You can’t have it all. You can’t have all the advantages of the single life and be married. You can’t have all the advantages of having children and have lots of time for yourself or your career. You can’t take a lot of risks and enjoy a sense of safety. You can’t have a busy weekend and get lots of rest. You can’t be a leader and be free of responsibility. You can’t speak up and remain anonymous. There are just some things that don’t go together. Life is a series of trade-offs.
People will cling to an unsatisfactory way of life rather than change in order to get something better for fear of getting something worse. – Eric Hoffer
Life has many intersections, opportunities to go up or down. At these intersections we make choices. We can add something to our life, subtract from it, or exchange something we have for something we don’t. The most successful people know when to do which one of those three.
Everybody makes trades throughout life, whether they know it or not. The question is whether you are going to make good ones or bad ones. In general, I believe that…
- Unsuccessful people make bad trade-offs.
- Average people make few trade-offs.
- Successful people make good trade-offs.
Nothing creates a greater gap between successful and unsuccessful people than the choices we make. Too often, people make life more difficult for themselves because they make bad choices at the intersections of their life or they decline to make choices because of fear. But it’s important to remember that while we don’t always get what we want, we always get what we choose.
Whenever I face an opportunity for a trade-off, I ask myself two questions:
WHAT ARE THE PLUSES AND MINUSES OF THIS TRADE-OFF? Anytime you react to one of life’s crossroads according to fear rather than looking at its merits, you close yourself off from a potential opportunity. By trying to figure out the pluses and minuses of any given choice, it helps me deal with that fear. Looking at cold, hard facts has also led me to discover that I have a tendency to overestimate the value of what I currently have and underestimate the value of what I may gain by giving it up.
WILL I GO THROUGH THIS CHANGE OR GROW THROUGH THIS CHANGE? Good trade-offs are not something to be endured. That reflects a passive attitude and a mind-set that says, “I hope this turns out all right.” Instead, positive trade-offs should be seen as opportunities for growth and seized. After all, we become better as a result of them. When we grow through change, we become active. We take control of our attitude and emotions. We become positive-change agents in our own lives.
Author Denis Waitley said, “A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”
I agree with that, and years ago I determined that while others may lead timid lives, I would not. While others might see themselves as victims, I would not. While others leave their future in someone else’s hands, I will not. While others simply go through life, I will grow through it. That is my choice, and I will surrender it to no one.
Here are some insights that I hope will help you to understand trade-offs, spot them, and use them to your advantage.