No pain, no gain. What does this mean to you? For me, it means development, progress and possibility. Growing up surrounded by sport and competition, I was constantly being pushed to new limits. It made me explore new territory and ultimately discover my potential.
A feeling of nervous excitement would rush through me before a big game, followed by one of genuine accomplishment when it was over. However, it's this time between start and finish where my appreciation of ‘pain’ was discovered. I didn't know it at the time, but over the years I came to understand my body and how to push it in the right way. It also made me realise that there are no shortcuts. You need to put in the time, persevere through the discomfort, and remain consistent. It bears repeating: there are no shortcuts.
Just one more lap
Slowly, I began to redefine the discomfort in my life as more of a benefit than a burden. Endless hours of practice on the field and repetitions in the gym gave me the time and space necessary to develop a fresh relationship with the man behind the mind, my inner self. The same self who could talk me into running another lap as well as convince me to give up before it was over. The negative self-talk as well as the personal praise. This relationship has since become the foundation upon which I have built levels of love, trust and understanding - both for myself and for others. To know and grow closer to ourselves grants us immeasurable insight into understanding those around us, allowing the space needed to strengthen existing relationships as well as develop new ones.
I believe that it is this expectation of discomfort that creates space for unnecessary fear and judgement, creating a false impression of what it means to be in pain. Depending on factors such as mood, attention and circumstance, we often find ways to promote that which makes us feel good and shy away from the bad stuff.
Discomfort shouldn’t always be the finish line, but rather a checkpoint of self-enquiry.
Imagine how much we could learn about ourselves if we stopped accepting pain as a negative, inevitable experience but instead pushed forward just a bit further.
It's like my coach always said: “Are you in pain? Or are you injured? If you’re in pain, carry on…”
Nothing to fear except fear itself
A lot of what holds us back from pushing to this extreme is our instinctive fear as well as the anticipation of pain. And it's not just experiencing the pain, but also the expectation based on our own past experiences and traumas. Pain in all of its forms can often be an emotional trigger. A fear of failure and embarrassment can really dig into our ability to try new things…going to a HIIT class for the first time and not knowing what the hell you are doing or putting off that dance class because of what your friends might think. In some way or another, we all have a level of fear in us which prevents us from accomplishing our goals. It’s about overcoming this fear and then developing a new relationship with how we view our own potential - A delicate dance between holding ourselves accountable and not having unreasonable expectations. When our goals aren't accomplished, we tend to excuse ourselves and tap out instead of enquiring as to why. Become curious about what holds you back and then work on it. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.
Doing things you don’t want to do because you associate them with discomfort are probably the best things you can do for yourself.
It’s not only training the familiar, but also conditioning ourselves to endure and persist through the new and unexpected. This allows us to build resilience towards discomfort in both the mind and body thus enabling a sense of calm when it all goes wrong. This prep work will make all the difference for when future challenges inevitably present themselves. However, the work must be put in on a daily basis - a classical approach in a modern world of a quick-fix mentality.
But overcoming fear doesn't mean foregoing intelligence – you need to train smart and plan accordingly to avoid over-training or injury. The last thing you need to do is exchange one bad habit for another.
Get to know pain just a little bit better
Ultimately we need to train ourselves to endure and redefine what we think is impossible. Our edge is often an imaginary line drawn within our subconscious, allowing us to exist within safe borders, but typically does not open up much room for exploration. Venture out and span new territory. Rewire your brain. Relearn forgotten skills. Reinvent yourself.
Increase the margins for growth as well as the ability to adapt to stressful situations by creating a new relationship with discomfort. Have you been avoiding joining at the local gym or hot yoga studio? Go sign up! No motivation? Find it by surrounding yourself with friends, movies, magazines that inspire you. Inspiration is everywhere, often in the most inconspicuous of places. However, it starts with you becoming aware that it exists in the first place. Once you trust that you are able, you become able.
Pushing yourself beyond your edge is a vessel for progress. It allows you to strengthen the connection between both the mind and body which ultimately leads to a new relationship with that inner self - the one behind the mind. Redefine what it means to exist within discomfort and watch yourself open up to a new way of living, loving & learning.. Pain – it can unlock real progress.