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Embracing pain is essential for growth

Identifying that you have freedom is uncomfortable. Practicing yoga is uncomfortable. Becoming stronger in life is uncomfortable. All of these are life affirming experiences and are signs of growth in us as people. And all of them hurt! I get it. Pain is something we prefer to avoid. The US has had an epidemic of […]

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Identifying that you have freedom is uncomfortable. Practicing yoga is uncomfortable. Becoming stronger in life is uncomfortable. All of these are life affirming experiences and are signs of growth in us as people. And all of them hurt!

I get it. Pain is something we prefer to avoid. The US has had an epidemic of opioid abuse in the 21st century because of the over prescription of pain medication by doctors in the 1990s and early 2000s. Pain, it’s bad. Run away from it. That has been the mantra of life for most of the post Second World War generations.

I am telling you, think again.

Pain is useful and an opportunity for growth. Engage with pain and embrace it as your friend.

Pain is something for you to learn from. Pain is something for you to explore and perhaps even enjoy. If you have children, then you will most likely know that the pain of labor becomes a distant memory the moment you hold your newborn baby in your arms. This is what I am talking about we as women are willing to go through the pain of pregnancy, let alone labor, for the sake of bringing a new human into the world. That is to be admired, respected, and embraced in my view. Instead, we are given epidurals and the pain is numbed.

Now let’s be clear, I’m no Jane Fonda acolyte either. I am not necessarily of the view “no pain, no gain.” But I am going to say this sometimes, in yoga class, you are going to stretch yourself further than you have stretched your body before, and it hurts. In the gym, you might try lifting a weight that is heavier than you have lifted before, or for more reps than you have managed in the past. Trust me, this really hurts!

Pain is good and useful. It represents growth. You’re still not convinced. I get that. It seems totally counter intuitive.Our Western culture is set up for comfort and ease. We are told to meditate for peace and ease. We are fed mindless TV dramas and soaps to ease our pain of having to work during the day. We are coddled as children when we fall over and scrape our knee. 

It is also fair enough to say that sometimes pain is not good. Sometimes that pain is telling you something and you do need to pay attention. There is a difference between growth pain which is useful and injurious pain, when something really hurts because you have done some damage. If you lift a weight and your back starts to hurt (sharply) PAY ATTENTION. That is your body telling you something. If you are in a relationship and your stomach and heart start feeling uncomfortable, PAY ATTENTION; they are telling you something about the relationship.

There is definitely pain that we do want to pay attention to. It is usually of a sharp quality and is designed to bring our attention to the painful part of us urgently.The pain that I am suggesting is beneficial (and good) is actually down to growth and is a more dull, stretchy, expansive pain. I reckon you have spent a lot of your life avoiding this type of pain too. Now it is time to step up and feel the pain and experience the growth in your life that you have been craving.

You may have already felt pain in testing your edges in exercise, as I suggested earlier. Well done. That takes courage. In your business, pain is useful too. Employees complaining about new processes or systems is a symptom of change, usually a sign of growth. Cashflow pain can be a sign of expansion in the business as you reinvest the profits that lead to short term painful situations. Painful negotiation is often a sign of a genuinely well thought out deal, that has been painstakingly agreed in detail before any contracts have been signed. This attention to detail for which lawyers are notorious by the way is often the most effective way to ensure the smooth running of a transaction in the future. It can also save a great deal of pain in the future as it prevents the relationship breaking down when things are not working quite as well as expected or desired. The pain of the sweat equity invested at the beginning saves a whole world of catastrophic pain later on.

The type of pain I am arguing for you to experience in your life, and even (God forbid) perhaps begin to enjoy, is the type of pain we most associate with growing “Growing Pains” if you like. It is the type of pain most often associated with fear. In other words, you have not actually experienced the pain that you are scared of. It is the fear of the act itself that causes the pain rather than the reality of the pain itself that is causing the concern.

The facing of fear is not the point for you though. The point is this living on the edge is what you really want in your life. That is necessarily going to involve going to places that you may not otherwise have been before. That’s why I am such a big advocate of the practice of yoga. Yoga is uncomfortable. You are seeking to put yourself into positions that stretch you physically… and mentally. The stretch is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. That’s the point. Practicing yoga and bringing discipline to your life may involve actions and conversations that stretch you beyond where you have been before.

Go there…. You will be glad you did

This is an adapted extract from Chapter 9 of DISCIPLINE: A secret code for women in the bedroom, boardroom and beyond 

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