Choosing the Pain of Growth

Say you strike up a conversation with someone you have never met before at a coffee shop.  You ask, “What’s a typical day like for you?”

They respond by saying, “I go to work.  I go to the gym.  I spend time with my family.  And I also make it a point to spend an hour a day doing something I really don’t want to do.”

This strikes you as slightly odd, so you inquire as to why and they say, “Haven’t you heard, ‘no pain, no gain’?  Haven’t you heard that discomfort is the only way to get beyond your comfort zone?  Haven’t you heard that all people who succeed constantly struggle to do it?”

How would this explanation seem to you?

The guy in the above example is coming from the idea that discomfort and pain leads to growth.

And it can.  Just think of the personal growth of a runner finishing her first marathon, a runner who two years ago doubted that she could even run two miles.

However, discomfort and pain can also lead to personal contraction.

For example, if I told myself, “Now, Jason, you have to write out each of your blogs longhand.  In addition, every time you see a new correction you want to make, you have to write the whole thing out again.  What you need to do, Jason, is write your blogs out longhand again and again until they are perfect.  Only then can you type them up.  This way you will learn to be perfect, Jason.”  (I’m finding it somewhat odd that I’m choosing at this point to talk about myself in third person.)

Now I’m much faster at typing than I am at writing longhand.  Writing blogs again and again longhand until they were perfect would probably take me sixteen hours a day and be very uncomfortable and even painful.

Would I experience personal growth of some sort?   There’s a chance.  But far more likely, I would experience personal contraction as I gave up yoga, social contact, cleaning my apartment, and basically the rest of my life in order to write-out blogs longhand.  Ridiculous, right?

To grow we need to become skilled at choosing discomfort and occasional pain that promotes our personal growth rather than discomfort and pain that promotes our personal contraction. 

When we were kids it was easy to tell if we were growing.  We grew taller.  This could be quickly measured with a yardstick.

For adults, personal growth is often harder to measure.  As we saw in the above examples, discomfort and pain can be associated with either personal growth OR personal contraction.

Maybe, the feelings surrounding the discomfort and pain could be an important indicator of whether or not we are in fact experiencing personal growth.

Although the marathon runner feels discomfort and pain during the marathon, she also feels the joy and wonder of accomplishing something she has never done before and then experiences the utter thrill of finishing.

Whereas, the feelings surrounding the discomfort and pain of writing my blogs out again and again until they were perfect would lead me to experience frustration that the process was taking all my time, loneliness from missing social interactions, and more frustration that my home was so dirty because I was devoting all my time to writing blogs out longhand.

Basically the pain and discomfort that the marathon runner experienced would help her to feel powerful and good about herself, whereas my hypothetical-harebrained-writing-blogs-out-longhand idea would lead me to feel powerless and miserable about myself.

As I write this, I’m becoming more and more amazed at how vast the difference between pains of personal growth and the pains of personal contraction can be.

So when you choose to experience pain and discomfort be sure that it’s actually taking you in the direction of your growth.

Game of the Day

How will you determine when you are experiencing pains of personal growth versus pains of personal contraction?

Jason Freeman is a professional writer, and a one-of-a-kind public speaker.  He is the founder and CEO of Heroic Yes! Productions. Jason has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.  He knows the pain of perceiving one’s life through a lens of limitation and also the thrill of moving beyond that mindset.  For more information on Jason’s powerful message, or to book him to present to your organization, go to

Flying And Running Marathons

For much of history, the small truth was that humans don’t have wings so would never fly.  A group of people including the Wright Brothers set about creating a larger truth.

Today I live under the flight path to San Diego International airport and people fly over me day and night.

While the Wright Brother’s wanted to fly, Rick Hoyt wanted to run races.  One truth is that there was no way Rick Hoyt was ever going to accomplish this.  At birth, he was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia as the result of oxygen deprivation.*  Because of this , he is unable to walk or use his arms.

But this wasn’t Rick’s only truth.  The other truth, the far larger truth, is that since 1977, Rick and his father “have completed more than 900 endurance events around the world including 64 marathons and 8 Ironman triathlons.”**

They have accomplished this feat together.  Rick sits in his wheelchair and leads, as his dad pushes Rick’s chair.  The truth “Rick would never run a marathon” was only the truth until Rick and his Dad figured out a perspiring and inspiring way to disprove it.

Our limitations often seem like truths in our lives until we come up with ways to create greater truths.

*Information from the Team Hoyt website

**Information a from a Runner’s World article, “Team Hoyt Starts Again” by John Brant.

Game of The Day

Think of a time in your own life when you saw a limitation as the truth, only to triumph by figuring out a way to create a greater truth?

What is the next limitation that you now see as the truth that you want triumph over by creating a greater truth?

Find an Exercise Routine You Love!

For the last several years, the White Coat Ceremony at which the first year medical students at the University of South Dakota commence their training has begun with a musical selection entitled “Starting From Here.”  The motivational title of the piece is taken from the title of one of my father’s fine books of poetry.

I am struck by how we all have the opportunity to embark on a journey towards our own wellness and happiness by “Starting From Here,” by starting from whatever moment we are at.

Just as the med students will be endeavoring to understand how to make the human body well, we can come to understand how to proactively create wellness in our own bodies by discovering and engaging in exercise routines that we love.

Like a beginning medical student studying, the more consistent we are in our exercise routines, the more our efforts will pay off.  I find this consistency isn’t always easy.  Take yesterday morning for instance.  The alarm went off at 6:45AM and I did not want to get up and go to Leela’s yoga class at nine, even though I absolutely love Leela’s class.  Against my wishes to sleep, I finally got up and made it to class in plenty of time.  Half-way through the class, I was so grateful that I decided to come and couldn’t imagine what my day would have been like if I slept in and missed class.

I relay this bit of my life to you to emphasize the importance of finding physical activities that you love to do.  If I had planned to do some type of exercise that didn’t appeal to me yesterday at nine, I would have probably shut my alarm off at 6:45 AM and stayed in bed.

Exercise has been a major part of my life for many years, but not because it is something I force myself to do to burn calories or stay in shape. Rather, I have found exercise activities that I love to engage in.  For years, I was into walking long distances, and now I go to a yoga class everyday that I can.

I am drawn to these physical activities time and time again not because I feel I have to do them but because I love to do them.

A willingness to return to an exercise time and time again is important because the benefits of an exercise accumulate.  For example, if you start out running a half-mile and add another half-mile on each day, within about a year you will be running the distance of a marathon.  Isn’t that cool?  Whereas if a person runs a half-mile one-day, adds another half-mile the next and then quits on the third because he or she really can’t stand running, the benefits of the exercise hardly have time to accumulate.

“Starting From Here,” why not embark on an exploration to find more physical activities that really turn you on?  If you love your current exercise routine, use this exploration to find new activities to possibly add to you routine or to engage in once and awhile.  If you don’t have an exercise routine or are stuck in a rut with your current routine, try a variety of new physical activities until you find the ones that will get you out of bed at 6:45 AM, those mornings when you really want to roll over and tell you alarm to get lost.

 Game of the Day

Part One- List three physical activities (anything from walking, to machines at the gym, to exercise classes to competitive sports) that you feel you might enjoy.

Part Two– Schedule times in your calendar to try each of these three activities.

Part Three– Have fun exploring and finding an exercise routine you love!