What Are You Willing to Give Up?

Young beautiful woman relaxing in hammock in a tropical resort.back view

You might have to give this up, especially if you really want your dream.

With the debut of my first book, Making Work Work, less than 30 days away (woohoo!), I’ve been asked a lot of questions about the book-writing process.

I was thinking about writing a blog post to specifically answer those questions, but I don’t want to bore the good folks reading this who have zero interest in writing a book (and I wouldn’t blame them!) But seriously, if anyone is interested in the nuts and bolts of the process, I’d be happy to write about it one day.

Until then, let’s talk about the part of the process that affects everyone. It’s the advice that I wish knew prior to starting, and as usual in my life, it’s advice that I ended up learning the hard way:

If you want to achieve your life’s dream, you must make peace with the fact that you’re going to have to give up something in order to achieve it.

Maybe We Can’t Have it All

I’m 41 years old, and I have been following motivational/inspirational authors and speakers ever since I was a little kid.

For years, there was one message that I heard over and over again that has always drawn me in:

“You can have it all.”

Well…I’m here to tell you that this is not true.

At first glance, this may sound hopelessly pessimistic, but it’s not. If anything, it will save you an enormous amount of pain and frustration once you accept it. Something will have to give if you want to do something big.

Speaking of which–once you decide that you really want to go after a big dream (start a business, lose weight, write a book, etc.), it’s time to draw a clear line. On one side are the things that you are unwilling to compromise or give up in pursuit of your dream. Here’s my short list:

  • Quality time with my family
  • My productivity at my day job
  • My overall health and well-being

On the other side are the things that you enjoy, but will temporarily be put aside in order to make your dream a reality. Here are a few things from my list:

  • A full night’s sleep, every night
  • Watching my favorite DVR’ed television shows
  • Going out with my friends

No, I didn’t give up resting or having fun while I was writing my book. I still slept, watched TV and hung out with my buddies…but I did it far less than I normally did. Most importantly, I knew that there was no way that I would be able to fully do all six of the bullet-points above, and still reach my dream of writing a book.

Some tough decisions will need to be made on the road to our dreams, and until we’re ready to temporarily give up something that we enjoy, our dreams will remain a dream, and not a reality.

I’m speaking from experience on this one, and as I mentioned earlier, I learned this the hard way.

Fortunately, all that we have to do is turn on our televisions for the next few weeks to see the better way to do this.

The Olympic Spirit

I absolutely love the Olympics–the competitiveness, the coming together of the entire world, and most of all, I love the stories.

If you examine the backstory of any Olympic gold medalist, you’ll find something very common and interesting about that person.

Besides a gold-medalist’s incredible talent, she likely gave up a lot to get onto the top of the medal stand.

While everyone was out partying, posting duck-faced selfies on social media, sleeping, watching all five box sets of Game of Thrones for hours, or playing Pokemon Go until they caught them all, she was in the gym/pool/track grinding it out like a boss.

Would she rather be asleep or at the bar drinking with her buddies instead of killing herself in preparation for the Olympics? Probably. But she chose to push herself anyway.

That’s what I wanted to tap into–the ability of Olympic champions to give up “the good” in order to experience the great, consistently.

I think that I know how they did it.

The Keys to Keep Going: Vision and Service

Since I was unwilling to give up quality time with my family, or write my book while I was at work during the day, I decided that in order to make my author dream a reality, I would have to give up one of my all-time favorite pastimes:


I would set the alarm on my Apple Watch for 3AM, and when it vibrated, I would drag myself out of bed in a stupor and write until it was time to get my daughters ready for school and myself ready for work.

I did that for nine months.

Admittedly, it wasn’t a lot of fun–but even so, each time I woke up, it did make me feel really good about myself. I was in good company too, because I’m assuming that practice for any high-achieving Olympian isn’t always fun either. What kept them (and me) going was the vision of the finish line.

For them, the “finish line” was wearing a gold medal and hearing their country’s anthem as they stood on the medal stand. For me, it was writing a book that could help people all over the world–and I was willing to temporarily give up pretty much anything to experience it before I died.

That’s why having a compelling vision is so important.

If the vision is to be the coolest guy in your hometown, to have more social media followers than a Kardashian sister, or to have enough money that you could fill up your backyard pool with $50 bills, then don’t bother.

None of that silliness will wake you up at 3AM, I promise.

But service will do it.

Whether it’s service to your family, to people in need, to your country, or to a cause that’s special to you, those are usually the things that will keep you moving forward, even when you don’t feel like it. That’s the secret sauce.

It’s also the secret that will inspire you to give up the things that are good, in order to experience the great.

And there is no doubt that you deserve to experience all of the greatness that the world has to offer.

The only question is, what are you willing to give up to get it?

Your Turn

Have you ever had to give up something in order to experience some better? What are you willing to give up in order to experience your life’s dream? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!



Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.

Latest posts by Shola (see all)


  1. Happy Monday, Shola!

    I don’t want to reinforce any stereotypes, but I do believe most working moms battle this every day, especially when their kids are little. In order to spend time with the kids, keep the house clean, keep meals made, and keep on top of school activities and homework, any working mom has ‘cut’ things. (Yes, some working dads do too, but the reality is most families leave it to mom).

    I had my babies very close together and actually worked through most of their babyhood. I was able to be home for a little while, though. Once I returned to work full-time, I realized something had to give. For me, it was cleaning my house. That became the first thing to get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.

    Additionally, once I became a single mom, the list of things I ignored grew exponentially! It was extremely important for me to prioritize things in order to keep sanity in my life. It also helped to share the household workload with my kids as they matured. As soon as my kids were old enough to feed themselves, they became responsible for their own breakfast and lunch prep. Honestly, they do their own dinner a lot too.

    I have slowly added back my own ‘fun’ like knitting, socializing and such. However, once my graduate school classes start (in three weeks!!!!) those will go on hiatus again. Let’s hope my family survives my absence 3 days a week! (fingers crossed) I have faith that I have prepared them well lol

    Thanks for the hard work you put into creating a book for us. You are such a good motivator and leader! I am excited to get my hands on that book!!! 🙂

    Have a great week,


    • Kathy, I hear you, my friend! Given the choice of being a present and active parent for your kids vs. having a spotless house 24/7, it’s clear that you made the right choice and passed that test with flying colors. And as always, once we pass the first test, life will throw another balancing act our way–and for you, it looks like it’s going to be grad school. One thing is for sure though–you are going to ROCK it, and you, your family, and the world will be better because of it. Coincidentally, it looks like we’ll be celebrating the book launch and the start of school at the same time :). Good luck!

  2. Thanks! In-time-post for my heart and soul. And so great motivation for me to think about my priorities, to choose half of them:)

  3. I’ve definitely had to give up something for something better, like…not returning my ex’s texts, phone calls, emails because I knew I deserved a healthy relationship and by staying strong I met my now husband! Also not eating all the milkshakes and french fries I’d like because I want to feel good…it definitely taste good but too much long term I know will not be good for my body or make me feel good. Also I currently work 2 jobs working 7 days a week, thankfully I enjoy both jobs but I can’t go to brunch with my girlfriends as often I’d like to lol but hey I figure I’m making money instead of spending it lol.

    Oh & like Kathy, I can’t wait for your book, I preordered mine! 🙂

    • Smart move by walking away from your ex in order to find happiness with your current husband, PhillyL! Sometimes you have to give up the good (or in the case of your ex, “the bad”) or in order to experience the great. Also, props to you for making high-quality food and money choices too! I hope newlywed life is treating you well, and thank you SO much for the support of the book!

  4. Happy Monday Shola! Maybe you will write a book or booklet that shares what you’ve learned about how to get published; I’d buy that! I like today’s topic, because it is about an idea that has wide acceptance, yet is false: That one can have it all, or even that one should want it all. When we’re kids we want it all. I was going to be a veterinarian, an accomplished violinist & equestrienne, a world traveler, a famous author, live in a fancy apartment by the beach with palm trees, drive a convertible, look like Barbie, be in the roller derby, and be an expert at gambling at the horse races. I really think we have to know that part of growing up is making informed choices, recognizing fantasies for what they are, and not be so hung up on conventional “wisdom” that burdens us with a feeling that we are obligated to be “all that we can be”. We should be all that we really want to be, what our families & communities need us to be, and yet, we must also be true to ourselves. It is a balancing act, in which there is not a true achievable balance, just always a work in progress, and lots of moving parts, so we constantly adapt. We are entitled to our aspirations, and to want “more” or to do “more”, and there should be more of a message out there, that this will involve deciding what to give up, or dial back, to achieve that. It is so destructive, that people get this propaganda, that they must just take whatever it is they want to do, and add it to the pile of stuff. Could you keep putting clothes in your closet forever, without taking out old stuff to make room? I think most people would actually be able to navigate this part of life competently, except they have been brainwashed to believe they are “settling” or “failing” if they change their mind about their priorities. Good job Shola, once again seeing one thing that hangs people up, and showing it to be an impossible task, that ruins people’s happiness and sense of purpose.

    • Kathleen Carey says:


      Again you have conveyed an important perspective quite nicely. The point that stuck out to me was the notion that we have “settled” or “failed” if we give up just one of our dreams. Thanks!

    • Donna, I completely agree with Kat–you are a master at conveying complex ideas in such a brilliant, yet easy-to-understand, way. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you ever decide to write a book, I’ll be first in line to buy it! It’s so true, life is a balancing act. Maybe it is possible to have it all, but if so, it’s definitely not possible to have it all at the same time. 🙂

  5. Kathleen Carey says:


    I went to school while working full time – limited my social schedule. Not that I was a huge social butterfly anyway (tend to be a home body), but the few times I was actually invited to something and had to decline, I was met with…how should I say…disappointment (to be nice). I knew it was important to me, finishing college was an enormous accomplishment for me – no one ever thought I was smart enough to go to/graduate from a higher learning establishment. Had to prove they were wrong (mostly to myself) – I’m just quiet! Now that I think about it – maybe not worrying about missing out on the fun stuff wasn’t such a bad thing, seems to have removed the so called “friends” from my life. The ones still around are the good ones!

    Now my focus is on my artwork. I have to say I don’t sacrifice too much these days, my partner has a complete understanding of my need for solitude and quiet when I’m working. He’s good enough to leave…without taking offense. Although I think my apartment is feeling neglected – cleaning takes a back seat.

    I do empathize with all that have real sacrifices these days – it is difficult. Just remember, the payoff will be that much sweeter.

    Have a great week all!

    • Kat, isn’t it interesting that whenever we make sacrifices to reach a big goal (losing weight, writing a book, finishing college, etc.) our real friends are usually the ones who understand and stick around? I’m glad that by graduating college, you were able to prove the naysayers wrong while also finding your true friends in the process. Win-win! Keep working hard at that art, Kat–as you said perfectly, the payoff will be very sweet.

  6. This is so true Shola! I remember when I started training for my very first marathon, I had to give up a lot of things: going out on Friday, hanging out with friends, concerts, a lot of things that made me happy. Instead, I had to be disciplined and do my training, get up early on Sunday to run distance and be in bed by 9pm every day. At first I was met with criticism, ppl told me I was nuts and missing all the fun, but I had a dream… I wanted to cross that finish line and boy, I did it!! all my sacrifice paid off and got a nice medal that is hanging in my bedroom wall so I can see it every morning when I get up. Its a reminder that dreams do come true and no matter how tired I am, I can do it. That medal helps me to get out of bed every single morning and gives me strenght to face the world.

    I so agree with you when you say that in order to achieve great things, we have to give up the good. My next goal is to do my first triathlon, I will start swimming lessons next week, which means I will have less time to socialize but it will be worth it, I have lived in fear of the water for years (I don’t know how to swim! I always end up in the kiddie pool!) but now its the time to face my fear and move towards my dream 🙂 it won’t be easy, but I know I can!

    I wish you a happy week Shola!!

    • Sofia, you are such an inspiration! You nailed it–there is no better feeling than seeing a goal to the end, despite the sacrifices and obstacles in the way. It is the best self-esteem booster in the universe. No matter what happens between now and the time that you die, no one will be able to take the medal away from you. And even better than that, it gave you the confidence to go for your first triathlon too–how cool is that?? Congrats to you, and best of luck with the training–you got this!

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