How Much Sacrifice is Enough for Goals

For about the 5th year in a row, I’ve set some goals for myself.  (If you’re curious, you can find them here)  One of these goals this year was to run a marathon, and once I picked one out, I set a training schedule.

Well, the marathon is in june and the training program is about 4 months long, it meant that I’d be starting my training in the dead of winter, and continuing through what we like to call “still winter” in Wyoming.  Of course, when I was lining this all out in january, knowing about my upcoming wedding and honeymoon crowding out most of july and a portion of august, this was essentially the only choice I had.  Needless to say, I was mentally preparing to do some things that I really, really dont like.

One of those things is running inside on a treadmill, and I can honestly say that there is not much that I hate more.  You do all this work, get nowhere, and at my gym, you have to stare out the window to do it.  In addition to all of that, I feel like I run slower on the treadmill (which has been independently verified) and and it is much harder on my knees.  All of that really brings me to the question: Do I want to achieve my goal of running a marathon more than I hate treadmills?

For a while there, the answer was pretty up in the air – whenever I would be forced into running on a treadmill because of weather, I would end up hating the treadmill, the running and my marathon goal in general.  Overall though, this really is probably untested more than anything – I think I’ve had to run on a treadmill 3 times since I started running, which I attribute to this extremely dry winter.  It would be nice to know for sure though – because I know I want to finish the marathon, but I really hate the treadmill.  I think that at this point, with just less than 2 months to go, I’d gut it out on the treadmill if I have to, but I’m not so sure how I would have reacted at the beginning – there’s a very real possibility I would have said hell with this shit and stopped.

All of that got me thinking though – it’s the same for all goals: what it really comes down to is how bad you want it.  For me and my debt, I started out really really wanting nothing more than being debt free.  Obviously, my attitude has changed a bit, and while I still want to be debt free, I also dont want to miss out on any exciting opportunities that I’ve been presented with (like going to alaska) over the last 18 months.  While I wanted to be debt free, I wanted to go to alaska more (a lot more), so diverting funds from my debt repayment to fund that trip (with cash!) was something I was willing to do.  Of course, this is much easier for the “huge” goals – I cant go to alaska every 6 months or every 2 months (boo) than it is for your day to day sacrifices, such as eating out and buying 1 too many of whatever it is you collect from the store.

My guess is, that for those smaller purchases you dont ask yourself if you’d rather have that serving of popcorn at the movies or if you’d rather pay off your debt, but you do ask yourself if you’d rather go to see the giant turtles or be closer to being debt free.  This probably holds true for you when exercising as well: You’re not focused on the small day to day actions, but then when something large comes up you focus heavily on it.

Readers: Do you find that this is true for you as well?  Do you tend to let the day to day stuff slide because it’s not that big of a deal, only to find out that it hamstrings you on your way to your goals in the future?  How do you remind yourself that your future goal is more important than that trip to dairy queen?

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About Jeff

Jeff is the founder of sustainable life blog and has been interested in sustainability for most of his life. After realizing in 2007 that his finances were a total wreck, he started reading financial blogs and quickly realized that what is best for your wallet is typically better for the earth, and is usually healthier. On sustainable life blog Jeff shares his journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. For updates, subscribe by email or like us on facebook.


  1. I know people hate treadmills, but I actually prefer them to running outside! I have a slightly injured/weak knee so I can run farther in a treadmill than on streets and sidewalks near our apartment. If I were into distance running maybe I would feel differently, but I do intervals more often and I like having precise control over my speed. I also push myself harder on treadmills than when under my own power.

    Self-discipline is difficult for everyone I’m definitely not an exception! Instead of trying to remember to ask myself to decide between momentary indulgences and our savings goals, I just try to stick to our budget. We laid it out with our goals in mind so I can feel free to spend within its limits and the decision to not exceed our budget is pretty easy. Of course, we may still fail to properly prioritize our budget, but at least we only need to attempt objectivity a few times a year instead of daily.

  2. All goals worth anything have elements of it that make it difficult. What works for me is developing a routine for the everyday things like exercise. The infrequent issues, I use a list to keep me on task.

  3. My acting teacher used to say you have to be willing to walk from here (NYC) to LA on hot coals to be an actor. That is the amount of sacrifice you need. Keep going. It will be a great personal accomplishments. :)

  4. Your question: How do you remind yourself that your future goal is more important than that trip to dairy queen? My answer: I don’t, and that’s my problem!

  5. There has to be a balance between feeling guilty for every little failing and letting that throw you off track, vs. never feeling bad that you aren’t meeting your goals. It’s a difficult balance…

  6. It’s really hard to do that with the small things. Do I want this latte or do I want to be debt free? Well, put that way, of course I know the answer, but do I really go from Starbucks straight to my student loan and add $3 to that? No dang way.

  7. If we always succeeded at our goals, are goals are probably not challenging enough. I don’t find missing my goal a failure. More, I like to take stock of why I’m not acheiving a goal and rethink how to get what I want.

    Maybe, for example, it means taking smaller steps.