Business success at what cost? Rethinking the sacrifice mentality

Business success at what cost? Rethinking the sacrifice mentality

Are you in the habit of sacrificing personal wellbeing for business or professional success? If so, you’re not alone. Business strategist and consultant Anthea Stevanovic works with business owners daily whose personal wellbeing plays second fiddle to their business and often also everything else in their lives, sometimes with disastrous results. She uses her personal journey and wake-up call to explain why sacrificing your needs for your business is counterproductive and the benefits of bringing balance and care into your life.


Aug 22, 2023

5 mins read

Thriving as an individual goes beyond professional accomplishments. It demands careful consideration of various factors, such as mental and physical health, the importance of rest and downtime, the cultivation of social connections and the preservation of a genuine connection with oneself. However, based on my extensive observations as a business consultant and personal experience, most business owners place an overwhelming focus on their work, neglecting other vital areas of their lives. Sadly, their wellbeing often becomes the greatest casualty in this unyielding pursuit. This article delves into these overlooked aspects, shedding light on their significance within the context of Australian business practices. By reevaluating priorities and striving for a harmonious balance, business owners can embark on a transformative journey that fosters personal wellbeing alongside their business achievements.

To thrive, balance across all aspects of life is critical. Those different aspects include you, your family/personal relationships, your community, your business/work and so on. When one area of your life is out of balance, it tends to impact the others. Conversely, when all areas are balanced, everything flows seamlessly and effectively.

As a business consultant, I work closely with business owners daily and regularly observe signs of fatigue, stress and burnout from overwork and imbalance. This is especially evident in those who have recently embarked on their business journey, are facing obstacles, or are growing their business. At times like these, it’s easy to focus excessively on work and neglect other areas, most notably – and unsurprisingly – themselves. 

To achieve balance and thrive as an individual, many aspects must be considered: 

  • Mental health

  • Physical health

  • Rest and downtime

  • Maintaining social connections

  • Maintaining a connection with yourself

Why sacrificing your needs for the sake of your business is counterproductive

Why don’t business owners put themselves first? Why is it so easy to push our needs far down the list to meet all our other commitments? Perhaps it’s because every other area demands our time and attention, but it’s easy to ignore the silent cries for attention from within. Sound familiar? 

Business owners are notorious for putting themselves last and justifying that it’s the right thing to do, particularly if there’s no one holding them to account. When such sacrifices become habitual, they inevitably impact your overall health and wellbeing. And when physical and mental health suffers, it becomes increasingly challenging to focus on the business and be your authentic self. In the long term, this can have disastrous effects, not only on you as the business owner but also on the business itself. So sacrificing your needs for the sake of your business becomes counterproductive.

In his book, Human Being, Ashkan Tashvir describes care, one of 31 Aspects of Being in the Being FrameworkTM, as “the epicentre or focal point of being as, without care, nothing of importance can be achieved”. He goes on to explain that when we care about too many things, we may as well care about nothing at all because care supports us in prioritising what’s most important to us, influencing our decisions and actions. For example, if, as a business owner, you are always putting yourself last and don’t prioritise your needs, you won’t do justice to the other things you care about. Tashvir writes that an unhealthy relationship with care may manifest as being “distracted, as everything becomes your priority. You may refuse to let go of whatever matters come your way as you are constantly fearful of missing out. Consequently, you may flit from one matter to another, leaving most of them incomplete while forsaking fulfilment”.

I am fortunate to work with some of the most amazing, caring and giving business owners, but many are sacrificing a part of themselves for their business on the assumption that they are doing the right thing. Speaking with them, it quickly becomes apparent that they all suffer in one way or another, be it with their physical or mental health, relationship breakdowns, insufficient time with family, etc. In short, they are trying to care about too many things at the expense of themselves, which ironically leads to many things falling apart.

A personal wake-up call

My story is not too dissimilar to my clients, and I had to pay a significant price before I realised I needed to slow down. When I started my business seven years ago, I did it for two reasons: firstly, to do what I love on my own terms, and secondly, to cater to my health needs. In relation to my health, I have several chronic conditions I’ve had my entire life, so I wanted to have my own freedom with my schedule and workload. Somewhere along the way, though, I lost sight of the latter motivation. While I thought I was looking after myself through diet, exercise, sleep and a plethora of healing modalities, I prioritised everyone and everything over myself. And when my body began to send me signals, I did everything in my power to ignore them.

When I was fatigued, a signal that I needed more rest, I pushed myself harder, telling myself I was unmotivated or, worse, lazy. Despite increasing neurological symptoms, I hid them from everyone, including my clients. I had become so proficient at hiding my chronic illnesses and pain from the world that it wasn’t hard to keep hiding them when things deteriorated. I even managed to push through when I began experiencing intermittent seizures, debilitating pain and partial paralysis, simply rescheduling clients by a day or so. I still showed up and performed like nothing was wrong.

It was only when a major medical episode sent me to the emergency department by ambulance that I finally received the wake-up call I needed. Ten days in hospital were followed by months of intense rehabilitation to learn to walk and function again. This experience taught me some major life lessons, most notably not to sacrifice myself for anything, including my business. Furthermore, unable to hide my chronic illnesses anymore, I was finally able to be my authentic self and bring all of me to my work, which was truly liberating.

These days, I ensure that I give myself the care and attention I need and deserve by adopting simple self-care practices daily. That way, I not only look after my own health and wellbeing but can also bring the best of my authentic self to my clients and personal relationships. I recommend these practices to all clients who struggle to maintain a healthy balance in all aspects of their lives.

My advice to any business owner is that for your business to be a success, you must value yourself enough to look after yourself first so you can bring your authentic self to everyone and everything else that you care about in your life. Look out for my next article: A practical guide for looking after yourself as a business owner for some practical, easy-to-follow ideas. Alternatively, if you’d like some one-on-one support, contact me here.

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