“A sign of wisdom and maturity,” says Dennis Waitley, “is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences.”
The decisions we make today are directly correlated with the outcomes we will face tomorrow. It can be easy to believe that the small choices I make today don’t really matter. It’s easy to buy into the idea that how I spend my time outside of work isn’t important or that my “yes’s” and “no’s” today won’t carry any real weight into the days to come. This is why Dennis Waitley is so spot on when he states that it requires both wisdom and maturity in order to recognize that every decision is paired with a reward or a consequence.
Your decisions today determine how you will experience tomorrow. This is why the principle of “making trade-offs” is profound. All trade-offs are not good trade-offs though; in fact, often times the trade-offs people make, either consciously or unconsciously, do far more harm than good. As Mike Davidson said in Leadershift a couple of weeks ago, “We’ve learned that unsuccessful people make bad trade-offs. Average people make few trade-offs. Successful people make good trade-offs as opportunities for growth.” Trade-offs can be difficult because often times the loss of a trade-off is felt long before the gain…but this is because gain takes longer. You can’t expect immediate results. In the fast-food “I want it now” culture we currently live in, it isn’t surprising when expectations are skewed and the patience required for making these sacrifices falls short. Instant gratification and personal growth are incompatible; in fact, immediate gratification is the enemy of growth.
Growth takes time. As Mike asks, “Are you willing to give up the fast life for the good life?”
Trade-offs often mean letting go of good things in order to gain even better things. It may not make sense to others. It will probably hurt and be uncomfortable at first, and at some point, when you’re in the “in-between” of letting go and gain, you may question why you ever made this trade-off in the first place. That’s when you need to hang on. Make the active decision to grow through the change, instead of just going through the change. You can proactively help this process by first writing down all of your “why’s” for the trade-off. When you keep that list before you, and you are able to daily remind yourself of all the reasons for the decision you made, standing your ground becomes a little easier, and charging ahead has renewed purpose.
What trade-offs have you made in your life? Were they worth it? One trade-off I made that I’m still thankful for today is when I transferred colleges after my freshman year. I was attending a private university right outside of Chicago, and I absolutely loved it. I had made incredible friends; I enjoyed my professors; campus life was everything I wanted- I didn’t have many complaints. Except for one. The tuition of this university was going to put me in debt for at least a couple of decades. I thought about the life I wanted to live post-college and the career I desired to have, and I came to the conclusion that no matter how amazing my college was, it wasn’t worth the cost I would have to pay post-graduation. I transferred to a state school in Missouri and finished out my degree there. College life wasn’t great at all after that. I didn’t make many friends. I didn’t care for my professors, and my experiences overall just paled in comparison to my freshman year. There were moments after I transferred when I wondered why in the world I made such a decision. Half-way into my sophomore year I even began making phone calls and looking into any scholarship that could help me return to the college I loved so much.
I stuck the course though, and when I graduated early in 2015 with my Bachelors of Science, the only student loan debt I had was from my freshman year of college. I gave up a lot in order for that to be the case. My life probably would have turned out quite differently if I had never transferred schools, but then again, I believe it has turned out exactly the way it was supposed to. My husband and I have worked hard to get out of debt, and now the only thing standing between us being debt-free is $31,000 in student loans from my freshman year. The trade-off was hard, but it was worth it.
It's important to understand that some trade-offs are never worth making. Identity the non-negotiables in your life so that when opportunities arise that would conflict with them, the decision is easy. On this week’s Leadershift call, students were asked what they were not willing to give up- no matter what. The two most common answers were faith and family. We can’t stop there though. We need to take a step further: if faith and family are non-negotiables, what safeguards need to be put up to protect those things? What are actions you need to both take and abstain from in order to preserve these two things?
One of the students shared this: “My attitude and character drive my belief, and that is non-negotiable. You have to be around positive minded people to do positive minded things. You can’t negotiate your character… [The negotiation] can happen in your mind or in your actions.” I concur with what he said about negotiations. They aren’t always outward actions. Rather, they can be thoughts we allow to take root in our minds. Negotiations may be happening gradually in your mind while you aren’t even fully aware of it. Another student stated, “My biggest threat [to my non-negotiable] is intrusive thinking- my mind.” We need to place safeguards around our mind to protect ourselves from the thoughts that try to slip in and manipulate us to revert to what’s comfortable. Make good trade-offs, knowing full well that the higher you climb, the tougher they will be- and tough can mean good.
What do you need to give up in order to go up? Is it an activity, a mentality, down-time? It’s unique to you. Where would you be able to go if you let go of that one thing that’s already probably timidly dancing around in your mind? Be willing to put in the work. Be ready to feel the pain today so you can have better tomorrows.
So here’s to growth. Our Growth.