After writing about my friends Rene and Jim, I started thinking more about the things people do for love. If someone chooses to do something they normally wouldn’t, is it really a sacrifice? From a minimalist perspective, choosing love isn’t about sacrifice or “giving up” something you really want. It’s about choosing what’s most important to you and letting go of things that are less important.
I think this is an important distinction, because if you view an action as sacrifice, it might lead to resentment, or changing your mind later about something significant in your life. The side effects could be very damaging to your personal relationships and your self-esteem.
So how do you do something for love that doesn’t feel like sacrifice?
It’s my belief that a choice truly made from love is one that’s hard to regret. It’s based on feelings so strong that they override whatever else is going on in your head.
Who or what are you most passionate about? If you had an opportunity to be with that person, or do spend more time doing that activity, wouldn’t you take it? Wouldn’t you consider giving up just about anything that stood in your way?
Let’s say you have the chance to spend a year with the love of your life traveling the world. But it means you have to be away from your friends for a year. Would you do it?
And after you did it, would you look back on that time with regret?
I think the obstacle most people encounter is fear
Common fears that can get in your way are:
Something will go wrong
You’ll miss out on something else that you want as much (or more)
There will be negative consequences to your choice
So instead of going with your heart and making a choice based on love, you might either dismiss it outright, or be stuck in analysis paralysis until the opportunity passes you by. Then, you convince yourself that it was all for the best, because it wouldn’t have worked out anyway.
But the reality is, any of those things could happen. Something could go wrong, another opportunity might present itself, and there could be a negative result to your choice. However, that does not change the fact that you have a choice right in front of you. A chance to choose something or someone you love. That chance is more real than the hypothetical problems that might occur as a result.
And I bet if you think back about choosing love in the past, you may recall that things did go wrong. But did that really make you wish you hadn’t made the choice in the first place?
Living a life with few regrets means taking risks
Only you can decide your risk tolerance, and what works best for you. But the old adage applies here: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Some of the most successful people on the planet went way out of their comfort zones to achieve a goal they were passionate about. Here are some examples of people who made choices out of love.
Three years ago, an eight year old from Chicago decided he wanted to do more to help his local homeless community. So he founded Project I Am, a non-profit that creates and distributes “Blessings Bags” to those in need. They contain granola bars, socks, toiletries and other necessities. Since its inception, this foundation distributed over 15,000 bags to people in the United States as well as other countries.
Jahkil is eleven now, and his drive keeps growing. Besides going to school, he plays basketball, dances and acts. Not to mention he is often a guest speaker spreading his message, and personally participates in his charity’s work.
Maybe someday he’ll look back on this time and say, “I wish I played more video games, or slept in on the weekends.” But I doubt it. His choices are for love.
It all started with her undergraduate thesis. Wendy believed that more people in her generation wanted to make a difference, and so she founded Teach for America in 1989. People who enter this corp make a two-year commitment to work in communities that experience educational inequity. In 2007, she took that mission global when she founded Teach for All.
It wasn’t easy, though. She had to raise $2.5 million and hire staff to get Teach for America started. She had no real-world experience when she did it; she was barely out of college at the time.
But today, more than 7,000 people participate in Teach for America, and there are 48 independent partners in the Teach for All network.
How can you choose love?
Maybe you’re looking at those examples and thinking they’re far too big for you. But consider this: Jahkil and Wendy may have thought that as well; it just didn’t stop them from moving forward anyway.
They most assuredly stepped out of their comfort zones and made tough decisions. But they were, and still are, rewarded with success. Did everything always work perfectly? It’s doubtful. But is it still worth it to them? I bet the answer is yes!
Nonetheless, there’s no need for you to make decisions on the scale they did in order for you to have more love-centered choices in your life. You can easily make small choices from a place of love every day. Here are some ideas:
Smile and say hello to a stranger as you pass by.
If your child wants to tell you a story about his or her day, sit and focus on him or her completely and listen attentively without rushing or judgment.
Pay the bridge toll or put some coins in the parking meter for someone you don’t know.
Finally make that phone call or visit to your elderly neighbor or relative you’ve been putting off, because there always seemed to be something more important or urgent to do.
Put a little love note in the pocket of your significant other’s coat for them to find later.
Tell a coworker how nice they look.
Look in the mirror and tell yourself how smart, kind, and good you are.
So you see, choosing love is not a hard choice, and doesn’t have to be a big choice. But it is something that’s good for you, and when you bring that light to your life, you’re taking the first step toward changing the world.