Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As entrepreneurs, I think most of us have figured out that building a successful business requires some sacrifice. In fact, I’d say that anything you want to be successful at — whether it’s mastering a sport, learning a new skill, getting in shape or having an awesome relationship — requires some kind of sacrifice. The key is to make sure that you’re not making dumb sacrifices for your success, but smart ones.
Running just about any business, especially in the beginning, demands a lot of time and energy. It involves taking some risk and, for most of us, a heck of a lot of personal and professional growth. You quickly learn that you have to give up something to give your business what it demands from you if you want to succeed. And that’s where the sacrifice comes in.
In the excitement and stress of building a career or business, it’s easy to sacrifice everything for that goal without hardly noticing. You get so wrapped up in your vision and making it a reality that you sacrifice many of the things that are really important in life. Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many people who have sacrificed everything, achieved great success and then are totally miserable. To me, that’s not true success.
You need to choose the sacrifices you make consciously. Of course, it’s great if you can do this from the get-go. But even if you’ve been an entrepreneur for decades, I invite to check yourself out to see if the sacrifices you’re making today are dumb or smart.
Start with your values
Ignore your business for a moment and think about everything else you really value in life. These are the things that give your life meaning, that make it all worthwhile. At the end of the day, if you lost these things, you would be filled with regret (one of the absolute worst emotions to feel). It might be your health, your family, your ethics, your spirituality, your contribution to your community. It might be listening to great music or appreciating amazing art. It might be your connections with friends or staying politically active. What you truly value will be unique to you and your life.
Next, look at those values and score yourself from one to 10 (one being “I’ve sacrificed it completely for my business” and 10 being “I’m still living out that value fully”). Honestly, unless we’ve really stayed tuned in to our values, most of us end up scoring somewhere in the middle or on the lower end of the scale.
Time and energy
This one almost always hits first. Achievement in anything requires additional time and energy from us. We all have 24 hours in a day, and running a business usually demands a ton of it — much more than a 9-5 job. Sketch out your typical week and jot down where your time is spent. Now look back at your values.
Did you steal that extra time you need for your business from something that is really important to you? And don’t kid yourself that you’ll devote more time and energy to those things when you become successful. Some things you truly value, like your kids or your health, may not be around by then.
So, if you aren’t spending enough time and energy on what you value, where could you get it? Personally, I figured out I could get up an hour earlier to get my exercise in. My family is also a priority, so I end my day by 5 p.m. every evening so I can make dinner for them. To be able to do that, I have to make sure that I am uber-efficient and productive during the day.
A trainer I know travels a lot. So, when he is home, he gets up and makes breakfast for his kids, drives them to school and picks them up in the afternoon. He only works while they’re in school and is totally focused on them when they come home. Because of that, his kids don’t resent the time that he’s away for his business.
Preplan your sacrifice
The key is to preplan your sacrifices rather than sacrifice parts of your life by default. Look at your normal schedule and think about where you could find the extra time and energy for your business, without sacrificing the things you value most in life.
Maybe you decide to stay up later after the kids are in bed to get work done. Maybe you stop binge-watching on Hulu so you could get to the gym. Maybe you give up that second round of golf each week to spend more time with your spouse. Maybe you leave the office for a couple of hours to catch your kid’s soccer game and come back later. Maybe you sacrifice some money to get extra help in for the business. Maybe you stop micro-managing everything in your business and actually delegate more responsibility to others. We all have areas in where we spend our time that we can tweak. You just have to decide what’s right for you.
You’ll always have to sacrifice something to build a business or accomplish anything extraordinary in life. But giving up what you value most is not a good trade-off. Make sure you’re making smart sacrifices by giving up what doesn’t matter for things that do.