Three hacks to reduce your pain and increase happiness.
Stop living in pain and start enjoying life!!
A couple of days ago I was running along the beautiful Bow River that runs through the heart of down town Calgary. I had left the group I was running with because I wanted to get in a few extra kilometers and enjoy the beautiful fall day.
Because I was on my own and away from all distractions I began to observe my surroundings more closely; as I ran I was struck by an interesting observation. As I passed other runners I noticed that the majority of them looked like they were in physical pain. They wore grimaces instead of smiles and their movements looked jerky and tortured rather than fluid and comfortable.
While I was experiencing immense enjoyment from my run, the majority of people I passed seemed to be experiencing far different sensations.
We were engaging in the same activity and yet having very different experiences.
Later that day I ran across an acquaintance who went into great detail explaining the challenges he was experiencing with maintaining his healthy lifestyle. He explained that he found both diet and exercise to be excruciating.
He then told me that he admired the extreme self-discipline that I seemed to possess.
In that moment I realized that I owned one of the most important secrets of success; I have learned to enjoy doing things that most other people don’t. I have learned to take pleasure from what other people see as uncomfortable or even painful.
It isn’t that high energy output activities like running are easier for me; it is just that I have a different perspective on them. And to be clear this just doesn’t apply to running, it applies to all activities that may require what other people refer to as discipline.
Below are some of the strategies that I use to make doing difficult things easier:
I choose my focus.
People are genetically programmed to conserve energy and take the easy route as often as possible. As a result we have an aversion to doing that which we find uncomfortable and the more primitive regions of our brains find it very easy to confuse discomfort with pain.
As a result of this confusion many people begin to focus on the discomfort of the activity.
I focus the majority of my attention on what I enjoy.
I don’t run because of some future payoff that may or may not happen, I focus on enjoying it in the moment. In fact I do quite a lot of things that, while other people see it as discipline, I have learned to see as enjoyment.
While some people see writing as work, I enjoy the creative aspect of it.
Some people look at keeping a healthy diet as a chore I have learned to appreciate and even crave the taste of vegetables.
The people who I met on my run were almost certainly no more uncomfortable that I was; they were just far more focussed on their discomfort.
Focussing on discomfort allows the feeling to grow. Focussing on what is pleasant helps that feeling to grow.
In every activity there are moments of pleasure and of discomfort – as people we have the power to choose what we focus on.
I have learned to recognize and overcome my inner voice.
I have learned to expect a bit of inner conflict whenever I am about to do anything difficult or new.
I know that the little voice in my brain will always be chattering away; filling my mind with lies. I recognize that this inner voice is a genetic gift that kept my ancestors safe for thousands upon thousands of years.
The job of this little voice is to ensure I conserve my energy and stay out of danger.
When I run this voice tells me that I am tired and my legs hurt.
When I think about working out this voice tells me I am too busy or too tired.
Before I go up on a stage the inner voice tells me I will fail and look foolish.
That little voice is a big source of emotional pain and unhappiness for many people. In its desire to keep us safe that same little voice keeps us small, afraid and weak. The more we pay attention to the little voice the more power we give it.
If we start to listen to that voice we start to believe that our pain is greater than it really is and that we are more tired than we really are. People who listen too closely to this little voice learn to believe they are less capable than they truly are.
I feel it is up to me to use the modern part of my brain, my cerebral cortex, to determine if my primitive brain is telling the truth.
When my modern mind decides that my primitive brain is mistaken (which is often) I continue merrily along my way and presently I find that my inner voice has quieted down for the moment.
I don’t ignore my primitive mind – I assess what it is telling me and then make a decision.
But I rarely automatically accept what it says as true.
Using my modern brain to control my primitive mind is now second nature for me. What may look like determination is really just a habit.
I make it a habit to do things I don’t feel like doing.
Nothing we do is neutral.
Everything decision we make and every action we take makes us stronger or weaker.
At least five days a week I do something that I really don’t enjoy.
I get out of bed and do fifty burpees in a row. As a 57-year-old guy fifty burpees is a chore, which is precisely the point. When I get out of bed, I am a little creaky and stiff but I do the burpees anyway.
The fact that I don’t enjoy doing the burpees is why I do them.
This is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. Each and every day I do my burpees I start my day with a victory.
I have made strengthening my discipline into a daily habit.
If I do have a wee bit more discipline than some people I come by it honestly, I work at it.
So there are my Three hacks to reduce your pain and increase happiness.:
I choose where I focus my mind,
I learn to control my inner voice,
I exercise my willpower to make it stronger.
To be honest I have days when my habits fail me, when the “I don’t want to do it,” voice wins. This most often happens when I forget to pay attention. Occasionally I simply forget to work out, or forget to exercise my discipline.
I don’t have a fool-proof system in place yet, but I am working on it.
How about you? Do you struggle with your discipline? I hope these hacks will serve you as they serve me.
Feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.