I watched as my son reluctantly pulled the homework out of his backpack. There were so many other things he wanted to do after a long day of school. Instead of winding down or playing outside before the sun set, he was digging into more math and grammar problems. He didn’t want to do it, but he knew he must.
What must be done
I only partially learned this lesson in school and my grades reflected it. The lesson hit its mark in the Army. You do what you must, or you pay the price. In this case, the price was paid in full through pain. And as John Patrick said, “Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.” [Read: Feel the Pain, Make the Change]
Unfortunately, back then, doing what I must only extended to my professional life. I didn’t have the discipline or the courage to extend it to my personal life. As a result, I suffered. The pain I felt was dull, and therefore, I continued to do what I wanted rather than what I should have done.
Education through pain and experience
Professors Pain and Experience may have been my two greatest teachers. Early on, they were instrumental in my education. It was through pain that I learned the consequences of getting burned, to identify what was toxic if I ate it, and what will hit me if I upset it. Pain taught me how to survive. Experience, how to thrive. In time, they tutored me on how to bridge the gap between the personal and professional. Without them, I would be dead. But with them, I learned how to live.
The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.
Is our traditional education system broken? Some would think so. Yet, there is still value in it if we learn from Huxley’s words. Learn to do what you must, whether you like it or not. But consider the things you must do. Weigh them carefully. Is it that which you must do for yourself, or is it that which someone else thinks you must do for your own good? There is a big difference.
Right now there is pain. Physically, you may not be able to fill it, but it resides deep within you. What is this pain that you cannot feel?
There is a place you imagine yourself occupying. It is a “one day in the future” place, and today is not that day. You want it with all your heart. It hurts. This is the pain of not being where you belong. The waiting is killing you. What can you do but wait?
There is another type of pain. It pierces the mind, body, and soul. Like the first pain it is self-inflicted. It is the pain of breaking yourself down. But this is okay, because you are resilient. You tear yourself down. You heal. You grow stronger. You repeat the process with greater and greater force. You become tougher. In the beginning, this pain sucks. But as you grow tougher, you get used to it. You endure.
When it comes to the first pain of patience, you must endure as well. What you must not do is get used to the pain. You cannot allow yourself to become used to it. You have to let it hurt so that you do not become complacent and decide to live with it. Embrace it. Bear your cross and endure.
You know, the path to being tough isn’t easy either. But you might as well embrace this pain too. Get used to it. There is no becoming too tough. Continue to refine your complete being by challenging yourself daily. There is no easy path on this journey. So in this, you must also bear your cross and endure.
We all have our burdens to carry. Take it all in, throw your shoulders back, and keep your head up high. Enjoy the process and get where you need to go. All this patience and toughness will come in handy. Bear the pain now, and one day these two pains will bear you through your most difficult trials.
Be patient and tough; one day this pain will be useful to you.-Ovid
One of the best books I have read this year is Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins. This is an ultramarathoner and former Navy Seal who knows how to deal with pain and does not allow that pain to stop him from accomplishing his goals. If you get a chance, check out his book or look into his bio. I guarantee you will be inspired.
In the early 1950’s, running a mile in under four minutes was considered impossible. On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister did it in 3 minutes and 59 seconds. All of a sudden, a mile in under four minutes was possible. And since then, over 1400 athletes have broken the once impossible barrier.
Around six minutes is the fastest I have ever run a mile. I was in the Army and in my early twenties. Back then I hated running. I had horrible form, was a veritable heel banger and prone to injuries. I only pushed myself because I had to.
Now, twenty years later. I love to run. My form is much better, even though I am much slower. One of the things I continue to work on is dealing with the pain. It is one of the reasons I love running. All of it, every run, is a mental battle. My courage is tested each time. Will I keep going? Will I give up. Lately as I run, I am reminded of Goggins’ book. What I am doing compared to what he has done and continues to do isn’t really a comparison. My 3 miles in the morning is probably a warm-up for a 100-miler guy. I also think of Bannister. Flying faster than I can even sprint, what kind of pain was he dealing with? As I keep these two in mind, I realize that I have more in the tank. I realize that I can give a little more, dig a little deeper. I can push past the pain. I can win!
We all have it within us. We all the ability to go farther than we think we can. Will you stop at the threshold or will you continue on?
The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win. -Roger Bannister
Don’t like your situation? Does it give you pain, either mental or physical?
You have two choices before you:
If you can change it, then do it. Make the change and remove the pain from your life. Be done with it and experience a new found freedom.
Endure it. Whether there is no change available to you or the pain isn’t worth the effort to fix it, endure it.
Those are really the only two options available to you. But if you are stuck with number 2, and you have to endure it, don’t complain about it. Your friends and family may sympathize with you for a time. But after that, you will eventually alienate them if you continue to persist in your complaining.
Courage. It takes courage to endure. Your loved ones see your suffering. They know what you are going through and are hopefully there for you. If you are enduring, then be strong and be courageous. Endure, but don’t push away those who are willing to endure it with you.
If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. –Marcus Aurelius
Let us take a moment to think what is painful in our lives. Is the pain physical? What about mental or emotional?
By nature, we are conditioned to move away from pain. Touch something hot once, and if the pain is severe enough, chances are that you will be more careful around that object in the future. The same with eating things that do not agree with you. It only takes one occasion before it is etched permanently into your mind.
When in a painful situation you have to make a choice. Are you willing to live with it? If not, then you need to start thinking. You need to figure out how to remove the pain from your life. Once you can identify the source of the pain and its remedy, you can improve the quality of your life.
A year ago, I had a lot of pain. Most of it was due to poor physical fitness. Though I may have been deemed normal by many of today’s standards, I was not happy with it. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a person on the downhill. Just the act of putting on my socks would leave me breathless as I struggled to reach the end of my toes. My joints hurt and the chronic pain in my back was getting worse every day. For me, this pain of poor fitness was not only physical but emotional as well.
I had to make a change, and it began with the simple act of thinking. What could I do differently in my life to remove, or in my case reduce, this pain? I had to become more consistent in my exercise. I simply missed too many workouts. After work, I was too tired. The solution: exercise in the morning before work. But as many people know, exercise is not enough. The diet needed to change too. I had to stop being lazy about the things I ate and eat with a healthy purpose. Just the simple daily habit of moving more every day and being aware of what I put in my body had an amazing effect. Such an effect, that much of the pain of poor physical fitness has been relieved.
What is the purpose of wisdom if it is not to improve the quality of life? Most of us would like a better life, and we need wisdom to achieve it. This wisdom is acquired by thinking about what it takes to get us there, finding the tools we need, and then working daily toward that purpose. It doesn’t matter whether your pain is financial, professional, or even just from being in a bad relationship. You can think your way into better choices that will improve the quality of your life.