Elite athletes think of the world in terms of tradeoffs - every decision boils down to how and whether each choice will affect their performance at practice today, or the competition next month. Fun activities like snowboarding or waterskiing often present an unacceptably high risk of injury, to the point that doing those things is off limits even in the written terms of a coach-athlete agreement. Colleges are chosen based on scholarships, as is the decision to even go to college. Degrees are evaluated based on how time intensive they are and whether they will affect practice, careers are delayed to pursue Olympic or professional sports goals. Family events are missed with regularity, relationships can be fractured. An elite athlete's entire life has to revolve around sports performance, if he or she wants to reach the highest level.
Personally, I made many of these choices and most of these sacrifices. I missed my brother's high school commencement address to set and hold the Pac-10 record for a few minutes. My college GPA suffered - I was the co-valedictorian of my high school, only to score a 2 something in my first quarter of college because I was spending almost all of my time and energy at practice. Since college, I've pursued a meaningful career in financial services, and also opened my own CrossFit gym with my husband, trying to make an impact in the world and provide for our future. During this time, I fell short of making the Olympic team in 2008 essentially because of a technicality, and missed qualifying for the CrossFit Games by a point equating to a single second in one event, and a single rep in another. For a long time, I thought I just didn't try hard enough, but I've learned that in reality I was trying to achieve too many things at the same time. Therein lies the truth - I didn't want success enough to make the necessary sacrifices, or I didn't understand the effect of my choices.
In today's world, so many people believe those who sell products or services claiming that success is on the other side of some magic pill or fad diet. This culture leads us to believe we're the only ones not experiencing the easy path. The truth is, day in and day out, successful people choose painful tradeoffs and necessary sacrifices, knowing that the pursuit of anything other than their goals will delay or even defeat the objective. They're as consistent as they can humanly be in their pursuits, not to say they're always perfect, but they strive to make the best choices they can day after day. Success requires assessing these tradeoffs, and truly understanding what it means to choose - family, career, a second career, fitness, nutrition, health, money. Complete focus in one area necessitates complete neglect of something else. Consciously compromising to chose balance is the right choice for many people.
I regularly talk with people about how their lives impact their health choices - obligations to family or work prevent them from exercising, choosing nutritious food, or getting enough sleep. I also talk with people who feel guilty for underperforming in sports when they're choosing to succeed as parents or as entrepreneurs. Because time and energy are finite resources, these tradeoffs are real, but they don't have to be dissatisfying. If you are conscious about how your priorities and goals relate to each other, you can choose an acceptable level of sacrifice in one area in order to enjoy success in another. Doing this consciously puts you in the driver's seat, and gives you control of your life.