In order to go to new levels of achievement and success, we have to be willing to go through some challenges and obstacles.
Along the way, it’s very likely we’ll experience some type of pain. While there may be emotional, physical and mental pain, there are two other types of pain referred to here if we’re serious about living up to our potential.
I once read that there are only two types of pain in life — the pain of regret and the pain of discipline. The pain of discipline weighs ounces whereas the pain of regret weighs tons.
Pain is a physical sensation we experience when something is not going right. Its main purpose is to give us an immediate warning that we have to make a correction somewhere.
If we ignore the pain, chances are it’ll get worse, maybe not straight away, but certainly over time. From that perspective, we can view pain as an opportunity to make changes.
The pain of discipline is more of a commitment issue rather than an actual pain. Consider professional athletes, say Olympians, who sacrifice so much for years, only to get their opportunity every four years. In order to be best prepared, they have to put in long hours of training and practice over many years leading up to their event.
As they are preparing themselves, they will experience the pain of having to stick to an exercise schedule or nutrition plan. They will have to sacrifice things in the short term knowing that they have an important goal they are aiming for.
If they’re not willing to make sacrifices and go through the pain of discipline by sticking to their plan, and if they don’t perform as well as they could have, then they will experience the pain of regret.
The pain of regret can stay with us for a long time, especially if we didn’t achieve something that was important to us and we knew we could have done better.
The key difference between the two types of pain is that the pain of discipline is often for a finite period of time, whereas the pain of regret can affect us for the rest of our lives.
Committing to the pain of discipline in the short term is a lot better than having to live with the pain of regret for a long time.
Here are five valuable things we can do to help us avoid the pain of regret and get us ready to deal with the pain of discipline and pay the price to get what we really want.
- Find something that drives your every waking moment. If we have passion for what we’re doing or what we want to do, then it becomes so much easier to stay disciplined. For our overall life, having a mission or higher purpose is what will keep us focused on the big picture and also guide our decisions daily. We have to find something that we believe in and is aligned with our values in life.
- Be clear on your priorities. We can either be interested in something or we can be committed to it. We have to know what to commit to and what to say “no” to. Having clarity on what’s important to us is what will keep us going when we are tempted to quit or give up when we start experiencing the pain of discipline.
- Share what you want to achieve with people you trust. Having accountability is a powerful way to stay committed to what we want to achieve. One way to develop an accountability relationship is to have mentors or coaches. Another way is to have an accountability buddy, where we both hold each other accountable and encourage each other to stay committed and disciplined.
- Form mental images of what you want to achieve. Sometimes it’s the thought of the process we have to go through to reach our goal that scares us. For example, when starting a new exercise program, the thought of getting aches and pains in our bodies can be daunting. This is why using the technique of visualisation to prepare our minds in advance of what’s to come, is really powerful.
- Use either reward or consequence as a motivator. If we cannot find someone to hold us accountable, then we need to be self-motivated. We can either use a consequence, which is something we don’t want to happen, to keep us disciplined, or we identify a reward we’ll give ourselves if we reach certain milestones. Small rewards along a long journey can be extremely motivating.
The pain of discipline will make us stronger. Just like building a physical muscle, discipline exercises our mental muscles and over time, it will become stronger and the process for staying disciplined will become easier. If we want to avoid the pain of regret later in life, we must become comfortable living with the pain of discipline now.
Question: What is another thing we can do to avoid the pain of regret by committing to the pain of discipline now?
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