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Performance and Memorial Day: What Are You Willing to Sacrifice to Be Your Best?



Mindset Made Simple Tip #201 Watch or listen HERE.


The older we get, the more we understand the meaning of things…like today – Memorial Day.  I was at church yesterday and my cousin Mark, the pastor, showed a video commemorating those who gave it all for us.  It’s not an unusual theme in a Christian church, but thinking about humans doing the same thing and leaving children and loved ones behind after fighting for millions of people you don’t know made me dial into the sacrifice of it all. 


My dad’s Uncle Alec gave it all as a very young man in WWI.  My great-grandmother kept an invitation from President Wilson inviting her to travel to France to see her son’s grave.  The first time I saw the invitation I didn’t have a son.  But now that I do, that invitation means something more.  My grandma lost a brother.  Her mom suffered a parent’s worst fear.


Sacrifice. 


Today is a day that invites us to reflect on the profound concept of sacrifice itself. While we remember those who gave their lives for their country, we can also draw inspiration from their selflessness to examine our lives.  Our fallen heroes didn’t intend to sacrifice it all, but they knew it was possible.  They had a job to do.  They committed to it and in the end, they did what it took to protect our freedom. 


As we think about our own lives today, it is a perfect time to ask questions about personal sacrifice in the pursuit of excellence.   What are we willing to sacrifice to be our best selves?  And what are we willing to sacrifice to help our team be its best?


If we want freedom, there is a price to pay.  If we want to perform at our best, that comes at a cost, too!  Remember, each time we say YES to something, we say NO to something else.  And every choice we make leads us one step closer or further away from the person or team we say we want to be.  The sacrifices we honor today remind us that achieving greatness often requires giving up something significant.


Achieving peak performance in any field—sports, academics, arts, or professional endeavors—demands a level of commitment that often involves significant personal sacrifices. Here are some areas where sacrifices are made in pursuit of success.


TIME: As a high school or college athlete, time is time.  But the older we get, the more valuable time becomes.  I was purchasing something this week and my wife said, “That will be the last time we need to order that.” Meaning, we won’t outlive whatever the item I bought.  Wow!  Nothing like putting time into perspective!


I heard a podcaster say he had “2 Lucys” left.  Meaning he would probably have two more dogs in his life and that’s it.  I often think how many “Coals” or “Roscoes” I have left (Coal lived to be 18, so I’ll take two more of him and Roscoe is 3 right now, so I’ll take two more of both at least, please!).


Because time is so valuable, giving it up is hard!  But we know that everything we do that lasts takes time.  High achievers often sacrifice leisure activities, social events, and even sleep to dedicate more hours to practice, study, or work. This disciplined allocation of time can make a significant difference in achieving excellence.   We know this…but need to remember that quality time is more important than quantity.  And adjusting as we grow and improve is vital to staying on top. 


In You Win in The Locker Room First, Mike Smith, former coach of the Atlanta Falcons talks about the time he took to walk around the facility and do other things that took time away from the Xs and Os of football.  He stopped allocating time for these things and soon found that his performance and the performance of the organization suffered.  He attributes the loss of his job to saying YES to things that forced him to say NO the things that built his culture of success.


I can relate to Coach Smith’s experience.   After becoming a mom, I was less willing to sacrifice time at home for time at work.  Instead of figuring out how to make it work, I became stubborn and less flexible.  I am certain this affected my performance.  I am not sure sacrificing time at home was the wrong thing, but I am pretty sure I went about it the wrong way!


Either way, to be our best, we will sacrifice time.  It is part of the deal if you want to be your best or the best!

 

Comfort:  Pushing boundaries and stepping out of comfort zones is essential for growth. Athletes endure grueling training sessions, students stay up late studying, and entrepreneurs take risks that can lead to stress and uncertainty. Sacrificing comfort is a common thread among those striving for excellence.


When I talk about comfort zones, I remind my athletes that our comfort zones quickly become our “I’m not where I want to be zone”.  Why?  Because as I stay comfortable, everyone else has a chance to pass me.  And I don’t know about you, but I am never comfortable when I get passed in a race.  It makes me even more uncomfortable because I change my pace in response to someone else instead of following a plan I should have implemented that pushes me to run and train at a pace that helps me grow.


Being uncomfortable takes a plan since our brain always votes for comfort.  If we want to be better tomorrow than we are today, we need to do something more because, as they say, we are either moving forward or falling behind.  It goes back to the Japanese idea of Kaizen and the compound effect – small, gradual improvements over time make a huge difference.  And these small improvements keep our “comfort-focused” brain on board!


Immediate Gratification:  The ability to delay gratification is a hallmark of successful individuals. This means forgoing short-term pleasures for long-term gains. Whether it's adhering to a strict diet, saving money for a future investment, or resisting distractions to stay focused on goals, sacrificing immediate gratification is key to sustained success.


You have probably heard of the Marshmallow Test first conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel in the early 70s.  Children were put in a room with a marshmallow on a table.  Nothing else.  They were told they could eat the marshmallow now or if they waited until the researcher came back into the room, they could have two.  This would be easy for me because I am not a huge marshmallow fan, but maybe I was at 3 or 4 😊. 


The overall findings of the study were that those who waited for the 2nd marshmallow performed better in all identified measures for more than 40 years after the study.  What did they look at between the groups?  Those who delayed gratification had higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, less obesity, more effective social skills and better responses to stress.


Later studies showed that cultural expectations and environmental factors also influenced the ability to delay gratification and as you can imagine, there are a bunch of other variables that play into this as well  Even so, it is not surprising that our ability to stay focused long enough to take action – or not – instead of becoming distracted by easier tasks or routes….leads to better outcomes.  Success at almost anything requires us to say YES to the harder stuff and NO to the easier route. 


It all comes down to putting in the work now to get something later.  When I am trying to get stuff done and am pulled by something easier to do…like empty my email box or get a snack…I often use the “I’ll do that in 10 minutes” method.  That gives me just enough space and stick-to-it-ness to keep moving toward what really matters.  Try it…and let me know if it works for you.


Social Life: Our final sacrifice for the sake of this article is our social life.  It seems so trivial compared to what we honor today, but we know that relationships are the strongest predictor or longevity, so being social is vital to our well-being.  Even so, high performers often find that their rigorous schedules leave little room for socializing. Sacrificing time with friends and family can be challenging but necessary to reach the highest levels of achievement. Maintaining a balance is important, but sometimes, priorities must shift. 


We talk about balance, but the truth is that sometimes our success demands that things in our lives tip the scale in one way or another.  I have heard the analogy that our lives have rooms like those in a house.  At times, we spend a ton of time in one room and little in others.  The goal is to visit all of the rooms to keep them clean and up to date but understand that if we aren’t in one much right now, that is okay.  So long as we schedule time in all rooms at some point to keep our house in order and in good repair.  An example might be one that we used when we recruited out of town.  We were committed to spending every moment possible working.  No sit-down meals.  No socializing.  No wasted time.  We felt this helped us spend more time at home when we were at home. 


Sacrifice now so we didn’t need to later. 


As we consider our willingness to sacrifice, here are a few questions that may help us move toward our personal best.


  • What do I really want, and what sacrifices am I willing to make to achieve this?

  • Am I prepared to give up certain comforts and pleasures to reach my full potential?

  • How can I balance the sacrifices needed for success with maintaining my well-being and relationships?


Everything worth anything demands that we sacrifice something.  What are you willing to give?


I hope your day today was filled with family and friends and that you took some time for solemn reflection on the sacrifices made by others for our collective good.  And I hope that got you thinking about the value of those things you sacrifice to do what you do.  Is it worth it?  This may be a tough question to ask, but it is the only way you can be where you need to be to get where you want to go…no matter where that is!


Where do you need to adjust those things you sacrifice?  There may not be true balance, but you get to decide what demands pull on your time, comfort, gratification and relationships.  Because the bottom line is that sacrifice is hard but it is a reality we all face on the road to success.


With honor and deep respect for those who sacrificed it all!


Julie

 

P.S. Is it time for you to change your approach to training the mental game?  I can help! Shoot me a text at 234-206-0946 or an email at juliej@ssbperformance.com and get scheduled today!


Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance

juliej@ssbperformance.com • 234-206-0946 

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