It’s Supposed to Hurt

June 3, 2013

Anything worth doing is not easy.

Actually, it’s often more than not easy. Sometimes it hurts. Or at least causes discomfort, which a lot of us mistaken for pain.

Getting in shape hurts. Running a marathon — even if you’re fit — hurts. But those are both examples of physical pain. And it’s emotional pain or discomfort that keeps us from reaching our goals.

Image: Lifting weights

Working through the pain = results.

Creating your own career, for example, can be emotionally painful when people say you’re making a mistake or are being unrealistic. (Let me remind you: Just because it’s unrealistic for them doesn’t mean it’s unrealistic for you. Click here to tweet that idea.)

Building a business that gives you control over your own schedule can be painful as you work through the kinks, overcome financial insecurity and struggle against the learning curve.

Bucking the status quo to do something different — forging your own path rather than following the one society tells you to take — can be painful, too, no matter what goal you’re striving for.

We all feel pain in different ways and different places, but almost everyone suffers from that discomfort.

But what I’m about to tell you today will make that pain easier to bear and help you work through discomfort until you reach the other side.

The secret? It’s supposed to hurt.

If it was easy to create your own career, everyone would do it.

If it was easy to build a business that gives you autonomy and flexibility, everyone would do that, too.

And if it was easy to do something else — anything else — differently than your neighbors, everyone would be on that like your mom’s apple pie.

Living life the way you want is NOT easy. But knowing it’s supposed to be hard and gearing yourself up for that fight somehow makes it easier. Understanding discomfort is normal will help you work through it. And it’s not until you commit to working through it that you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

How this translates in the real world

This lesson — that it’s supposed to hurt — hit me back when I used to run. I ran slow as a turtle, but I did run. And sometimes friends would tell me they wished they could run, but it just wasn’t in their genes. They’d say it was so unenjoyable to run that they could never pick it up.

The thing is, running hurts, especially when you start. While that discomfort eases over time, it still hurts, either in your lungs or your legs or your brain, every time you push yourself to new limits.

New runners sometimes think that pain means STOP. But the trick is to push through that discomfort, to push through the pain. It can be scary, because as a new runner you think you might DIE if you push yourself too hard. But after you push yourself once and realize you’re still alive, you’ll feel more comfortable working through the pain next time, and the time after that.

And that pushing through the pain part? That’s how you get good.

The same goes for your career or your business or whatever you’re trying to achieve. The easy stuff doesn’t lead to big results. It’s working through the hard parts — and knowing your limits well enough to feel confident that you will come out alive on the other side — that allow you to accomplish big goals.

I’m having to remind myself this a lot lately because my business is in what coach Charlie Gilkey calls The Crucible Stage. Things are going good — so good that we don’t have the bandwidth to help everyone who wants to hire us. I’m feeling stretched, and I know, as Charlie says, that we need to get the “systems, processes and people” in place to take the business to the next level. This stage is uncomfortable, even painful at times, but I need to push through it to get where I want to be, and where I want the business to be, too.

The best part’s still ahead

Of course, I love my business and my work, even when it’s hard. And that’s the crazy part: Once you realize it’s supposed to hurt, and once you get used to pushing through that discomfort, sometimes the pain actually feels good.

Some of you will think I’m insane for saying this, but others, those of you who have experienced a runner’s high after pushing yourself to the max or know what it feels like to want to work a weekend because you get a rush from solving a problem, you know pain can feel good. It doesn’t feel good when it’s stagnant, when you make the mistake of letting it take over, but pain can feel good when you’re working through it, on your way to the other side.

Now, there’s a caveat here, one I’m sure you’d bring up in the comments if I don’t address it. Sometimes, pain does mean you should stop. I no longer run because of pain in my Achilles, and eventually I had to confront the reality that yes, this pain is a real roadblock, not one I can work through, at least not right now.

But there’s a fine line between discomfort that’s keeping your from success, and pain that means you should stop. Too many of us mistake discomfort we could actually work through for stop-right-now pain, which means we never get where we want to be. We don’t know how to push through it. We don’t realize we can push through it. We don’t know it’s supposed to hurt, so we stop.

Whenever I feel like I’m swimming upstream, against a current that simply will not let up, that’s what I remind myself: it’s supposed to hurt. Working hard reaps results. If you push through that hurt a little more than you thought you could, you will reach new heights.

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    10 Replies to “It’s Supposed to Hurt”

    • hannah says:

      I once lamented to a boss that the parts of my job that I considered most fun were vanishing under new management. Her response: “Work isn’t supposed to be fun”. I left a short time later. I was willing to endure the pain 80% of the time for the payoff that came with truly enjoying my work the other 20%. When that 20% got stripped away, the pain was no longer worth it.

    • I needed to hear this today.

      Much of running is a mental game–telling yourself that yes, you can run those three miles. That the discomfort will disappear when you hit that running high and that you’ll feel amazing the rest of the day, long after you finish running. Sometimes business is a mental game too.

      This post also reminded me how much love running and that you only push past pain and discomfort if you actually run. You’re never going to wake up one morning and be ready to run a 5k. So I went for a run. 🙂

    • Yes!! As someone who went from hating running the mile in high school to completing a marathon a few years back, I can SO identify with this post.

      Anyone (basically) can run a marathon, but only if they put in the hours and hours of training for months before the race. But it hurts. And it’s a commitment. And lots of people aren’t prepared to for the pain, or the sacrifice. But there is nothing like that feeling of crossing the finish line!! Truth is, we are all capable of doing things that blow our minds, but you have to want it bad enough, and work at it hard enough : )

      Thanks for the link to the Buisness Lifecycle blog, I really enjoyed digging into the series — especially as a brand new entrepreneur just digging into Stage 1!

    • I completely agree with this. As I work my full time job, have more side hustles than any sane person would want, and try to be a good wife, mom, and friend I keep reminding myself it will all be worth it. I may be exhausted now, but I just KNOW the pay off is going to be big. I’m going to get to walk away from the full time job in social work and the side hustles that I love will become my full time gig. I can’t wait for all this hard work, loss of sleep, and hurt to pay off.

    • Mrs Kamilah says:

      Just because it’s unrealistic for them doesn’t mean it’s unrealistic for you- i love this.

    • Kathy Mathew says:

      It was encouraging to read this!. People keep telling me “all you do is work – you have know life!” I have my full-time (boring) job and I have my side hustles. But I know that someday I’ll make that lea,p and when I do, I’ll be so happy! It is very hard work, but I know it will be worth it!

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