Sacrifice vs Amputate | A difference that makes a difference

Let’s start with a question!

How many times have you tried to make a positive change in your life? Cutting out junk food? Going for a morning run? Reducing your time wasted on Netflix? What’s your success rate like?

If you’re like most of us, I’m sure you haven’t been nearly as successful as you hoped to be.

However, we constantly hear stories or radical transformations where people going through insufferable situations have turned their life around and achieved unbelievable results. So what makes their story different from your story? Are they born with more “will power”? Does luck favour them? Or are you just one of the unlucky ones who keep failing at trying to make positive changes?

I can assure you one thing, there is no genetic or biological difference between you and all those people who manage to succeed. Luck may play a role, but that’s not in anyone’s control, so why bother about it?

However, there is one very big difference in your story, and it’s this difference, that makes all the difference. The difference is the mentality with which you approach the change. I know it sounds very vague, but just stick with me for a minute. Before you make even one positive step towards changing your habits or behaviour, there is one crucial mental strategy you need to apply, and that’s called, the shift from “Sacrifice to Amputate”.

Before you begin to cut out the bad things in your life, you must first believe that those things are extremely toxic. Knowing that something is bad superficially is not enough, you need to really understand what that bad habit is costing you in the present and what it will cost you in the future. Unless every cell in your body doesn’t agree with the fact that this change needs to be made, you won’t end up sticking to it.

Let me demonstrate using an analogy.

Imagine someone offering you a billion dollars to cut off the tip of your pinky finger? I know it sounds weird, but that’s what imagination is for, isn’t it? What would your answer be? (be honest, no one is judging you) Now, what if I told you that the price is reduced to a million dollars? I’m sure you’ll be a lot more reluctant to take up the offer now. Now, let’s say the price reduces further, to a meagre $1000.

Would you consider sacrificing a part of your body for such a small sum of money? Of course not.

Now go back and think, when I was offering you each situation, what was your thought process for evaluating the deal? You thought of how much you valued the tip of your finger, and compared it to how much value the money could bring to your life, and only if the money was more than how much you valued your fingertip, including the pain you’ll have to go through cutting it, would you consider accepting the tip.

Makes sense right? This is what made you consider the billion-dollar offer, reject the million-dollar offer, and ridicule the $1000 offer.

The value of your finger-tip and the pain associated with cutting it remained the same, only the relative pleasure of the reward was a deciding factor. Besides, even if you did take up the billion dollars and gave up your fingertip, at some point in the future, you might regret your decision. You’ll miss having a fully functioning set of fingers, and then, the billion dollars won’t provide any satisfaction. In your mind, you will always associate the deal as one where you LOST your fingertip, and you made a SACRIFICE for money. Regret and guilt are bound to occur.

By some magical means, if someone offered you to return your fingertip, for a cost slightly lesser than a billion dollars, you’ll gladly agree, since you got what you “lost”. This is the basis of a deep-seated human bias of loss aversion. We tend to overvalue what we might lose, as compared to what we might gain. Now, consider a different situation. Imagine having a terrible infection at your fingertip. You went to the doctor to get it checked and realized it was septic. The doctor counselled you to amputate your finger-tip at the earliest, to prevent the infection from spreading throughout the body. If the gangrene spread to your palms, your hand would have to be amputated, so the surgery is urgent.

Given this situation, anyone in their right minds would be willing to go for surgery and get rid of the infected fingertip, regardless of the pain or the cost of the surgery. Now, imagine that your doctor is being philanthropic, and he offered to perform the surgery for free, owing to the pain you’re in. Your hesitation will reduce even further, and you’ll be all set to start the surgery. Let’s make it even more extreme. For some reason, the doctor is very impressed by your bravery in dealing with the whole situation, and he decides to reward you with a $1000 for bearing through the pain of the surgery. I’m sure you’ll be overjoyed, cause not only are you being saved from a deadly infection for free of cost, but you’re getting rewarded for it too. The situation couldn’t have been better. A few months later, when you look back at the time of the surgery, the $1000 would have been long gone, but you’ll still remember it as a moment that saved you from a traumatic situation, and you’ll be glad you made the decision.

Even if someone comes back into your life and offers you the same fingertip back, you’ll never in the right frame of mind accept it. Despite whatever money he offers you, you would never take back the toxic, infected piece of your body.

Now think about the 2 cases and compare them objectively. In the first case, when I offered you $1000 to cut your fingertip, you didn’t even consider it, but in the second case, the specifics of the deal are the same. I’m still asking you to cut off the piece of your finger and offering you $1000 in return for it. Yet, you jumped on the second offer while you ridiculed the first.

So, what is the difference in the 2 cases?

One word: PAIN

In the first case, you didn’t associate any pain to having that piece of the flesh, so no matter what the deal was, it always seemed like a SACRIFICE. On the other hand, in the second case, you felt tremendous pain for having that infected piece of flesh, as well as the fear of what this infection might lead to in the future, if not treated correctly. As a result, it was an AMPUTATION for you, not a sacrifice. The money was just an incentive to act faster and with more conviction.

Okay, so what can I do about it?

Simple. Learn how to add pain to as activity that you wish the stop performing, and add pleasure to activities you wish to start performing. That’s all it is. Taking time to analyze your situation, the pain it’s causing you, the future problems it will create if not resolved, and essential to ensure consistency. Relying on will power is like asking for a billion dollars to cut off a fingertip. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a deal like that. Instead, use psychological leverage by convincing yourself that the existing behaviour is toxic for you, and your brain will work its magic on you. Without realizing, you’ll be able to stick to these changes effortlessly, and the rewards will follow.

Moving from the mentality of SACRIFICE (I’ll have to give this up forever”), to AMPUTATE (“I’ll get rid of this forever”), is a crucial element to long-term behaviour change.

Psychology is a double-ended sword, learn the use the right edge.

Author: Raunak Shah, 21 years old.Goal: Aspiring entrepreneur looking to build India’s leading health and wellness platform, to help people transform their life.Purpose: The story of your life is not written in ink. It doesn’t;t matter what you were, all that matters is who you want to be. Little more about me: I’m an NLP practitioner, a connoisseur of psychology, and an avid reader of books on self-help, business and everything in between. Currently pursuing my MBA from NMIMS.Website:



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