Anyone who has ever worked out knows the saying, “No Pain, No Gain.”
We live in more enlightened times now and know that we don’t have to resort to medieval tactics to achieve fitness in our lives, but in our effort to avoid pain in many other areas, we have learned to tolerate more than we should and turn a blind eye to obvious signs in our lives.
I’ll admit it, I’m as guilty as the next person and I’ll explain that in just a bit. Just know for now, pain won in the end, and it always should, but not in the way you think.
As a coach, I talk to many people, some of them clients and some of them just curious. I welcome them all. I find great interest in the questions and situations they present to me because some are familiar, and some are quite new. The common theme, a source of pain.
Pain comes in all shapes and sizes; mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and professional. It’s something that crops up in an area which is sometimes unexpected, definitely not appreciated, and almost always uncomfortable.
What’s interesting is ultimately what people chose to do with the pain.
Some internalize it, some accept it, some fight against it loudly but don’t back it up with action, and some fight like Hell and move through it. The ones that fight against it and move through it win the battle.
Pain doesn’t always have to be physical and when I coach folks, I almost always find that it’s not. There may be a stiff back or a sore knee here or there, but usually other symptoms are lurking beneath the surface. This is what we refer to as the “root cause.”
The root cause is the core issue, the highest-level cause-that sets in motion the entire cause-and-effect reaction that ultimately leads to a problem(s). It’s what’s “really” bugging you. The funny thing is it takes a lot of digging to get to it. Likely why it’s aptly named.
When the root cause is buried deep, it can spread, take hold, and cause other damage not unlike a tree that has grown too close to a sidewalk and the roots have popped up the individual pieces. Jump up and down on those loose slabs as much as you’d like, but those pieces are not going to snap back into place. So, there you are walking around with these pieces of you out of place, and you work really hard to hide them.
When the pieces get too heavy, when you’ve had enough of lugging them around, that’s when you find progress through pain. But, how bad do you want the change?
I worked with a client that, all things considered, lives a good life and things were going well. This client wanted to lose a few pounds and get more active consistently. My first question was as always, “Why do you need to lose the weight?”
The answers always fall into the range of “I want to be healthier,” or “I want to avoid medication,” and “finally I wanna get back into my size 6 jeans.”
All legit reasons and this clients’ reasons were valid enough as well. Weight loss and consistency in movement are awesome goals.
As we worked together, I noticed a disinterested, laid-back approach in our efforts to reach the weight loss and consistency goals but observed some heightened and interesting thoughts and behaviors around other areas and I would often turn the focus to those, I suspected the roots ran deep there, and they did.
Whenever I dug, it got difficult and that was very telling. There was pain there and left unearthed, the goals of weight loss and consistency in movement would be just a distant dream until the “real issue(s)” were addressed. As a result, progress stalled to avoid the pain of unearthing what was really causing the added weight and lack of consistency in movement.
As I mentioned earlier, when you’re ready, willing, or able to deal with the pain, you can make great strides in your life in all areas. It’s at this point the question, “How bad do you want the change?” becomes critical. If you’re hiding it or tiptoeing around it, you’re not ready.
I know this first-hand because for many years, I avoided the pain by telling myself that, “All is well and there’s no reason to change and create pain or discomfort.” I wasn’t ready and I wasn’t willing to admit that I was already neck deep in it.
A few weeks ago, I posted this quote on my social media pages:
“The irony of staying in your comfort zone is how uncomfortable it becomes to stay there.”
The quote popped into my head as I was hurriedly working my way through my day, and it hit me that I was out of the pain, running a business now, and coaching others. Just three years ago I could not have imagined such a thing.
In my very first blog post written in July 2022 entitled, “And So It Begins...,” I wrote the following:
I have two quotes on my vision board:
“The quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.
“The hardest thing to do is leaving your comfort zone. But you have to let go of the life you’re familiar with and take the risk to live the life you dream about.”
These quotes spoke to me because I was doing just that. Staying in my (un)comfort zone to avoid uncertainty, scrutiny, risk, fear, judgement, guilt, failure,…pain.
What I didn’t mention was that during this time, I was terribly overweight. In my “comfort zone” I had attempted to solve my issues and ease my pain through “food therapy.” Eating was my only comfort to deal with the upset of being fearful, feeling inadequate as a parent, and a fraud in my career. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working out for you?”
Well, it didn’t.
It was time to face my personal pain.
In the end, I realized uncomfortable as it was, not taking risks was more painful and made me more unhappy than taking a few steps to improve my life. When I finally took a few steps (literally and figuratively), read a new book, tried something new, ate a new food; I felt alive. It was the exact opposite of being in pain! I wanted to feel that every day.
My progress toward a new life came from no longer being able to function in that pain. It had adversely impacted my life for far too long.
I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without being winded.
I had maxed out a size 18 dress and was trying on size 20's.
I had reached a point where I could no longer grow as a person until I had faced it, all of it.
That’s what I mean by the question, “How bad do you want the change? When’s it going to hurt bad enough to do something about it?”
It was finally clear that the fear had told me lies, my parenting was just fine, and I had rocked my career despite working through the grips of imposter syndrome 90% of the time.
I'm blown away now by the fact I was willing to put up with that for so long when I could have been experiencing the joy I feel today. But you gotta work through it first.
For my client, the pain just wasn’t enough to stimulate a change. That happens. If things aren’t too uncomfortable, you can live with it for a while, but if you know it’s there, wouldn’t you rather take care of it now versus waiting for additional discomfort or worse, a greater pain?
How has your life been inconvenienced or limited mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or professionally by the root cause you refuse to acknowledge?
Do you want to be the person you know you can be even if it hurts a little bit along the way?
Is it worth it to move through the pain? I think so.
It seems counterintuitive that pain should win when it comes to change, but in this case, pain is just the sign that it’s time to be a better you.
Are you ready to progress through the pain? The choice is up to you.
Take care and be well,
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