This question is alive in my mind right now.
It’s arisen from deciding to serve as many people as possible, be a better coach—the best coach I can be—and joining a mastermind group that supports and encourages both those things. It’s arisen from the new year, a quarter life not-crisis-but-period-of-intense-reflection based around the question “Who do I need to become in order to do the things I want to do?” It’s come from connection, questioning, and conversations with other people who are on a similar journey to mine.
Are you avoiding pain or are you seeking growth?
Do you live your life with the primary motivation to avoid pain, or do you live your life with the primary motivation to grow into the best version of yourself you can be, and enjoy the benefits and rewards that come with that?
When I ask myself this question, the honest answer is that I’ve spent most of my life acting to avoid pain. There’s been a lot of pain, and the process of acting to avoid it has somewhat become a habit. It’s like if you’re living in a house that keeps spontaneously catching fire, your primary focus is going to be catching and putting out fires. Replacing the carpet, adding quirky knick-knacks, and creating a make-shift yoga studio in that corner by the window… none of that matters if it could all be burned to a crisp at any minute.
The issue comes when the fires stop, but we’re still behaving like they could begin again at any moment. Or when the fires stop, but putting out fires feels so familiar that we unconsciously re-create them by leaving candles burning unattended or practicing fire-swallowing indoors.
When I look at my life, I realised I’m done with the fire-fighting; that stage is over. I’ve worked on the areas of my life that weren’t lining up with my values, I’ve worked on healing my relationship with myself, I’ve worked on distancing myself from toxic relationships, and I’ve worked on shifting from coping to thriving.
And this is where I’ve stopped until now.
Although I’ve spent a lot of time and energy sorting my shit out, it’s all been about avoiding pain. Once the source of the pain has been rectified, part of me is like “Cool beans, that’s done, now we can sit back and take it easy.”
Which misses the most crucial and extraordinary part of what it means to be truly alive.
Getting rid of the negative in our lives is just one step. The real magic happens when we multiply the positive. (tweet this)
Let’s take exercise as an example. In the past, I’ve started exercising when I’ve noticed that I’ve put on a couple of pounds (pain). Once I feel happier with my appearance (pain avoided), I stop, before the whole cycle begins again.
Now, I’m trying to exercise just because I feel better when I do, and because I want to run a half-marathon this year (dodgy knee permitting). Am I going to be in pain if I don’t run a half? No. More lie-ins and less leg-ache for me! But the reason I want to do a half is because I want to grow, physically and mentally. It’s about pushing my self-imposed limits and stretching the boundaries of what I previously thought I could do.
The more I’ve explored how this mindset showed up in my own life, the more I’ve realised that I’ve been operating most of my life based on this cycle of creating then avoiding pain: from big areas like money, work, and relationships, right down to how I manage my inbox, day-to-day life admin, grocery shopping, and so on. I leave things until the last minute, I don’t manage my time too well, and consequently most of my energy goes on putting out fires and avoiding pain in my daily life, which doesn’t leave much room for actual growth.
I’m calling time on that, starting right now.
I already have goals for this year, and I’m pretty pleased with how they’re shaping up so far, but I want 2014 to be about acting based on seeking growth, rather than acting based on avoiding pain.
That means asking that question: “Who do I need to become to do what I want to do?” and listening to the answer. It means responding to people in a timely manner (still working on that one—sorry if I owe you an email). It means doing things in advance rather than rushing at the last minute (ahem, taxes from 2012-13 that I have a week left to file…). It means arranging my life in such a way that I can shift my focus from what I need to solve right now to what I need to do in order to grow and create in the future.
It means wanting the best for myself.