Monday Mornings with Madison


Pain, along with the fear of it, is one of the most unpleasant sensations we human beings ever experience. Unfortunately, we’ve experienced a lot of both in the past few months as the economy continues to unravel. Since pain and fear are so prevalent, let’s take a closer look at them in order to figure out how we can handle them more effectively. And let’s put a positive spin on this examination by asking how pain and fear actually help us.

The two experiences are obviously connected in many deep ways. Wikipedia defines fear as “an emotional response to threats and danger. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of pain.” So one important purpose of fear is to help us avoid pain — it is a useful tool in our survival kit.

Our ultimate survival, however, depends upon us growing and developing. We need to be willing to change in order to adapt to changing times, and this is always involves some degree of risk.  The fear of pain can now become a hindrance to us, rather than a help. We may become too scared to take that risk. When fear causes us to avoid the pain we need in order to grow, it stops us from living to our fullest potential. What can help us in this situation? Well, how about a little more pain?

How to move forward
Let’s look at our current economy to understand this concept better. Let’s say you are experiencing a lot of fear — maybe you are afraid of losing your job or you are worried about some big investments you’ve made. In this situation, the last thing you want is to add more anxieties to your life by trying something new or unfamiliar. Moving out of your comfort zone is a scary prospect. But then again, if you keep on doing what you’ve done in the past, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got. You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, unhappy with where you are but afraid to move forward. That’s when pain can help you. As the motivational speaker Robert Anthony put it, “When it becomes more difficult to suffer than to change… you will change.”

The challenge is to accept your fears and still move forward.  You can give yourself plenty of logical reasons for taking action but logic tends to wilt in the face of fear. Sometimes there’s no alternative but to just do it. Do what you’re afraid of and keep on doing it. And the more painful it is to stay stuck, the easier it will be to move forward.

Bestselling business author Jim Rohn tells of the day he finally experienced enough pain. As a young man, he was flat broke and full of pain about his prospects, but afraid to make any change.  One day a Girl Scout knocked on his door and asked if he would buy some cookies. Each box was only $2 but Jim didn’t have two dollar bills to his name. So he told her that he just brought some Girl Scout cookies and didn’t need any more. After he closed the door, he realized that he had just lied to a little girl because he was too ashamed to face up to reality. At that moment, the pain of staying stuck finally outweighed the pain of changing. He resolved to never lie to a little girl again, and within two years of hard work, he had made his first million.

It isn’t easy to think of pain as a positive force in our lives. Our basic instinct is to fear it, and for good cause. But avoiding it at all costs is the ticket to a dead-end life.

“Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile… initially scared me to death.”  Betty Bender

© 2009 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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