what Viktor Frankl called an existential vacuum. This existential vacuum leads us to depression, aggression, and addiction. How do we avoid the vacuum? By making sacrifices of course.
If there’s anyone who can speak to the pull of the vacuum, it’s Frankl. He was a highly regarded neurologist and psychiatrist who was also a holocaust survivor. One of his claims to fame is logotherapy, a type of psychotherapy. In Frankl’s own words, logotherapy:
Considers man as a being whose main concern consists of fulfilling a meaning and in actualizing values, rather than in the mere gratification and satisfaction of drives and instincts.
Think about it. This guy lived (if that’s even the right word for it) in four different concentration camps over a three year period. He lost his wife, mother, father, and brother. He witnessed some of the most atrocious acts man has ever committed. And yet, he was able to find meaning in his life.
Frankl discovered what meaning meant to him because he had sacrificed everything except the freedom to choose his attitude. He is quoted as saying:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Yes, Frankl was forced to make many of the sacrifices he did; he didn’t choose to do so. And his sacrifices were far greater than the ones we need to consider making. Still, his sacrifices had value. They ultimately led him to live a life of meaning, which is something many people will never realize.
What Kinds of Sacrifices Should We Consider?
As I said, we don’t need to go to the extremes of losing our families, possessions, and freedoms. However, there are three categories of sacrifice for which the value of the sacrifice is much less than the value of what could be gained.
- Time and money
- Comfort and gratification
- Ego and pride
Let’s discuss each of these categories and figure out what greater value could be gained by making a sacrifice from each one.
Time and Money
Time and money are interrelated because they both offer us opportunities, if we spend (sacrifice) them wisely. These opportunities allow us to create greater value than we started with.
Let’s consider a couple of simple examples that you may be able to relate to:
- You sacrifice part of your paycheck today so that you have a retirement account to live on in the future. The value of the security you receive from knowing that you can retire someday is greater than the value of spending that money today on something that you really don’t need anyway.
- You sacrifice four years (or more) of your life to go to college. The value of the career you hope to obtain from this education is greater than the value of the time you are giving up in exchange for it.
Now, how about a couple of personal examples to further bring the point home:
- Once upon a time, I sacrificed a significant pay increase when I switched accounting firms. Not because the new firm was offering me less but because the old firm was willing to offer me more to keep me. I chose to sacrifice the money and gained a work environment that was better suited to my needs, which was of much greater value to me.
- I once sacrificed three years of my life to conceive my sweet baby girl. (She’s 11 now and just loves it when I call her my baby ?.) During those years, my world revolved around conceiving, and I essentially put my life on hold. But in exchange for that sacrifice of my time, I received the value of love beyond words when Emma Elizabeth Bain entered this world, and I continue to receive value in the pride that I feel for her every single day.
You see? When we talk about making sacrifices in these terms, it doesn’t even sound like sacrifice, right? It doesn’t sound so ominous or foreboding. So let’s keep going.
Comfort and Gratification
We all long for comfort, whether it be the physical comfort of a cozy blanket or the emotional comfort of a loving hug. And gratification gives us comfort, if only for a moment. However, sacrificing comfort and gratification will give us something of greater value in the long run — long-term success and fulfillment.
Let’s consider these cliche examples to see what I mean:
- You sacrifice the comfort of your couch to exercise because you know that taking care of your body will give you greater value and fulfillment than binge-watching the show of the moment.
- You sacrifice the gratification of eating that warm cookie you just walked by because you know that the value of meeting your long-term fitness goals is greater than the 20 seconds of pleasure you will receive.
And then we have these not-so-obvious examples that you might be able to relate to:
- Sometimes you have to sacrifice the comfort of the uncomfortable. Huh? I know it sounds crazy, but we tend to find comfort in self-pity and misery because those feelings become familiar to us — part of our routine — which makes them hard to sacrifice. But we all know that the only way to break free of the circumstances that are causing these feelings — to find the value and fulfillment waiting on the other side — is to sacrifice our pity parties.
- A sacrifice that I’m working on making is the gratification I feel when I get to check to-do’s off my list. In case you couldn’t tell, I love to make lists, and I love to check things off of them, even if it’s something that only took a minute to complete. And therein lies the problem. If I opt for the gratification of checking things off my list, I will complete all of my “easy” to-do’s first, but those are not the to-do’s that have the most impact on my long-term success and fulfillment. Which means that I have to sacrifice the instant gratification of checking a box and be satisfied if I’m only able to check off one or two to-do’s in a day.
Ego and Pride
There will be turning points in your life when you have to sacrifice your ego and pride in exchange for the greater value of peace of mind and self-respect.
- You’re arguing with someone, and your ego/pride wants to throw all of their flaws and wrongdoings right in their face. But, you know that you’re going to feel horrible about yourself later if you take that road. If you catch yourself, and sacrifice your ego/pride, you will receive the greater long-term value of peace of mind and self-respect.
Or how about this example:
- You’ve been working on a new project for quite a while, say six months to a year. Somewhere along the line, the project didn’t go as planned, and your heart just isn’t in it anymore. But your ego and pride don’t want to admit that your idea failed, so you keep going through the motions with minimal results. That’s when you need to consider sacrificing your ego and pride. Admit that the path you are on is not the right one for you, and find the greater value in your “failure.” There are bound to be many lessons to learn from that experience that can be applied to whatever you take on next. And from that resilience you gain self-respect.
And last, but not least, let’s consider this personal example:
- This is one that I reflect on often. My ex-husband and I were deciding how to split time with our daughter, and he asked if he could have Emma on the same weekends that his girlfriend had her kids. My gut reaction was to be spiteful and say no — stick them with kids every weekend so they couldn’t have alone time. My pride and ego wanted to laugh in his face and say, “Are you serious right now?” But I didn’t. I chose peace of mind and self-respect, and in return, I received my husband, Dan. The only reason Dan and I met was because we had the same non-kid weekends so we happened to be out on the same night. If I would have chosen ego and pride, I would have been at home with Emma that night and would have missed out on all of the things of greater value I’ve received since meeting Dan.
Now It’s Time to Re-Evaluate Your Sacrifices
Now that your juices are flowing, think of some of the sacrifices you’ve made and recognize the value you received from each one. Was the value of what you gained greater than the value of what you sacrificed?
Is there something you need to decide to sacrifice now to receive something of greater value in the future? Something that’s just waiting for you on the other side of that decision.
Sacrifice doesn’t have to be a four-letter word (mainly because it’s not). It doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. It’s entirely up to you and your mindset. Do you want to focus on the trivial value of the sacrifice or the significant value of what you have to gain?
Need a bit more guidance to answer that question? Then don’t forget to take advantage of the worksheet I put together for you. It’s meant to help you go from inspiration to action.
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Sources & Inspiration
The philosophy of Stoicism – Massimo Pigliucci, posted to YouTube on 6.19.17 by TED-Ed
Would you opt for a life with no pain? – Hayley Levitt and Bethany Rickwald, posted to YouTube on 11.17.15 by TED-Ed
Viktor Frankl: Logotherapy and Man’s Search for Meaning, posted to YouTube on 7.26.16 by Academy of Ideas
MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING BY VIKTOR FRANKL – MY FAVORITE IDEAS ANIMATED, posted to YouTube on 5.13.15 by Fight Mediocrity
What Is Stoicism? A Definition & 9 Stoic Exercises To Get You Started, posted to Daily Stoic
Stoicism, posted by The Basics of Philosophy
Viktor Frankl, posted by Good Therapy on 7.07.15