Why pain is the key to our success

“If you move toward pain, it actually lessens. It’s when you run from it that it becomes a monster that pursues you.” Phil Stutz

You may speak in front of groups of professionals or homeowners and have the knack of communication that allows you to close deals consistently yet you sense there’s a barrier between where you are and where you know you could be. The barrier is pain.

Avoiding pain begins in our formative years. As toddlers, we learn to not touch the hot stove because it hurts or don’t act out because you may get a swat! As the years rolled by we became conditioned to avoid pain and gravitate toward pleasure and those things that give us a sense of reward and fulfillment. 

But what happens when pain leaves us stuck behind a wall blocking us from our goals or aspirations? It may be…

the fear of rejection that leads to ‘phone reluctance’. It could be the fear of public speaking that leaves your heart racing and palms sweaty consequently never setting up a public workshop. Ironically, it may even be the fear of success because succeeding means you have more to lose.

In the end, avoidance leads to more avoidance and disappointment. 

When it comes to avoidance we have options to cope such as scrolling through social media, binge-watching a show, or ingesting any substance that calms our nerves. But there’s a better way. The Reversal of Desire– a concept pioneered by psychiatrists Phil Stutz and Barry Michels

Stutz proposes that we flip apprehension and fear into positive energy. That energy taps into the force of forward motion. In other words, becoming practiced at doing the very things you usually avoid thus reversing the desire to avoid pain into the desire to dive right into it. Stutz’s collaborator and co-author Barry Michels suggests visualizing those negative feelings as a dark cloud and silently yelling, “Bring it on!”. Next is to move into the pain or fear and embrace it, and then exit the cloud knowing that pain indeed frees you to move forward.

This approach is reminiscent of a timeless quote from the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. “The impediment to action advances action, what stands in the way becomes the way.” Maybe Nike was onto something significant when it adopted the slogan “Just Do It”.

The pain that’s blocking the path to achieving our goals is exactly what we need to move through to completion. If you want to build muscle you have to embrace the pain of sore muscles as you tear fibers and your body rebuilds them. If you want to be more effective on the phone make calls despite your apprehension. If you want to body surf you’ll need to throw yourself into the frigid water rather than slowly wading in.

This week I’m making a list. A list of the pain I’m avoiding and what it’s blocking me from achieving.  I’d invite you to do the same. Sure, it may feel silly but often the foolish things of this world are the most enlightening. 

[Additional Reading] The Tools by Phil Stutz & Barry Michels

1 comment

The Positive Realist March 1, 2023 at 9:41 am

So true!!


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