Last month, the tennis world witnessed something miraculous. I know, some of you aren’t into tennis, but you can still appreciate the wonder of it.
Roger Federer defied the odds by winning the Australian Open at age 35 and became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title in 45 years. Sharing the spotlight with him, Serena Williams won her 23rd major singles title—at age 35—and broke the record for singles titles among women.
In a sport where age 35 is like 75 in tennis years, their wins have left spectators shaking their heads, wondering how these two athletes did the impossible.
I can tell you how they did it.
What Does Sacrifice Look Like?
Sacrifice means giving up one thing because you value something else more. In chess, you give up a pawn to save your queen. In baseball, you sacrifice the runner on first so other runners can advance. And when it comes to your goals—the promises you make to yourself—you give up less important things because the result is more valuable.
The problem is, most people aren’t willing to make the sacrifices needed to keep those self-made promises. There’s a lot of talk but not a lot of action. And that’s what separates the average athlete from the superstar. The mediocre business from the extremely successful one. The ordinary retirement from the dream retirement. Sacrifice is absolutely essential to reach significant accomplishments.
What Sacrifices Lead to Success?
Because the promises you make to yourself are personal, the sacrifices you make along the way will be personal, too. But most successful people give up common things—like these:
1. Time. You knew that would be at the top of the list, right? If you’re training for a 5K, you give up time on the couch. Becoming the best salesperson means giving up time at the water cooler. You get the idea. That extra time working toward your goal means giving up time elsewhere.
2. Others’ approval. Some people might not understand you, your motivations, or your actions. And that’s okay. It’s your goal, not theirs. Letting others’ approval dictate your life will leave you dissatisfied and disillusioned. You can’t chase success and others’ approval at the same time. You have to choose which is more important.
3. Immediate satisfaction. This is a tough one. We want success, and we want it now! But significant growth doesn’t happen overnight. It can take months or even years. Just ask the guy who starts a vineyard from scratch. Long-term success often comes with a price—instant gratification. You give up the short-lived win for a larger, bigger goal.
4. Excuses. By far, this is the biggest thing you’ll have to sacrifice when you’re charging hard after a goal. Listen to me here: When you chase after a goal, you give up the right to make excuses for not reaching that goal. Letting yourself off the hook is easy. You think, I’ll let it slide just this once. But when you let one excuse in, they all start flooding in. Don’t go there! Tell a few people what you want to accomplish and give them permission to call you out if they see you making excuses.
Above all, make sure your goals are worth the sacrifices you make to reach them. You don’t want to reach an accomplishment only to realize the payoff wasn’t worth what it cost you.