Yes, you heard me right. Pain is the greatest gift of all.
Sounds insane right?
Because I am sure you have experienced pain at some point in your life. It might have been emotional, physical, spiritual, mental pain or some combination of the four. And more than likely you didn’t enjoyed it, did you? But if you make a few small changes in your mindset, then the next time you experience pain, you might just find the gift that lies in it.
So if you want to learn how to transform the struggles that inevitably show up in life to become your greatest moments of opportunity, then keep reading…
Welcoming physical adversity
The video you saw above documented my 33 mile run across Singapore. As you might know by now, I am on an a seemingly impossible mission to cross every country in the world on foot and just a few weeks ago, I successfully crossed Singapore. As you can tell from the video, it hurt. A lot!
By the end of the run, my feet were KILLING me. My ankle was swollen. I started cramping up, and if you have ever experienced cramping, you know how miserable it is. I couldn’t walk right for a good 3 days after the run. But I made it. And that was worth all the pain and more.
Pain is not just inevitable in life, it’s what makes life worth living
Instead of sharing more of my own journey, here are a few quotes from people far wiser than myself that validate the idea that pain is in fact the greatest gift of all. These come from books I have read and people I admire a great deal. These quotes inspire me to get out the door and get in 10-20 miles on those days when I just don’t feel like it:
“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”
– Bestselling author of “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
– Helen Keller
“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”
– Vince Lombardi
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
– Walt Disney
“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
and to follow up from that one:
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
– CS Lewis
“The deepest pains of our lives are always the greatest gifts if we find a way to use them and if we don’t let them use us.”
– Tony Robbins
“Neurons get broken down and built up just like muscles – stressing them makes them more resilient… What’s gotten lost amid all the advice about how to reduce the stress of modern life is that challenges are what allow us to strive and grow and learn. The parallel on the cellular level is that stress sparks brain growth…” Stress is not a matter of good and bad-it’s a matter of necessity.”
– John L Ratey, bestselling author of “Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain.”
“Pain is only temporary… the benefits last forever.”
– Jack Canfield, bestselling author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series and “The Success Principles.”
I want to give a special mention to the last person on that list and one of my mentors, the bestselling author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series, Jack Canfield.
Through my work with him, I have further developed my potential to even attempt something as audacious as running across every country in the world. And more importantly, to me at least, he helped me realize that I don’t need to put myself through self inflicted misery because of some sense of guilt about my place on this planet. He showed me that I don’t need to earn my existence. (This was the motivation behind my enlistment in the Marine Corps)
Although I still continue to put myself through misery 🙂 I now do it from a place of joy, because as ultramarathoners often say “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” I now embark upon this endeavor because I chose to and because this is who I am. Jack Canfield helped me see that.
I highly recommend you attend his seminars, join his Train the Trainer program and most definitely at the minimum, invest in his book, the Success Principles. It is one of the best books you will ever read in the personal development arena.
(Note – none of these are affiliate links, I just really believe in his work)
So what do all of this mean for you?
No matter how much money you have, no matter what your place in life, struggle and hardship are an inevitable part of the journey. All that matters is what you make these moments mean, because every experience in life has no inherent meaning. The meaning you assign to every experience will shape your destiny. If you can embrace, and even welcome the struggle that accompanies every human life, you will find success in any endeavor you pursue.
Like Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine says ““Earning success is hard. The process is laborious, tedious, sometimes even boring. Becoming wealthy, influential, and world-class in your field is slow and arduous.”
But this is not a bad thing. Think about it, what are you most proud of in your life? What is your greatest accomplishment? Did it take hard work?
For me, I am most proud of my service in the Marines despite being told by two doctors that Marine Corps boot camp would kill me because of a blood condition I have. I am also proud of some of the expeditions I have completed successfully, like my 350 mile ski crossing of Greenland. And finally, I am proud of building a business that allows me to do what I want, when I want. All of these successes took a lot of hard work, struggle and pain. And that is why for me, they are worthy accomplishments.
So how do you actually embrace the struggle? The action step for today!
Practice it. Practice struggle regularly. A great place to start is through physical adversity. Some people are born into extreme hardship, others, like myself, have to choose it in order to experience its benefits. If you fall into that latter category, the more you welcome hardship, the more you will be able to face it when it shows up. And physical adversity is the single greatest way to connect all 4 elements of the human experience: the mind, body, heart and spirit.
As John L Ratey, the bestselling author of “Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain,” says “Exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function. Aerobic activity has a dramatic effect on adaptation, regulating systems that might be out of balance and optimizing those that are not – it’s an indispensable tool for anyone who wants to reach his or her full potential.”
So you want to succeed in life?
Sign up for a 5K, 10K, a marathon, whatever. The distance doesn’t matter, what matters is that it pushes you outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be running either, of course I am partial to that pursuit 🙂 but it could be biking, swimming, climbing, anything. Find one physical activity that you enjoy and take part in an event for the pursuit you choose. Most importantly, make sure that the event makes you uncomfortable and/or nervous.
Signing up for an event is valuable just because it creates accountability and it is a great way to meet like minded people as well. It not only holds you financially accountable, because you will have to pay to register for the event, but if you tell your friends and family about it, which I highly recommend, they will hold you accountable as well.
Why do you think I announced my decision to run across every country in the world here? Because you hold me accountable to it. You and I now know that if I don’t start crossing countries, I am just a fraud!
Signing up for an event is the only action step for today. Enjoy!
If you still need the inspiration to sign up, Sir Richard Branson might be able to help. When he was asked what is his secret to productivity, his response was working out. And he runs a multi-billion dollar empire while living life to the fullest, so he knows what he is talking about.
The next step…
I now have my next 4 country crossings planned for the month of June. I will be running across Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada. I will be running approximately 125 miles in 1 week, which might not be much to the elite runner, but for me, where I am at now in my training, it will be my longest week yet. I am very nervous, but very excited as well. And this time I will be better prepared than I was in Singapore 🙂
This is just the next step in a very long journey across another 190+ countries.
Stay tuned for more lessons and updates from my journey. Very soon you will also be able to follow along live with me with 3D mapping technology as I make my way across every country in the world. (and see if I actually make it or not 🙂 )
Until then, I would love to hear from you. What is your audacious, impossible goal that you have always wanted to accomplish? And what event will you sign up for? Share your responses in the comments below and I promise to do everything I can to help you get at least one step closer to making your dreams a reality.
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