When I was in college, I remember seeing a picture on the wall of people living in tents. As I read the caption below the picture, I learned that the tents were all students that had come to attend the university on the GI bill. They lived in tents.
The people living in these tents had just spent years fighting in the second world war. The beauty of the picture was not that they were camping per-se, but that they were making the sacrifice to achieve their dreams.
I talk to a lot of people about the goals they want to achieve and the dreams they have for the future. In these conversations, over time, it has become easier and easier to discern the people with the greatest chance of achieving those goals and dreams and those that will simply spin their wheels.
The simple indicator can be found in those tents that were on my college campus close to seventy years ago.
Achieving any goal or dream always starts with prioritization. Choosing one priority over another is the definition of sacrifice. And, If a person is not willing sacrifice one priority for another priority the goal or dream is very unlikely to be achieved.
We can see when this is happening by the things we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves that we have too many bills, too high of a mortgage, a car to pay for, or too comfortable of a job to really go after that dream right now. All excuses to postpone our goal, all indications that our priorities have not shifted, all signs that we are simply wasting our time.
We all have dreams. We want to have great jobs, we want to make a difference, we want to start businesses, we want to explore the world, or we want to see what we are made of running a marathon or volunteering for a cause in which we believe. What separates the times we achieve those dreams from the times they continue to go on the back burner almost always has roots in sacrifice, or the lack thereof.
Sacrifice is a gift. It can save us a ton of time by helping us identify quickly whether or not we are serious about a goal. Sacrifice always demands that we make choices, begs that we prove our commitment with action, and invites us to feel the pride that comes with aligning our decisions with our highest values. If we are unwilling to make those choices, good, we should simply take it as nature’s way of telling us that the goal or dream is not important, drop it and move on.
In a time where we have unlimited choices, where sacrifice is an choice, we can leverage the lessons of a generation that had far fewer choices. That our willingness to sacrifice is the most direct, efficient and effective tool we have for measuring the likely hood we will actually achieve our goals and dreams.