Last month I visited Odessa which really is an awesome city.
And to sweeten the trip, my parents in law booked my wife and me a daily 90 minute Thai massage.
These daily treatments were a true highlight for us.
But at the same time, I noticed something very strange:
As much as I love Thai Massage, they can be extremely painful.
In fact, so painful that I often bite my teeth together, squeeze my hands together and make funny sounds.
And although these Thai women look so friendly and innocent, they seriously stretch the limit of pain that I can bare.
Yet funnily enough, despite all the suffering, I felt so excited every morning about our scheduled massage that I would jump up and down like a little child.
So one day I finally asked myself:
Am I a masochist?
Or why do I love something that inflicts so much pain?
I planned to reflect on this question while having my next Thai massage!
But guess what happened?
It was so painful I was not able to think properly.
Instead, I had to focus on relaxing my body so I would be able to bare the pain.
But as always, after the treatment, I felt amazing, and couldn’t wait for our next appointment!
Although this was a primitive example of liking pain, it was also a serious paradigm shift for me because in the past I used to think that life was pretty simple:
As humans, we are either drawn towards pleasure or try to move away from pain.
But frankly, now I know this is not always true.
Let me share some examples of some of the painful activities some of my readers enjoy:
- Going for a long run or hitting the gym until we sweat and suffer.
- Spending energy and time on helping friends in need even if this feels stressful and exhausting.
- Eating spicy food until we sweat and almost choke.
- Speaking for hours without any breaks even though we feel hungry and tired.
I could go on and on.
But what seems obvious is that pain does not always need to be something we want to avoid.
In fact, in some weird and twisted way, voluntary pain can even help us feel more connected with the present moment. For example, what do you think most people do when they are getting their legs waxed?
Usually, they will try and focus on staying relaxed by forgetting everything else in their lives in a quest to minimize any pain whilst wax gets ripped off their body.
By the way, this is exactly the strategy I was using while getting my Thai massage.
And don’t we all want to become a bit more present?
In addition, voluntary pain can also help us experience longer lasting feelings of pleasure and joy:
For example, you might feel supercharged after hitting the gym and sweating yourself to death;
Or fulfilled and grateful after helping a friend even though you are super busy and really have no time to waste.
Or super relaxed and recovered after a painful massage in which you hear almost every bone you have a crack in some way.
And if that weren’t enough, voluntary pain can even make us feel entitled to a reward:
Say for example you just ran a marathon and you are now having a dinner — all of a sudden you feel a craving for a delicious and slightly sinful dessert that you would normally skip.
What do you do?
You might treat yourself to that chocolate tiramisu since you really deserved it!
What I am trying to say is this:
There seem to be many reasons why we might enjoy voluntary pain.
This is especially so once we understand that pain can be a valuable trigger to what many people call “intrinsic motivation”— which is the desire to do something beyond instant tangible rewards.
Once we experience intrinsic motivation we can push our own limits without feeling a need to prove something to anyone else, like for example when world-class athletes compete at the highest level even if he or she no longer needs any more money or recognition.
And often, this is when surprise ourselves and perform beyond what we or anyone else thought was possible.
So not only can pain be the doorway to longer lasting pleasures, but it can also give us that motivational spark to take massive action and experience our next breakthrough!
Now I know this might seem counterintuitive!
But just take a moment to think about something you have been trying to achieve for a while, but without much success.
What was stopping you?
I bet your goal included some kind of activity that made you feel uncomfortable and that you, therefore, decided to avoid.
- Maybe you knew that you need to promote yourself more on social media so you will increase sales even though it feels awkward to you right now.
- Or you wanted to wake up at 5 am so that you would be able to spend some time on your side business, even though you hate getting up early.
- Or you wanted to hit the gym three times a week, even though you are not fond of working out.
Now ask yourself this:
What if there was a way that you could reframe this feeling of discomfort so it would actually serve you?
- What if you could see yourself becoming a person of influence in your industry and inspiring millions of people if you would promote yourself more?
- Or have the kind of financial freedom that would allow you to live the lifestyle of your dreams.
- Or generate the kind of health and energy that you would allow you to finally enjoy hanging out with your kids.
It is because we must endure a period of challenge and struggle before we get what we actually want that befriending voluntary pain is so crucial for high performers.
Deep down most of us know:
No pain no gain!
Once we fully appreciate this, it becomes so much easier to do the kind of things that will help us achieve our big goals.
So if you want to experience a real breakthrough in the near future, work on shifting your perspective on how you think about voluntary pain.
You can start this process by following these three simple steps:
- Pick one area in your life that you want to improve. This could be something related to your business, your relationships, your personal well being or anything you choose.
- Take a moment and think WHY you have been struggling with this part of your life for so long. What pain or discomfort have you been avoiding?
- Finally, think about how you could re-frame this pain into something more meaningful and enjoyable.
I know these questions sound so simple.
But here is the key:
To succeed, I really need you to answer them, so please share them with me in the comment section below.
Once you have worked on your mindset, you can focus on taking immediate action. Obviously, by now you know this will require us to stretch beyond our comfort zone. Therefore we want to start with little but consistent steps that don’t feel overwhelming.
Always remember this:
On the other side of voluntary pain is where you will find your biggest rewards!
Now if this still feels a bit overwhelming, I have good news for you.
I have written an 18,998 word Ultimate Guide On Mental Toughness which you can download for free here.
In this Guide you will learn:
- How to perform at your very best in those big “money moments” that happen so rarely but have the potential to transform your career and your life.
- What you can do to develop the kind of hunger and desire to push yourself and persist through any setbacks you might encounter.
- How to feel confident and enthusiastic even when things don’t work out exactly as you would like them to…