Do you make sacrifices?
Do you often feel that you are making or have made sacrifices in various aspects of your life? Perhaps you feel that you have sacrificed being around for your kids so you could reach the highest level at work – or conversely that you have sacrificed achieving your greatest career potential in favour of devoting more time to your family? If you’re a lawyer and/or a working parent, you’re probably all too familiar with the concept. You spend your life giving a lot of yourself – your time, your love, your energy – to others, be it your children, your partner, your colleagues or your boss, so you are often bound to feel this noble sense of ‘giving up’ something of yourself for a better cause, for success, or for the greater good. It’s understandable, particularly as the idea of necessary sacrifice has often been linked with honour and success throughout our history and culture.
But what’s so wrong with that?, I hear you cry! Giving is better than taking, right? Surely you shouldn’t expect something (success, happiness) for nothing?
The problem with sacrifice
Of course this is true! Whatever your goals, achieving them requires a certain amount of effort, of give and take and of balancing priorities. The real issue is how you frame this experience in your mind. The concept of ‘sacrifice’ is problematic because of its negative connotations. It implies suffering and loss – and even if it also has a feeling of heroism or nobility about its intention – it can still bring with it a sense of resentment. If you feel you have made sacrifices, it necessarily implies that you have done so for someone or something else. You then might not only feel a sense of loss yourself, but also project frustration, negativity or resentment on to the other person or situation. The problem, then, is not the act of sacrifice itself – but how you describe this act to yourself.
The famous motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, once said:
“If you think it’s a sacrifice, you shouldn’t do it…”
The language of sacrifice
And this is the key point of this blog. If you think of something you are doing as a sacrifice, you will always associate it with all those negative connotations. This negativity is limiting and disempowering. It will entangle you in what I like to call ‘thought drama’ (have a look at my blog on this here) and prevent you from progressing. What was meant to be a noble act will only end up making you miserable and paralysed by inaction. The language of sacrifice, then, is not serving you.
Reframe your experience
So, reframe your experience. Alter your mindset. Be intentional in your internal thought processes. Change the language of ‘sacrifice’ to the language of ‘choice.’
The scarcity/abundance mindset
This theory of a problematic ‘loss’ mindset was originally posited by Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”. He describes the phenomenon as the ‘scarcity mentality versus the abundance mindset”. As he puts it:
“Most people are deeply scripted in… the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everyone else.”
The scarcity mentality problem
With a scarcity mentality, you subconsciously focus on what is wrong, what you don’t have, on limitations, or on what you have ‘lost’. It’s the framing of your efforts to achieve at work as ‘sacrificing’ your family life, or of ‘sacrificing’ your career in order to bring up your family. This mindset leaves you in constant state of flight or fight. You will either try to protect yourself from an unsafe world or from further loss by maintaining the status quo, and running away from change and potential failure or rejection, or you will constantly be exhausted, fighting to achieve – to ‘win’ those finite resources in the world at the expense of others.
This mentality is deep-seated in humans. From primitive times we were hardwired to be vigilant, to spot hazards, to see the negative first in order to keep ourselves safe. We would literally have needed to fight for resources. But the world has changed and this mentality no longer serves us.
The abundance mindset solution
Imagine approaching life from the opposite angle, by seeing abundance instead of scarcity? Instead of what’s missing from your life, you see fullness and gratitude. Instead of limitations, you see opportunities. Instead of sacrifice, you see choices and priorities.
If you start to reframe your experience, your ‘sacrifice’, through this abundance mindset, you are actually empowering yourself. Instead of thinking about how you have had to ‘give up’ your family time, for example, think of your experience as a conscious choice and of the benefits it brings to your family. Take responsibility for your choices and for showing up for those choices. You are not giving up something, you are choosing to prioritise. If you take ownership of the experience and your choices, you can no longer feel resentment or suffering – instead you feel positive and empowered. Choice means options – making choices shows you have freedom. ‘Stuff’ is not just happening to you, you have the power to change things or to act differently, or to see unavoidable things that do happen to you, in a more helpful and positive way.
The abundance mindset and catastrophe
To finish, then, the experience of 2020 is a great example to think about. With a global catastrophe like COVID-19 taking a steamroller to our way of life, to our economies, jobs and families – it’s hard not to see this year from a scarcity mindset. So much seems to have been taken away from us – we have sacrificed so much just to stay afloat. But even in these challenging times, you can still consciously decide to interpret circumstances in a way that is more useful to you. You can choose to think ““There’s no point in doing anything during the pandemic crisis because our lives and futures have been ruined” or “Our lives have changed because of a global pandemic. I’ll try and use this time to learn something new and work on my relationships with my family”.
I’ll leave the last thought to Tony Robbins:
“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or can literally save their lives.”
Create your own meaning. Ditch the sacrifices and make proactive choices! For more advice, tune into my podcast or contact me email@example.com for more information on my Having it all coaching programme.