Several times over the past few weeks I have attempted to tell the stories of a few wonderful people I know who have made massive and profound changes in their lives.
Some have made great changes in their personal and physical lives others have overcome enormous adversity to carve out lives of fulfillment, prosperity and joy.
Earlier this week a friend dropped by my office to discuss some of those blogs and shortly before he left he asked a rather interesting question. He wanted to know if I had given any thought to what, if anything, all of those great people of accomplishment had in common?
And so after he left I started thinking of what that common thread might have been.
It didn’t take me long to realize that they all had several themes in common; they all had a powerful catalyst to change, they all had strong desire to change, and they all were willing to work really hard.
And yet I knew they had to be something else. Some common traits they all shared that served to propel them to reach and sustain the great successes they had enjoyed as a result of their new life changing behaviors.
The more I thought about this the more I realized that exactly the same thing that promotes progress also impedes progress. It is a force that can pull people equally in either one of opposing directions. And whenever we embark on a pathway of change we are constantly exposed to these opposing forces.
Many, many times over the past three years we have talked about how we only ever do one thing; we do what is important to us in the moment.
And we have discussed how we determine importance; how we do what we do in order to gain pleasure or avoid pain.
Frequently, when we are striving to achieve massive personal change the pleasure resides in the far distant future – the time required to reach our goals – and the pain is omnipresent – the constant temptation to eat that piece of cheesecake or to give in to that feeling of tiredness and forgo working out.
And as I thought of each of my friends enduring vast amounts of pain in order to bring about these enormous changes in their lives the answer to the question finally struck me.
The answer lay not in their pain endurance; doing the things you need to do to achieve what you want, e.g. going to the gym, when you really feel like doing something else, e.g. crashing on the couch with a bag of potato chips and watching TV.
No! The answer lay in their choice of pain.
They each remembered, and focussed on, one thing. There are two very different types and pain and we will always experience one of them.
1) The pain of discipline.
Saying No to that chocolate bar, not joining your friends for beer and pizza, not rationalizing that it’s ok to have just a little bit, going to the gym when every cell in your body is crying out for couch time.
2) The pain of regret.
Those feelings of self-loathing, disappointment and ongoing frustration that we often experience a short time after we have chosen not to endure the pain of discipline.
For many of us this has become a frequent form of emotional self-flagellation.
And sometimes, having burdened ourselves with the pain of regret so many times we commit to an even harsher form of pain – we quit trying. We give up.
There’s a sad name for this. It’s called Learned Helplessness.
And it’s painful.
So the question for all of us wishing to make some change in our live is not whether we are willing to endure pain of change – we have already established that we are – the question is which pain are we willing to endure.
Here’s a hint.
Regret lasts longer – much, much longer – than discipline.
Till we read again.
P.S. Life Sinks or Soars is now on Facebook. Like it at www.facebook.com/strategicpathways