So, you want to escape discomfort and pain? Good idea. This seems utterly normal, a natural response that makes sense both from a an instinctual and rational perspective. Of course you will pull your hand away from a flame! Beware of such an obvious truth. It can easily be considered universal and therefore misapplied as justification for foolish action or non-action, used as a justification for making bad decisions. Avoiding pain and discomfort is not a universal good, it is not always recommended and not necessarily a good idea.
When is it not a good idea? When that urge to avoid pain/discomfort leads you back to a dysfunctional or destructive behavior. It does not make sense if it justifies indulgence in a bad habit. When avoiding pain and discomfort means you justify not following through with a commitment then the temporary amelioration of discomfort comes at a great cost. Progress is stalled, weakness indulged and therefore re-enforced, shame and other negative feelings are given fuel to animate.
So, what it the alternative? Choose to suffer. Eat the pain. I’ve had some success recently of choosing to be take on the idea that “I like it!” That I am o.k. with the whatever pain is required to maintain a good habit. Just suffer a bit. Because, I know that there is a future – not too far away – that I will experience freedom from old ways that don’t work. In those moments – allow no retreat into pain avoidance. No, look into the sun, sit with the demon, decide to use it as a kind of fuel; don’t run back to the old habits you know are not helping you.
Whatever bad behavior you indulge in – ask yourself – what is the pain you are avoiding that justifies it? What is the pain that precedes and rationalizes bad action on your part? If you yell at you spouse – what pain prompted you? Wounded pride? Being accused falsely? Why not just feel the pain of it without resorting to a behavior that makes things worse and re-enforces your bad character? Just accept that pain, sit with it, do not use it to justify de-basing yourself!
Physical exercise is a good metaphor for this concept. Just do those pull-ups (any rigorous exercise will do), it’s going to suck, you are going to feel humiliated, you are going to experience strong physical discomfort. In that moment, choose to do the right thing and exercise anyway, regardless of the pain and discomfort, soon you will be on the other side of it, improving and getting stronger. Experiencing this kind of win on the physical side of life can transfer to other aspects of life – interpersonal, emotional, spiritual. This is why it’s good to start the 365 Commitment with physical things/habits. But, know that there are bigger fish to catch and fry! The habit of accepting pain and enduring discomfort for the greater good in your life is key.
Do not justify weakness, bad habit, or negative action (or non-action) with the notion that pain avoidance is universally a good idea.
Disclaimer – I am of course talking to myself and possible my kids here (if they ever read this) – so please don’t think I am telling you what to do – you are free – do as you will. There are many indulgences we allow ourselves . . . playing another video game instead of doing your dishes or washing your clothes? Choices add up.
Ben Wagner (188)
Member The 365 Commitment