When was the last time you sacrificed something today, for a better outcome tomorrow?
Life is full of trade offs. Buy the nicest clothes today or build your nest egg for later. Enjoy your ice cream tonight or fit into your pants tomorrow. They are everywhere.
Often it’s the short-term temptations that keep us from ever experiencing the long-term fulfilment of doing the things that are best for our lives and our bodies. Everywhere we look it seems like that we’re encouraged to exploit the short term. Most products, foods and advertisements focus here.
Don’t get me wrong, I am more passionate about the ‘carpe diem’ way of life than most. Today is the only day there is, so take advantage of it. Live it to its fullest and don’t look back. A life of passion begins with a day of passion. Being in the Now has been a buzz-phrase for years-the idea that fear only exists in the past and in the future, but in the present moment it all gets released and we’re free to enjoy.
I agree on all fronts.
But in a world of obesity and so many unfulfilled careers, I feel we’ve gotten the wrong message. It is crucial to live each day with energy and happiness. But just as important is having that align with your long-term visions for life. Blissful living and consumption without a care in the world for the future will likely get you into a deep hole if you’re not there already.
In my pursuit of a healthy and energetic life on purpose, I’ve found that every endeavor seems to come down to this core theme:
Short-term enjoyment vs. long-term fulfilment.
Starting a business has been one of the most direct trade-off experiences for me. I had so many friends and colleagues who were making good money, and conveniently getting paid every two weeks, as I stood there making no money, working like crazy on something I loved. It required a change in lifestyle.
I had to move home with my parents for a while. I had to cut back and learn to live simply. I made major shifts in the effort of building something that lead towards my dreams. At first they weren’t all comfortable adjustments, but I learned to love them all and looking back I would not have had it any other way.
Classic short-term trade-offs include:
Pursuing your dream of starting a business requires giving up the short-term comfort of income and job security.
Living a long and healthy life requires saying no to a few more drinks and French fries today.
A stock market investment requires the patience of forgoing current spending to enjoy a larger sum of money years later.
Building a happy family life requires major personal time sacrifices early on.
This list could go on forever. In order to experience any of these life plans with enjoyment, we must find a way to embrace the sacrifice.
How do we find enjoyment in the short term while still experiencing our dreams in the long term?
Find Balance. Extremes can be the most difficult to balance. Even though you may be building a pristine body long term, doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your favourite wine or some treats here and there. As soon as something becomes a chore, the fun goes away. Without fun, there’s likely no commitment.
Don’t Compare. The easiest way to be discouraged with your short-term decisions is to watch others with totally different goals. My goal was to have a lean, fit and energetic body, but it used to frustrate me to see others eating and drinking everything under the sun. They clearly had different priorities. As soon as I realized that, the pressure released. This is just as relevant with careers. Remember, you are the only one travelling your path.
Love the process. Every real surfer loves to paddle, since it’s about 99% of what they do. Learn to love the paddle of your life. If you’ve switched to a predominantly vegetable diet because you believe it’s most healthy, find the best and most fun ways to prepare your meals. If you are building your dream business, celebrate every day’s accomplishments. Everything comes down to the process. Learn to love it.
“It’s how you got there. Not what you accomplished.”
Have fun with it. Feel awesome that you’ve decided to make a long-term commitment with your life. It’s fun to know you are intentionally living a certain way.
Live your purpose. If you know you are living your purpose and building the life you are meant to build, it will make any short-term difficulties all the more palpable or even enjoyable.
Living congruently with your purpose, value and mission is the best way to meld the short term with the long term. Health is my number one value so passing up many of the options at restaurants is not a big deal. I enjoy it. It makes me feel awesome physically and mentally. And after a while, it’s no longer a choice I have to make. It becomes natural.
Life is full to trade-offs between now and later. Most things if we don’t do now, we likely won’t do later. People will always do things that have the potential to throw you off. It doesn’t make a difference what they’re doing as long as you’re comfortable with your path.
The pay-off often comes sooner than you think.
In many instances it seems today’s enjoyments are traded for fulfilment 20 or 30 years down the road. But what you’ll realize once you start your journey is that the pay-off may come a lot sooner. Doing what you love for work means you’ll have fulfilment by the moment, not just when you reach the mountain top. Passing up rich food at lunch will pay off in the form of no stomach ache and loads more energy only 30 or 40 minutes later. A hard workout this morning leaves you feeling on top of the world before breakfast.
Those are almost immediate results for your actions. And those actions, when put into daily practice, will also yield your dreams many years down the road. Knowing results are closer than we thought, is what can keep us on track to realize the life we desire.
Remember, happiness not spent today does not equal more happiness tomorrow. If we cannot find a way to enjoy the short-term reality of our long-term pursuits then it’s all for naught. The beauty of living a congruent life is that the short and the long term become one. Daily healthy and congruent short-term actions eventually lead to a life of long-term fulfilment.
In the end, your life is a product of today’s decisions. Act upon them wisely and the results will be yours to enjoy…today and for the rest of your life.