We have a dog named Roxy. She’s a yellow lab and loves to eat. We feed her twice a day, and at both meals, she acts like she hasn’t eaten for a week, and devours her food. She is almost nine years old. I have recently started feeling bad that she seems hungry all the time, and wondered if I should start just feeding her more, giving more moments of joy, as food seems to be the highlight of her day. So, I asked our veterinarian, who is also a good friend of mine, about her eating habits. He said there would have to be a trade-off… feed her more food and give her those moments of joy, but know that she would have more health and joint problems down the road, and would likely lead a shorter life… or keep her on a stricter diet, keeping her weight down, and allowing for a longer, healthier life.
It dawned on me that life is full of trade-offs. We often get one thing at the expense of another. Our ability to choose, our free-will, allows us great freedoms to behave in almost any way we want. But our choices are influenced by the pros and cons of the potential outcomes and longer term consequences.
Most people would like to have a thinner, fitter physique. But they give in to the short-term, immediate gratification of eating foods that are high in sugar, low in nutrients, and loaded with calories. They want to work out, but choose to sit back and binge watch the latest series on Netflix. Most would like a higher paying, more fulfilling job, but don’t take the time to master the skills required for a promotion, or fail to commit to taking the extra classes or do the extra training required to get the job they would truly love. And we all want deep and loving relationships, but most do not invest the time and energy into their current relationships to take them to the next level. Most people start out in relationships fully committed and engaged, making the relationship incredible, yet stop doing those things that were making it so good, leading to a decline in energy and excitement. Our actions are either bolstering the areas of our lives, or allowing them to fizzle. There is a trade-off either way. You either put in the blood, sweat, and tears today for the life you want have down the road… or you take it easy, avoid the hard work, and enjoy short term gratification now, but fail to get what you want later on.
A key to having the life of your dreams is to think ahead. Immerse yourself in thoughts and visualization of what you want, what it will feel like, know what trade-offs you’ll have to make, and then get started. You have to understand that to get what you want later requires some sacrifices now. Living on modest terms while working hard and saving over years might allow one to build the house of their dreams. A student studying day and night for years, through undergraduate and graduate studies, eventually earns a degree offering them greater opportunity in regards to career and pay. And the man or woman who consciously works on the relationships with family, friends, and his or her spouse builds the love and trust that supports the fulfilling relationships we all long for.
While onlookers chalk up the successes of others in these areas to chance or luck, you will always find that these people accepted trade-offs. They did the work today that most will not do to get the reward later. They trade immediate gratification today and put in the hard work and sacrifice for a much bigger, and rarer, return down the road. If you want greater success and a better life, start accepting trade-offs as an essential component of that journey.