Making Plans and Achieving Goals

Embrace Pain For a Better Life

Your life will be filled with all kinds of pain.  The difference is in the intensity.  Since we can’t avoid pain we must embrace pain.

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.  The difference is discipline weighs ounces and regret weighs tons”  – Jim Rohn

Bring On The Pain

You can either do the small daily disciplines (which are super easy and quick) or pay the big consequences.  For example, you can either endure the, near painless, discipline of brushing your teeth and getting regular check-ups, or you will endure the massive financial and physical pain of cavities, root canals, implants, and dentures.  When you are laying on the operating table, you will wish so badly that you would have just taken those few, near painless, minutes to brush your teeth, but there is nothing you can do about it now.

Brushing your teeth is one thing that almost everyone does well because our parents spent years drilling it into us.  But what about everything else that we know we should be doing?  Success, in almost anything, comes from doing the small things, consistently, over time.

Personal health, money, and relationships are the biggest areas where people consistently fail because they aren’t willing to make the small sacrifices required of themselves.  People know what it takes to lose weight (eat less and exercise more).  People know what it takes to increase their net worth (spend less than you earn) and yet, we still fail.  It usually takes a big scare to wake us up to what is going on.  But at that point, it is tough to do anything about it.  When you are 65 years old and realize you haven’t saved nearly enough in order to retire comfortably, it is going to be tough to do anything about it at that point.

Give It Time

I believe that the problem is that the “secret” lies in the boring, monotonous, and easy tasks.  Going for a 20-minute walk on your lunch break is easy to do.  But, it is also really easy not to do.  And besides, you tried something like that last year for over a month and didn’t get any results.  This is where people mess up with their new discipline.  They don’t give them long enough to pay off.  We are conditioned by our smartphones, social media, and infomercials that success happens in an instant.  The truth is, success takes time, patience, and many hours and years of grinding before, one day, looking like the instant success.

I have heard many people talk about how they tried saving for retirement but then stopped because it wasn’t adding up to much.  They are looking to open their 401k after a couple months and see millions in there.  Most of these people can understand how the math works but they aren’t willing to embrace the pain of saving.  It is always the same stories.  Once the kids are grown, once the house is paid off, once the student loans are gone, once my parents die, ect., then I will start.

Compounding Habits

Most people are familiar with compounding interest and how it makes investing so wonderful.  The interest gets added to the principal and then the interest is paid on the new sum.  Interest on interest.  This is what allows $7,000, invested at birth, to grow into over one million dollars by the time the child grows to be 65.

What people aren’t aware of is compounding habits.  This is the chain reaction that can be set off by one small change in your life due to introducing one new habit.  If you introduced a 20-minute walk, 5 days a week, you would lose about 8 pounds in a year.  I can hear you now, “but I need to lose 50 pounds not 8!  If I only lose 8 pounds a year, it will take me six years to get to my healthy weight.”  People, at this point, will usually either do nothing, or decide they need 2 hours of exercise a day, then burn out a week later.

But something really cool usually happens when you introduce one new small healthy habit. You usually pick up others, automatically.  There have been several studies showing that when people change one thing, it causes a positive cascading effect in all these other seemingly unrelated areas of their life.

You start by just walking 20 minutes a day at lunch, but now you don’t have time to go out to eat so you start packing healthier lunches.  After a few months, you decide you might want to start doing 30 minutes and might even throw a jog in there.  Soon enough, you are running 30 minutes at lunch.  Then you join a running club and start running some races on the weekends.  You give up smoking and cut way back on drinking because it is hurting your performance.  Now, here you are a year later, down 50 pounds, hanging out with new healthy friends, regularly running half marathons, enjoying more money in the bank and more energy for your family.  This is all because you committed to those 20 minutes a day at lunch.  You embraced pain and changed your life forever.

Go Find Some Pain

So think about one area of your life where you are struggling or just an area that you would like to do better.  Then, think about an extremely simple discipline that you could add into your life.  Maybe it is finally committing to setting up that automatic draft to deduct a small percentage of your paycheck towards retirement.  Or finding a way to compliment your spouse at least 3 times a day.  Possibly, committing to drinking at least a half gallon of water every day.  Just pick a discipline, stay committed, and expect success.

I am committing to running one mile, twice a week.  It’s going to be tough to figure out an excuse for not being able to run 10 minutes, twice a week.  It’s easy to do, but also easy not to do.

What are you going to do?  Have you ever seen the magic of this in your life?

If you want to learn more about the concept of small disciplines being able to change your life, check out the Slight Edge and The Compound Effect.  These are two of my favorite personal development books.


10 thoughts on “Embrace Pain For a Better Life”

  • I have to admit that my workouts are fantastic but there are definitely days that I wake up and think why isn’t this moving faster. I have been working for six months and I am still not seeing the results I was hoping for. I then remind myself that my body wasn’t built in six months and that I need to give it some time 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…When Will You Reach Retirement?My Profile

  • Nice post. I’m a firm believer in the “no pain, no gain” mentality. Not only with exercise, but also with adhering to a budget. In addition to a daily workout, I’ve added in doing two miles (walk/jog) on the treadmill. I figure the ticker will appreciate it down the road.

  • Nice post Grant! Thanks for the book recommendations too. I have not read either of those yet.

    My husband and I have committed to a Spartan Sprint Race in the fall and just started training. A bit of pain but should be some serious gain and serious fun too!

    • Both of those books are fantastic. I have read them both multiple times.

      Good look at the Spartan race. Those certainly look more fun than your average 5K!

  • Great post Grant! This principle should be taught in school just as much as regular physical education. We spent our class time running around in a circle when we should be teaching children why we have to run! It’s the habit that we need to build.

    I walked almost 6 miles in my flip flops today because I just wanted to. Boy did it hurt, but that’s a different kind of pain then what we’re talking about haha.
    Lily @TheFrugalGene recently posted…The Truth About Your FICO Score @ MindfulWithMalMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing! I agree that this and many other things should be taught in school. It is amazing how almost no actual life skills are taught.

      Hope the feet are okay 😉

  • I really like the idea of “compounding habits” – never thought about it like that before. It’s so easy to always push things onto our “future selves,” but the problem is that we never get to live as our future selves. I think we procrastinate because we can’t take the pain of work today, so we say we’ll do it in the future. Unfortunately, “the future” is kind of a mythical place that never happens since we’re always living in the “today.”
    Matt Kuhn recently posted…5 Reasons Why Frugality May Be Holding You BackMy Profile

    • Hey Matt, thanks for sharing. People always tend to take the path of least resistance without conscious thought. If takes discipline to work hard in this moment in order to provide the easy life in the future.

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