I never liked the word “sacrifice”. I think it carries so much weight, so much pressure, that ever since I was a little girl, I tried to escape it.
I understood hard work, efforts to reach a goal, work to maintain and grow relationships, but never the sacrifice. It was something I perceived as being a dark place that I should never visit. Probably because of the heavy sense I got out of the word – in my mind I associated it with a lack of choice, a burden too heavy to carry.
I grew up with the stereotype that a woman should sacrifice either the carrier for the family or vice versa, that children “have to” do sacrifices for their parents, as the parents did while we grew up, and if a woman gets higher in management roles, she should work at least twice as hard as a man, thus sacrificing her free time.
It sounds so “eye for an eye”, or “I give to get”, that I never made much sense out of it. I never understood why we “have to” do anything.
So, I decided very young that sacrifice it’s not for me, that I will never end up in a situation with no choice.
“Yeah, right, wishful thinking”, said Life.
Over the years I felt so many times that I’m sacrificing a lot. Which made me angry and frustrated that I’m not able to keep the promise I made to myself, but also terrified that a bigger sacrifice it’s just around the corner ready to put me down.
And those series of painful questions: “Why is this happening to me?”; “Why do I need to give up on this?”, “Why there is so much work to do?”, etc. Was I really the stereotype I was so desperately running away from? Kind of – trying so hard to run away from something, I was heading exactly there.
But at some point, that feeling changed (pretty recently I might say). I realized it’s a matter of perspective, it depends very much how I stand in relation to what I do. Because no matter how things look like, there is always a choice. Consciously or unconsciously we always choose.
It’s not about the circumstances, it’s how we see them. So how about changing the perspective to “choice” instead of sacrifice?
It’s for sure a matter of how we perceive one word or another, but personally, I resonate more with choice than sacrifice. And here are some aspects that made me change perspectives.
- Find purpose
We make most of our decisions with the intention to move towards a goal or moving away from something we want to avoid. Finding a bigger purpose comes with a lot of motivation and energy to work in its direction.
I was once discussing with a friend that I would like to have my own business, but I believe there is too much hard work and too long time until the business becomes sustainable. And she said – “I know a lot of people that build successful businesses, but at the beginning they had to eat potatoes and onions. It seems to me that you want the business, but without the effort and the sacrifices that come with it”.
She was right, I didn’t want the sacrifices, but not because I couldn’t do the efforts, but because it wasn’t the right goal. Then I realized the more meaningful question for me is “For what I would eat potatoes and onions for a while?”
Purpose comes with clarity, motivation, alignment, thus choosing responsibly which actions to do and which not. When we are purpose driven, the focus is on what we are doing, not on what we are missing or on what we are giving up. We carefully choose each and every step to move forward.
- A growth mindset
Changing the perspective from “why is this happening to me” to “what can I learn from this”, changes the focus from negative to growth opportunities. We all have setbacks, failures, losses, negative circumstances, we all face at least once that what we call “an impossible choice”, but the belief that we can overcome challenges can help us build resilience and move forward.
No matter the circumstances, we all have the ability to learn and grow by putting effort, time and energy into it. A growth mindset opens the possibility to always having options.
When we see ourselves clearly, we make more sound decisions, we are more conscious on what triggers our emotions, we can better recognize our emotions, we become aware on how we act and react. Thus, we become more conscious about our tendencies to move towards or away from something.
Knowing who we are, gives us the freedom to act in alignment with our values, aspirations, passions. Then again, the focus is on actions to move forward.
Gratitude, as a daily practice, makes us focus on the positive aspects of our life – which are so many, but we don’t notice them (our brain it’s naturally designed to detect threats, that’s why we tend to see the negative things). It makes us put the spotlight on what we have, not on what we miss. Celebrating the positive things, makes us more aware also of the small steps we are doing in pursuing our goals, or our growth, which enhances the motivation to move forward.
- Say No
Saying No to people it’s not easy, especially to the ones closest to us. So, we many times fall into the trap of doing things we don’t like or don’t feel like doing, just because someone asked, and we couldn’t say no. That means wasting our energy on things that are not nurturing for us, and also lose the opportunity on spending that time for ourselves.
Personally, I feel most in the sacrifice area when I give away my energy to something unfulfilling for me. A change of perspective came when I started to look at “No to others” as a “Yes to myself” and my needs, not a rejection of others’ ideas or proposals.
- Autonomy. Feel responsible for own life
We are the leaders of our own lives, thus having the freedom to choose whatever dreams or goals we want to pursuit and values we want to live.
One day I was discussing with a friend (more complaining I would say), about a difficult situation I was facing at that time. And I got this reaction: “You speak as someone else is responsible for what you’re going through. If you don’t like the situation just change it”. This is what you get when you have so many coaches around ☺
We are responsible for our decisions, the way we live, the way we act. Perceived autonomy enables seeing more opportunities and choices. The belief that our life it’s a result of our actions gives us the freedom to decide at any moment to change it.
I strongly believe that choosing from a space of kindness makes it extremely difficult to feel like you’re loosing something.
So, I choose. Everyday. And I’m the result of my choices.