“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Our culture expects us to want to “reach for the stars”, and be willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order to get it.
Success is revered. We hear stories of people getting what they want, reaching their goals, and their journeys are always couched in positive terms.
What we don’t hear is the cost, whether the sacrifices have been worth it. We just naturally assume they are, because that’s what we’ve been told. Terms like “hustle” and “goal-getter” are motivational, ideals we should all be aspiring to.
Like you, I’ve had pivotal moments where I’ve had to choose a path. Knowing that saying “yes” to something automatically means saying “no” to something else, each twist and turn of my journey has meant sacrificing something else.
Maybe you quit your job to pursue writing full-time, or made the choice to have (or not have) children. Perhaps you dream of owning a business, becoming a dancer, or going back to school.
No matter your choices, sacrifices have been made, but are they worth it?
If you’ve been questioning your path, consider these markers to help you determine if it’s all been worth it. These are just a guide, of course, but they can be powerful thought-starters for confirming whether your sacrifices have been worthwhile, or whether it’s time to pivot and possibly change your future course.
“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.” -Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
You Feel Like Your Truest Self
Our intuition is a gift, and a powerful guide for knowing whether what we’re sacrificing is ultimately worth it.
We all have those values we hold in highest regard, those ideals we know are most important in our lives. Whether it’s freedom, creativity, spontaneity, integrity, honesty, curiosity or community, knowing your values, and living them, is a compelling sign we’re on the right path.
It can be easy to fall out of alignment with what matters most to us, and chase some seductive temptation, whether it’s money, fame, or something else entirely. No matter the inducement, though, you will never feel fulfilled and satisfied if your path forces you to ignore the values most important to you.
If, on the other hand, your sacrifices allow you to live your truest self, wholly in line with your values, you’ll be much more inclined to feel as though your sacrifices were entirely worth it.
You Understand the Sacrifices and the Gain
For every choice along your path, for every “yes”, there’s a sacrifice to be borne. It’s just the way it is.
For example, a creative may have to sacrifice time on outside hobbies while perfecting their craft. An athlete will have to sacrifice spontaneity to ensure their early-morning practices are prioritized.
As a writer and a blogger, I often sacrifice outings with friends, day trips to interesting places, and, more often than not, a clean house to ensure enough time for my craft.
Those who clearly understand the sacrifices they’re making, yet are willing to move forward anyway, are more likely to feel it’s all been worth it in the end.
You’re In It For the Process
Those who sacrifice the most, and have the fewest regrets, tend to not concern themselves too much with outcomes.
When you are perfectly content with your path and choices, regardless of where they are leading you, your sacrifices just may be worth it.
If your goal includes very specific, yet hard to obtain, end points, such as inclusion in a specific show, a certain amount of money, or a level of prestige or fame, you may be setting yourself up for misery.
Our efforts don’t always pay off in ways we expect. If your joy and energy come from your process, and not a specific outcome, you’re more likely to feel as though your sacrifices were worth it.
End of an Era
If you’re currently in that hard place of realizing your sacrifices may not be worth it, it can be incredibly painful. It can feel like the end of a dream, of letting go of something once worth everything to you.
If this is you, first commend yourself for your insight and self-awareness. Too many people continue to toil away at an expired dream, just because they know no other way. It can be incredibly scary to realize your known path is no longer the right one. Just by recognizing this, you’re already a step ahead of most.
Next, just by your consciousness, know you’re opening the door, and making room, for something better to enter your life. A new path will form, new opportunities will arise, it just may take some time.
As you disentangle yourself from your old dream, spend time alone, daydream, meditate, take walks in nature and, most importantly, be kind to yourself.
Your values will begin to come into light, fresh desires will begin to unfold.
You new path will most likely whisper it’s way into your life, not shout, so make sure you’re in a position to hear it.
Your future self, dreams and sacrifices will thank you for it.