Face the pain, understand it, lean into it!

When you decide to start working out, one quote that you’ll probably hear a lot is “No painno gain“. It encourages you to face the pain that comes from your workout because you’ll gain more strength once it’s over. Your first day of exercise will be painful. But if you keep exercising, well… it just keeps getting more painful. It doesn’t even stop here. If you work out really hard, your muscles will feel sore and you can barely move them anymore. The next morning, it’s even worse! So why don’t people just quit? I mean this sounds horrible, right? It does, until you see the bigger picture.

If pain was the only thing you’re getting out of it, no one would even try to work out. However, this pain is only a sign that you’re getting stronger. On your next workout, you’ll be able to run harder and lift more weights! Knowing this makes all the difference. When you keep in mind that this pain means you’re getting stronger, you’ll even start enjoying the pain. You’ll enjoy the burn and face the pain with a smile on your face.

What about psychological pain?

Many people treat psychological pain like touching a hot stove. Once you feel the heat, your first instinct is to run away. However, psychological pain is more like the pain you get from working out. If you face it, it will make you stronger. In his book Principles, Ray Dalio states the relation between pain and evolving. In order to evolve, you have to push your limits, which is painful. This pain is nature’s way of telling us that we’re approaching, or that we have exceeded our limits in some way. At the same time, getting stronger requires us to push our limits, both physically and mentally.

Once you realize that pain isn’t something awful that needs to be postponed or avoided, you’ll have more courage to face the topics that are most painful to you. This pain you feel is a sign that you’re pushing your psychological and emotional barriers, that you’re evolving as a person. Just like your muscles heal and become stronger after a workout, your mind will adapt and learn from the things you go through and you’ll become stronger.

Let’s take a small example. If you decided to tell your crush about your feelings and got rejected, you’ll feel pain. However, the more you delay facing this pain, the more it hunts you. When you confront your feelings and face the reality, you’ll be able to move on. It will hurt, but it will also allow you to understand that it’s over and that this wasn’t the right person for you. You might get rejected many times before you find the right person, but it won’t feel as painful as the first rejection. Why? Because you’ve been there before, and you’ve moved on. Now you know how to cope with these feelings and how you can make yourself feel better when you’re hurt.

The next time you start feeling pain, don’t run away from this chance to become stronger. Lean into it, face it and embrace it, because it’s nature’s way of telling you that you’re becoming a better version of yourself.