(Disclaimer: I am going to be very blunt in this article. The aim is not to offend, but rather to get us thinking about uncomfortable topics. I have a degenerative disease, and battle chronic pain. I have had bouts of depression after the onset of my disease. I write from my own experience and from the experiences of hundreds of others whom I’m had the privilege of training.)
“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” — Jim Rohn
What is pain exactly? Depending on who you ask, the answer varies greatly. For some, pain is merely its technical definition, a feeling of distress or disturbance caused by the nervous system. Usually pain indicates an injury or inflammation. For others, pain is much more. It is a familiar foe–something they know intimately and live with daily. Some have such intense emotional pain that it manifests itself into intense physical pain. For many, this pain is too much to bear and they choose to end it all. Whatever your relationship is with pain, everyone experiences it to a certain degree. It’s inevitable.
In fact, both pain and pleasure determine what we do in life. All of us, as humans, try to move toward what we believe is pleasure, and move away from pain. This trait is inherent in all of us, so it’s a wonder why nearly everyone experiences pain on a regular basis. I believe the reason for this is due to the fact that humans tend to confuse short-term pain with long-term pleasure and short-term pleasure with long-term pain. Some see exercise as pain rather than long-term pleasure. Some see cigarettes as pleasure rather than long-term pain. People use depression as short-term pleasure to either gain attention or avoid going through the discipline of gratitude, rather than living in a great state–something that requires the pain of discipline. Make no mistake, you can only be depressed if you are only focused on yourself. If you are grateful for others and take an active interest in them, depression is not possible. (Stated differently, depression only serves the person who is depressed. It doesn’t serve anyone else. Gratitude, on the other hand, serves others as well as the person expressing gratitude.)
So where does this leave us? We confuse pleasure with pain, we live in shitty emotional states and we constantly have pain. Terrible! What do we do about it? We cannot fully escape pain, but there are two antidotes to immense pain, both physical and emotional. The first goes back to our Jim Rohn quote about discipline. Discipline is a pain that must be endured so that we can avoid immense long-term pain. The disciplines of health, physical activity, smiling or expressing gratitude on a daily basis are all necessary to keep away the immense pain of obesity, immobility, and depression. Small disciplines, practiced daily, will result in success.
The other antidote to immense pain is conscious living. Living with intent and being conscious of yourself, your thoughts, and others will stave off the immense pain of depression and fear. This requires that you must decide everyday to live in a great state, regardless of your external circumstances. You may be thinking, “But Sean, you don’t know what type of pain I’ve been through. You don’t live where I live. You don’t make what I do. You don’t have my negative relatives…” C’mon. We’ve all experienced massive pain in our lives both physically and emotionally. The only difference between people who move forward and those who don’t is where they decide to live. Those who carry on make the conscious decision to live in a different emotional space than those who carry pain with them. Whatever has happened in your life, it’s your choice how you let that shape your emotional and physical state. Decide today to live in gratitude and not fear. Strength and not timidity. Energy and not depression.
We cannot escape pain, for there will always be at least the pain of discipline. But that pain is much less than the massive pain of living a lifetime of regret. Decide to live an incredible life regardless of what is happening to you. And remember, it’s not what happens to us, but rather what we do about it, that makes all the difference in our world.