Designing Your Relationship with Pain

May 02, 2016 by John Andrew Williams

Quote about Pain

One of my mountain biking buddies is a physical therapist. Not too long ago, we were talking about how he coaches his client’s on the meaning of pain and the difference between current and former athletes.

Professional Athletes Dealing with Pain

One of the defining aspects of athletes, he says, is the ability to ignore pain. I just saw a blurb in a magazine by Sean McCann, a sports psychologist in a biking magazine, and he suggests using pain as a signal that you are doing it right. He says to tell your legs, fatigued by hard riding, to stop chattering because “this is what it feels like to go fast.”

Professional athletes are conditioned to push and play through the physical or mental discomfort.

Professionals (and especially coaches building a successful business) also require a mindset of pushing through the pain and doing the work that needs to get done, regardless of motivation.

However, former professional athletes pose a different challenge. Usually, former professionals have a history of injuries and long stretches of chronic pain. The dance with pain is different. Instead of relying on their ability to push through, they have to learn to seek out and embrace it. Pain becomes a signal, an indicator that something is not right and needs to be addressed.

Pain is the signal.

Professionals (and especially coaches building a successful business) also require being sensitive to the pain. What are the pain points in your business? What system can you put in place to eliminate it? What are the pain points your customers have? What are the services or products you can create to help eliminate it?

From this perspective, pain becomes valuable in providing information and feedback on what needs to improve.

To Ignore or to Address: That is the Question

I’ve been asking myself the following question since my buddy brought up the idea: When trying to accomplish something hard, which is the more useful perspective on pain: to ignore or to address?

I guess the natural answer would be “it depends.” However, over this past week, I’ve been playing with the idea of pushing through it. I have been trying to see how hard I can push myself to accomplish all the goals that I’m trying to accomplish.

Why? Because I think pushing through the pain when establishing and building a business is the harder task. I found it to be more useful to default to the idea that I can handle the overwhelm and push through the pain. Then, in those moments of clarity, when the dust settles, I look for a long term solution or system that will eliminate the pain in the first place.

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