It's a familiar scene: the ambitious, young business person works determinedly at their laptop.
The desk that surrounds them is littered with empty Red Bull cans and coffee cups.
There they are, grinding it out, hustling, pushing. Meeting that deadline and hitting those numbers.
It's such a commonplace occurrence that it hardly bears mention.
"Sacrifice for success" is such an accepted and glorified narrative. A close cousin to the beloved rags to riches story.
The sacrifices of many start up or even established business owners is well understood, and even expected -- long working hours, not a lot of sleep, nonexistent social life, sporadic nutrition.
All to attain a future vision of success. A goal. A target.
More sales. Get the business funded. Triple the bottom line revenues.
And yet, often when the lofty goal is achieved, the feeling our hero experiences can be anticlimactic.
Instead of the much anticipated, soaring feeling of success, happiness and accomplishment, our hard working entrepreneur feels an empty disappointment; another hollow victory.
It's confusing and even embarrassing to admit this -- that the tremendous sacrifices have not produced the expected feeling of success or fulfillment.
The assumed happiness and feeling of satisfaction that would result from the achievement did not in fact appear.
This can be so embarrassing that many of us push it away. I must have done it wrong, somehow.
The next ambition will produce the feeling of satisfaction, it’s decided. It must. So we immediately set our sights on the next horizon and trudge ever forward.
And our hero continues on. The years go by and she does succeed. From the outside it looks like she has everything she needs to feel happy and fulfilled.
But because she doesn't, she pushes harder, on to the next glittering success.
The continuous, habitual sacrifice of the present moment's happiness and wellbeing for some future achievement can be a dangerous habit.
If happiness and fulfillment is only available in the future, conditionally, than it may never arrive.
This is how midlife crises occur.
Suddenly you wake up one day and realize you've sacrificed too much for your outer success.
Playing by the rules has you winning someone else's game.
Maybe the wake up call occurs due to a health concern -- burnout or cancer.
Or maybe there is no wake up call. And instead, your regrets join those documented deathbed laments.
"I worked too much, I did what was expected of me instead of what I was true to my heart."
The drive to continually achieve, whether it's making ever increasing sums of money or hitting ever increasing growth targets, isn't a bad thing.
What's dangerous is that many of us can get caught in the cycle of striving without really examining whether or not the path we are walking is contributing to our fulfillment, joy, happiness and wellbeing.
Small decisions made each day make a life. Habits, including the habit of mindlessly striving, shape our days.
Honestly looking at how you're living your life -- the life you created for yourself -- can be frightening.
I've heard whispered confessions from many clients...
"I haven't taken a vacation in over five years"
"I don't have time to eat breakfast"
"I can't actually work any harder than I am without getting sick"
These truths may be indicators of future regret...
The choice seems to be happy now or successful later- and that's simply not true. You can have both. But you have to choose it.
After all, didn't you start your business to be the author of your own destiny? To make your own rules?
Are you sacrificing too much?
What are you working so hard for ?
Do you find yourself constantly chasing the next accomplishment?