Have You Ever Watched the Winter Olympics?

If so, you have probably watched the figure skating competition, because this event is one of the most popular at the winter games. This event lasts a couple of days because the participants are required to go through two grueling competitions, both of which are designed to test different aspects of the skaters’ skills.

On the first day of competition, for example, the skaters are required to compete in the “short program” or “compulsory skate.” The next day, they are required to compete in the “long program” or “free skate.” Then, after the points are added together for these two events, a champion is crowned and the medals are awarded.

An Olympic skater, therefore, must have a balanced approach to his or her craft. Being the world’s best in the “short program” would be a good thing, but unless the skater in question could also perform well in the “free skate,” that skater would have no chance of winning a championship.

And so it is with life. As you pursue your expertise in your chosen field of interest, don’t forget that life, like sports, is a test of many demands. A baseball player must be able to field the ball, throw the ball, run the bases, and swing a bat if he hopes to sign a big contract as a major-leaguer. And you must learn to balance your spiritual life, your family life, your work life, and your personal life if you hope to be a genuine success.

You know that no two people are alike. But when we think about the things that distinguish people from one another, we usually think of physical characteristics like gender or hair color, or we think about personality traits or individual preferences. But rarely do we consider the fact that people are different in their priorities. In fact, people’s priorities probably distinguish them as much as any other attribute we can name, because no two people will have the same priorities in life. Each person is unique when it comes to what will consume him.

Some people live to work while other people work to live. Some will put their spiritual lives at the forefront while others are inspired by hobbies or social pursuits or business endeavors. The person who values something more highly than something else will not hesitate to sacrifice his secondary ambitions in order to attain his primary ambition. People also will judge one another based upon their priorities, because, if your priorities don’t align with mine, my tendency will be to criticize you for your choices.

When it comes to ordering your priorities for success, there is one guiding principle that will never fail you: if you will simply ask yourself, “What is my return on investment from this pursuit?” then you will rarely go wrong. Relationships that strengthen your life, personal pursuits that add to your life, and business quests that promote you in every important way are things that need to be at the top of your “to do” list. But things that drain you or deplete your time and resources are not worthy of your attention.

Here’s another one of those profundities we are so fond of repeating - “No pain, no gain”. But how often do we stop to ponder the reasoning that gave rise to such sayings? When we say, “No pain, no gain,” we are usually thinking about physical exercise or some sort of athletic conditioning. If we want to grow stronger, we are going to have to exercise, and exercise is painful.

But I believe this saying is true in every dimension of life. If we want to succeed in any pursuit, we will have to make certain sacrifices. And sacrifices are painful. Nobody likes to go without his favorite comfort foods in order to lose weight, and nobody likes to set aside his favorite video game in order to study for a test. But if a person intends to hoist the trophy over his head, he is going to have to turn loose of the things he is holding. That’s just the way it is.

So, another word for “sacrifice” is “pain,” and another word for “pain” is “investment.” The path to the top requires us to set aside a lot of the things we would prefer to do today in favor of the promise of a greater reward when we finally reach the summit.

But, what should we be willing to sacrifice in order to achieve our goals? Should we sacrifice our families, our spiritual lives, our health, our friendships? The wise person considers carefully the investment he must make as he straps on his running shoes and prepares to run the marathon that will take him to his goals.

No person has ever achieved anything great without devoting himself to the pursuit of a dream. And no person has ever successfully pursued a dream without having passion for that dream. So passion is a good thing. It is one of the prerequisites for greatness.

But like so many of the other prerequisites for success, passion must be tempered. A basketball player cannot throw the ball at the backboard as hard as he can throw it and hope to score a goal. And a golfer cannot swing at a golf ball as hard as he can swing the club and hope to hit a good shot. All the energies that go into competitive sports must be tempered if they are to be effective, and all the ingredients that go into personal success must be tempered if they are to be fruitful.

Passion, for instance, can easily consume the one who possesses it, causing him to be so committed to his dream that he neglects the other aspects of his life. Surely, to be great at something, a person must “defer” all his other priorities in order to focus for a while on the task at hand. But over the long haul, if a person doesn’t learn to balance his personal pursuits with all the other important parts of his life, destruction is assured.

Have you failed at something in the past? Are you anxious to take another shot at your dreams? Good! But before you take that shot, make sure that all the other aspects of your life are ready for the sacrifices you will have to make to push your dream forward. Learn to ask yourself why you do what you do and whether it is good for you in the long run. Make sure your dreams are worth the “investments” you are going to have to make, and make sure the return on your investment is well worth the sacrifice, because you can have almost anything your heart can imagine, but you cannot have everything all at once. And even though your dream may consume a lot of your time for a while, make sure you set aside some time to focus on the other important parts of your life. If you do, you will succeed all the way around.

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