Sacrifice vs. Suffering

I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review that hit home with me: Are You Sacrificing for Your Work, or Just Suffering for it?

What a powerful question.

When you are sacrificing for your work, you are making a conscious choice—the hard work is worth the reward. When you are suffering for it, it keeps you captive—and you see little purpose in the outcome of your efforts.

If you are anything like me, you have probably experienced seasons of sacrifice and suffering throughout your career. Which season are you in today?

I have lived through seasons of professional suffering. They are draining, suffocating, and spirit-sucking. If you are currently suffering, I offer a few questions to consider:

  • Who is responsible for this suffering?
  • How can you control the pace of your work?
  • What would need to change in order for you to stop suffering?
  • What is the next best step you can take today to make that change?

Sacrificing, of course, is different. But that doesn’t mean it’s all good. The author of the article stated it perfectly:

“If you find work worth sacrificing for, then do it right: Respect your limits, pace yourself, and get the help you need to give it your best, not just your all.”

How, then, can you give it not just your all but your best? Consider these ideas:

  • Prioritize: Determine what matters most so that you can channel your best energy there.
  • Just say no: Set up guardrails to keep your eyes on the prize, maximize the value of your time, and protect your energy. How? By saying “no” often and reserving “yes” for only the things that light you up.
  • Hire help: Whether it’s investing in a meal delivery service during a particularly busy month or outsourcing business tasks you despise, enlisting help will free you up to focus on—and therefore more quickly accomplish—priorities.

I am in a season of sacrifice, making conscious choices to build a business and life I love. It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the hardest work I’ve done to date. I have learned the hard way how important it is to set limits (goodbye coffee and lunch dates), to pace myself (no, it isn’t healthy to work every night when the kids go to bed), and to get help I need to keep me moving forward (our new dinner delivery service might be the best investment I’ve ever made).

If you’re suffering, make the changes you need to move beyond this season. If the questions above don’t help, there are probably bigger-picture questions to explore. Explore them. If you’re sacrificing, know that this, too, shall pass—just be sure to protect yourself as you venture through it.

Are you suffering, sacrificing, or in a sweet season of happiness? Shoot me a note—I’d love to know.

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