“The idea is that you could sacrifice something of value, and that would have transcendent utility. That is by no means an unsophisticated idea. In fact, it might be the greatest idea that human beings ever came up with.”
― Jordan Peterson
Tomorrow simply doesn’t change by living the same today over and over again.
This, of course, is nothing new or mind blowing. Like most obvious truths it’s something we glance over. Most of our todays are pretty much alike, and the whole idea of having to give something up doesn’t sound enticing at all. Our lives seem difficult enough, why would anyone make it even harder by giving away something of value?
Yet, what most of us fail to see is that sacrifice comes already baked in the way life works, it is unavoidable. We are faced with many options each day, and we can’t possibly choose all of them. As you pick one, that commitment itself forces you to renounce all other possibilities. We do this all the time, and we do it unconsciously striving to remain in our comfortable safe zone.
The difference is done by the people we admire, those who have the strength to make hard choices deliberately over and over again. None of whom reached their positions of accomplishment without some sort of relevant sacrifice.
Look at any world class athlete, how many hours a day do they spend on their training and improvement? They invest their whole youth in athletic challenges. Or the aspiring entrepreneurs putting in balance friends, family and health in the stressful chase of success.
Life sets a cost for everything, and the things worth achieving are priced higher. Maybe that’s why some people can earn our appreciation easier, because we instinctively know that attaining difficult results required something of value to had been given. A golden medal is so much more than a shiny precious metal, it’s hopes, blood, sweat, and tears combined with the whole of possibilities and futures offered away.
Even us, here today, while comfortably avoiding most hard choices, we are still sitting on a pile of other people’s sacrifices. All our opportunities, freedoms and technical advances were earned by the efforts of those who came before us.
Things didn’t just happen out of the blue, someone had to push for them, someone had to struggle. Our ancestors chipped away at hardships of life we can’t even imagine, and in time that earned us an easier and easier existence, one with a lot more opportunities than they could ever dream.
Safety, education, travel, health care, social services, technology, tools, these are all at sky rocket levels over what we had just a few generations ago. And the price for what we enjoy today was paid in a difficult past.
This doesn’t get us off the hook. Even more so, when we waste our potential we also waste the efforts and the significance of the sacrifices that put us here.
More pressure we don’t like, right? Why pick it up? We didn’t ask for any of this anyways, why not enjoy this so called “easy” life at least?
Far from me to throw any stones, I’m the king of “easy” myself, I’ve always opted for the most comfortable choice each time I could. Yet, I discovered that sacrifice brings a bit more than a promise of success, something worthwhile in itself. Because it has the power of conjuring meaning and purpose.
We all thirst for more significance in our lives. We’ve romanticized our grandfathers and ancestors’ struggles with movies and books, and we say to ourselves life back then looked simpler and more satisfying. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, we chose to escape in those worlds because ours feels so superficial and stressful.
And this is why I find sacrifice to be a powerful concept, much stronger than simply calling it delayed gratification or simple choice. When you think of yourself sacrificing part of your life towards a goal, it automatically imbues it with value.
Your time and energy, that you might have thought as disposable, take a different meaning when burned deliberately towards a goal of worth.
By framing your actions through this perspective, of burning something of value, you gain personal significance both for your today and for that hopeful tomorrow.
Our pursuits, otherwise empty, are filled with meaning by the sacrifices we chose to make.
You want to follow your dreams?
You’ll have to give away evenings, weekends and holidays maybe for years, to be berated by friends and family, to endure through disappointment and tough times, before you can reach the booming growth we all fantasize about.
And those results will be made more meaningful by the endurance itself. In the end you can say you stood for something, that your life had purpose and, I hear, that might feel even better than owning Lamborghinis and yachts.
We are all gravely inadequate compared to our inner potential, there is no point wasting words about it, yet if we could make at least a 1% self correction each day, at some point we might actually become the person we’d appreciate to be, and that for me sounds good enough to be worth struggling for.
I don’t think it’s an exaggerated goal, to give away a small part of your time, energy and resources, each day, towards that guiding voice inside of you. To grow over the years, to become better at your skills, at stringing your gifts and delivering your value to this world, to take more control of your life and to become untied in your choices.
Can you imagine yourself in 10 years, if instead of avoiding all the things you know you should do, you actually did them every single day?
It is by no means an easy undertaking, yet we should be grateful of it, because the hardship itself is what makes it worth pursuing.
Find your dream and start chasing! Let’s honor those before us with our own adventure, we have it in ourselves to bring change for the better, we should not let it go to waste.
Let’s be unreasonable together!