Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pain & Gain

We do things that we do only for two things 1) to avoid pain 2) to feel good.

To feel good is straight forward. As long as we do not do harmful things to feel good, other activities should be fine. Achieving our goals, being successful or whatever that can make us feel good, even if it is temporarily, is okay. Although most of these do not last and some times reaching the goal actually feels sort dampening because you miss the thrill of the whole journey that you undertook. Probably that was more fun than reaching the goal.

To avoid pain is somewhat involved. Many times in order to avoid pain we do not pay enough attention to what bigger pain we are putting ourselves into. Take a simple example. For whatever reasons, we are quiet and do not speak up even when it is necessary. It is not that we can not muster up courage to speak. Actually it is our goal to avoid the pain. You may ask where is the pain here? Pain here is the pain of having to spend energy to make our point, argue, disagree, confront and what not. OK, by not speaking up we avoided something that would have made us uncomfortable. Temporarily fine. Can we feel good about this? While avoiding this pain, we have pushed ourselves into ever deepening marsh of self-pity, self-deceit, lack of confidence and depression. The pain that we are going to endure because of this may be unknown at this time. But, in the future when we miss out on opportunities because of lack of communication skills, lack of initiative, lack of enthusiasm, the pain we feel and unbearable frustration are not worth our time and energy.. At that time, it may be difficult to make the connection but that is the truth.

Biggest regret is the regret of not having tried. All of us can recall opportunities that we missed because we did not even try. This pain more than those occasions when you tried your best but did not get what you wanted. At least there you have  facts. In  this case, all thru your life you keep wondering what would have happened only if you had tried. What all it could have lead to and so on.

May be that is the reason they say 'no pain, no gain'. If it is a certain type of pain and not worth to go thru it, sure, avoid it by all means. But, keep in mind what other pains we may be inviting by not undergoing the pain now. It is like exercising. At some age, exercising does hurt a bit here and there unless you are an ageless person. But, giving up the exercise completely will show up so immediately that if you are smart, you will get back of exercise regimen immediately. The body ache, general exhaustion, lack of energy, sluggishness etc. that follows lack of exercise is far more painful than having to put up with some muscle ache here and there.

On the mental front, most of frustration is not due to not getting what we want. But, it is mainly due to not knowing what we want. Since we do not know what we want to start with, we can not appreciate or enjoy it when we  get it. It is like not knowing where to go and feeling upset for landing in some hell hole just because you went wherever you went. Buddha  said - "Having what you like is happiness. Liking what you have is happiness."

Have you ever taken a moment to reflect on those days you felt really good at the end of the day? Invariably, accomplishing something lead to that good feeling. It need not be anything earth moving accomplishment but having been able to get thru most of your TO DO list for that day itself is enough to boost your mood by a few notches. This is the reason they say "feedback is the breakfast of champions." Without knowing how well you are doing you will not enjoy or improve even those things that you need to. Setting small goals and achieving them or making progress towards them goes a long way in making us feel good from day to day. This helps our self esteem, gives us a sense of self worth and results in overall good health.

In our current age of instant gratification, it is hard to set goals that take years or months or days. If you can set such goals and meticulously move towards achieving them, all the power to you. But, for many of us who need instant gratification small mini- goals are the best. We can hope that the energy from achieving mini goals will help us move towards bigger goals.

One way to start doing this is to start measuring everything that matters and work hard to improve on the numbers. Does not work for all scenarios. If you are driving at safe 55 mph, it does not make sense to set the objective of 65 mph if roads  conditions do not permit or your car can not take or if you end up speeding. Use this rule for, say,  to read 10 extra pages if you are reading or set a goal of reading at least 10 pages from a book that would help you personally or professionally.

As we probably know, our wish to avoid pain at any cost is never stronger than when we have to deal with people. When we fear rejection from people, we feel very strong urge to avoid that pain. When we feel we are not going to get what we want easily from people, we want to avoid that too. When we think the other  person is going to react angrily is again when we feel why take the chance of spoiling our mood. As mentioned earlier, all these once again lead to temporary relief from pain  with new bigger pains built into for the future. It is understandable that on certain days we do not want our mood spoiled. By all means, preserve that. That is only postponing or rescheduling. But, putting it off again and again becomes more painful that enduring the pain even if it happens. It is going to take us all a very long time before we can come in terms with our tendency to avoid small pains and face big pains later. We can take some steps such as preparing well in advance for such 'painful' encounters. We can do role plays with our friends. It normally happens so that we come out better than expected when we put our heart and soul into preparing for something very big. How often it has  happened to you - you prepare to fight some $50 charge. You think the other person is going to give you  a very hard time and hence you prepare and prepare and at the end the other person gives in without much problem at all. At that time, you should feel two things 1) learn a lesson that all the negatives that you thought were not useful 2) preparation always helps.


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