I hate pain. I don’t even like discomfort. Not that many people do, but there are plenty of people who will tolerate higher levels of discomfort in order to get what they want.

I don’t tolerate much. I am a pain-avoider. Social awkwardness, emotional ache, physical pain or financial discomfort all make me want to self-medicate or head for the nearest exit.

I think it’s normal to want to avoid pain. It’s a classic human trait. Pain usually means something is wrong, and when we experience it, we can easily conclude, “I should do something different.”

The problem is I usually externalize the blame. Instead of asking what I should do differently or what I need to change to experience lasting relief, I boomerang away from the disconcerting stimulus at Mach speed. I assume the person or activity is the problem, not me.

But the truth is, pain is part of it. Part of life. Part of getting what I want and becoming who I need to be. Pain is the sensation of dead things that don’t fit anymore falling off so the new things can grow in their place.

Change and growth are painful. Anytime we give birth to something new, whether it’s an idea or a human or a business or anything, there is always pain. Because the birth of something is the death of something else.

It is impossible to be single and married at the same time. One status must die.
It is impossible to pay off debt and buy anything I want. Something has to give.
It is impossible to chase a dream without letting go of what I know, what is comfortable and predictable.

Becoming who I want to be, who I truly am, will be painful. But staying the same won’t feel good either. So what will I do about it?

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I’ve come to understand pain in two ways: productive pain and unproductive pain. Unproductive pain keeps me where I am, feeling the pain of a false powerlessness. It stems from a belief that I am stuck this way, and there is nothing I can do. That, of course, is a lie.

Productive pain is what we get when we make changes, when we grow, when we stretch and strain, wake up early and stay up late, when we sacrifice who we have been to become who we really want to be.

When I think of pain in these terms, that some types of pain actually do have a purpose, it makes it far more tolerable to experience.

In my old way of thinking, all pain was negative and an indicator of something wrong. So naturally, I avoided all of it. Seeing pain as a necessary part of healing and growth, however, is redeeming whole thing for me.

Not only that, it returned the power to change into my hands. Where it always was to begin with.

You and I have a choice every day. We are going to experience pain and discomfort. That’s a given. But what type of pain will we choose? Unproductive pain that will give you more of the same crappy results you’ve been complaining about, pain that has nothing to show for itself?

Or will you dive in to the ache and the stretch and the pain, knowing on the other side is the life you won’t have to regret?

Let’s be brave and pick the pain with the happy ending. Shall we?

Which pain are you most likely to choose and why? Share your answer in the Comments below.

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