The Power of Pain

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The power of pain has such a great influence on us and our decisions. Human nature tells us to build systems and processes to avoid pain. We want things easy. The 21st century and technology have made things easy and mostly painless in the United States. As humans, we don’t like pain and we avoid it every day. Do I get up off the couch and go do something physical or do I just keep sitting?

Do you allow emotional impulses to direct your decisions? If you have teenagers, you know that most teenagers look for the easy way forward. When asked why they made a certain decision, they will respond, because “they felt like it.” Unfortunately, that attitude of making decisions based on how you feel at the moment has carried forward into adult life for many people today. We are unwilling and unable to make sacrifices or to delay gratification for the future because we want “stuff to be easy” and we want it “now”.

The power of pain reminds us that with a little short-term sacrifice and effort, we can achieve much greater long-term benefits. Watch how successful people process short-term and long-term horizons. Successful people hardly get drawn into the short-term feelings of easy and now. They have experienced or understand that decisions based on what is easy and short-term perspective lead to long-term problems:health issues, lack of retirement funds, credit card debt, relational problems, missed deadlines and the list goes on.

Here is the magical formula – it is not one grand decision but the sum total of smaller decisions made over time. It is consistently recognizing and then deciding whether you will act based on how you feel at the moment or whether you have enough discipline to make a series of small decisions and actions that build on the fly-wheel effect of doing the right thing. Here are three key things to consider:

  • The Power of Pain. When was the last time you did something that required you to decide between feeling short-term pleasure or long-term growth? If you are not experiencing pain in sacrificing for something, then examine why you are taking the easy way forward.
  • Small decisions. Successful people understand that success is not about one big decision, but a series of small decisions that lead to success. Are you consistently making small long-term decisions? Examples would be in what you eat, how much you exercise, how much you invest in a relationship, and how much you spend on you credit card?
  • Challenges. To grow, to develop and to succeed requires the willingness to take on challenges. Our minds and our bodies do not develop unless pushed and challenged. Our culture tells us to find the easy way forward and to do what “feels good.” The disciplined person understands that challenges stretch us and grow our capacity and ability. We may not like the challenges, but the successful person sees the long-term benefits.

So what do you see in yourself? Are you a person who likes it easy and painless or do you find you are willing to sacrifice short-term ease for long-term success in most of your small decisions and challenges every day?

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As Featured in the Monitor August 6, 2017