Todd Dewett | July 3, 2019
Bad news. Life is pain. The good news is that it’s not all pain, and, it’s possible that pain produces something quite wonderful. I’m referring here mostly to mental pain (e.g., stress, anxiety, guilt, sorrow, fear).
There are three main types to consider. One type is the pain you feel that has been caused by others. It may have been rudeness, being excluded, receiving ugly comments, or experiencing real conflict or violence. This category, of course, must be recognized given its importance. It is not my concern here, however, if you are having trouble handling your level of pain – don’t think about it too long. Please call a friend or seek the assistance of a professional.
I’d like to focus on the pain you’ve created for yourself. Think about the mistakes, shortcomings, words you should not have shared, suspect decisions, actions not taken, and personal transgressions. Hey, we’re all human.
There is a specific version of self-created pain that intrigues me. It is the pain of being mediocre. At some point, you did something to kick-start the first part of your career: you finished a training program, got a certification, or maybe earned a degree. Spectacular. Soon enough, you received that first promotion or two, but then you began to lose the fire. Next thing you know, you’re just cruising. Many people cruise right into an unimpressive mid career plateau.
The pain associated with this reality is the pain of dreams unrealized, potential not reached, goals not obtained. True, no person every fully self-actualizes. The more interesting issue is the average, and the average person seriously under performs relative to their aspirations and dreams. I guess it makes sense. You already climbed a few tough hills to get where you are. Why would you want to continually climb hills for the rest of your life?
The answer is two-fold. First, you don’t want to feel the pain of being mediocre. Second, you want to believe that much more is possible. It is. It might involve pain, but this type of pain is the good stuff. It’s the pain that pays off. Growth hurts before it helps.
Personal growth requires significant time and effort. It almost always requires sacrifice. This means tough decisions and stress. Pain. There is the pain of pushing past personal limits. The pain associated with the mistakes inevitably tied to new learning. The pain associated with knowing that some people support your attempt at growth, while others do not. The pain associated with understanding opportunity costs. The pain of possibly burdening the ones you love due to your heightened focus and commitment to personal growth.
Yes, growth involves pain, but, ultimately, pain is about perspective. This is your chance to mentally shift away from feeling a burden towards loving the investment you’re making in a brighter tomorrow. Is pain in the service of something much bigger really pain? Or is it unexpectedly that which fuels belief and passion?
Your improvement journey starts by making a commitment to change the nature of pain in your life. Choose to let go of as much pain as possible that has been caused by others. They don’t deserve control of your mental state. You’re too capable and busy for that. Choose to view the pain you have caused yourself as learning moments, proof you can and will improve. Finally, choose to create a little more positive pain in your life. The kind associated with striving, learning, and growing. That’s when pain ceases to be a burden and becomes the catalyst you’ve been looking for. Growth hurts, but it’s so worth it.