Why No Pain, No Gain is a Myth!

the joy of pain!

Do you believe that life is a struggle?

Or do you breeze through life like a butterfly?

I believe that we all take life too seriously and we struggle through life, whereas we really don’t need to. We have been brought up, especially in the West, to believe that success is something to struggle and strive for, and if it comes too easily, then it is not really worth it.

This is the same as when you have a positive and bright attitude to life, and people tell you to be careful, since it will not last. It is almost as if some people believe that they have been sent to earth as a punishment and life has to be endured as an ordeal rather than enjoyed and savoured!

Perhaps Hollywood and Bollywood too has a lot to answer for – there are so many movies where the hero has to fight enormous odds before ultimately winning through.

Bollywood movies are even more dramatic where the theme is usually one where the main character overcomes incredible hurdles and goes through immense struggles to become the hero – and invariably he wins over the heroine too:-)

So in the movie of your life are you playing the “hero”, struggling and hoping to win through one day? Or would you rather just win without the struggle?

Then again if you went through life without the struggle, what would happen to all the drama in your life and who would want to watch or even be part of such a movie!

Where does this myth of “no pain, no gain” come from?

Even more importantly, here is how you can quickly overcome this myth in your life:-

1. Approach Life with a Childlike Attitude

When growing up, the adults in our life such as our parents and teachers really do mean well when they inculcate in us the need to study “hard” and do well. But their very use of the word “hard” implies a struggle, one that has to be overcome.

If only my teachers had made it all more fun and enjoyable. Learning can be fun and just as valuable as when it is made out to be a challenge.

At the same time, children can be so endearingly naïve and sweet as they look at life in simple terms. This can of course alarm their parents and so from a young age we are told to be careful and how some things are just not for us, out of reach and too “hard”.

Next time you are around some young children, observe how they just play and everything is an adventure.

Yet this childlike nature is slowly drummed out of us by the adults around us.

Why would you ever want to grow up anyway!?

We can all be childlike and get back to our original true state – so today take some time out and just be a child again!

Of course being childlike does not imply being childish:-)

2. Do Everything In Moderation

I am very passionate about sport, both as a spectator and as an active participant. In my time, I have played racquet sports at a high level and trained heavily. Quite often I was told by my trainers and coaches to go through the pain, and how unless I felt the pain, there was no point even training.

In those days, I did endure the pain and though I enjoyed the sports, the training aspect soon lost its appeal. I also picked up a few injuries along the way.

I have since learnt to train in moderation, to listen to my body and try nothing excessive. At the same time, being older and wiser does not necessarily curtail me from still enjoying sport actively.

Doing everything in moderation does not mean you don’t give everything your best shot – all I am suggesting is that you simply change your approach.

3. Ignore the Media’s Negativity

We are saturated with media messages and most of it is negative –especially during the current period of world economic consolidation.

Okay, we do face some great challenges right now – maybe the most critical challenges ever or maybe not. But constant exposure to all these messages of doom and gloom only reinforces for some people the impression that life is indeed a struggle and any gain only comes with pain.

So cut down on your exposure to television and newspapers. You can do it if you really want to.

I got rid of my television set two years ago and have never missed it. The TV licence people have only now stopped chasing me to renew my licence and finally seem to accept that there are actually some people who don’t want to have a television set in their home.

Here in London we get two free newspapers distributed outside the tube stations every weekday evening, and they are just full of negative news from earlier in the day and celebrity gossip. I have now almost mastered the art of seeing through the people who incessantly try to shove a paper in my face.

Of course, also cut out or minimise your internet news surfing. Focus instead on positive or educational websites.

4. Watch the Language You Use

In our daily language, we often subliminally tell our brain about the no pain, no gain indoctrination. We have phrases such as it is “not hard” or “not difficult”. Despite the double negative, the brain still focuses on the core of the message i.e. that it is BOLD hard or difficult.

Similarly, if you are asked not to think of a pink elephant, the only thing you will think about is a pink elephant!

I remember at an African drumming session, the drum master introduced a simple rhythm and then just before moving on to the next exercise, explained earnestly how the next bit was difficult and that some of us might struggle. Sure enough most of us struggled.

It is almost as if the language we use daily is designed to make us struggle. So check the language you use with others and also with yourself and lok for ways of making it more positive and intentional.

5. Drop the Drama From Your Life

Some people just seem to continuously move from one crisis to another. Then they constantly moan how life was treating them so badly and how everything was such a challenge.

I usually tells such people to just lighten up – or I avoid them in my life altogether.

If this sounds like you, then take a step back and see what it is you are doing to attract such events in your life. Also ask yourself what you get out of being a drama king or drama queen. And then stop it!

6. Simplify Your Life

We all make our lives far too complicated.

Look for ways to simplify your life in every way you can. You will then have more time and energy for those things that are really important to you.

By having more simplicity you can create more joy and quality time in your life. Your efforts will then seem lighter and easier – life will literally flow around you.

There is so much you can do to simplify and clear out the clutter from your life – to get started take my clutter quiz.

Also cut down on your time and people commitments in your life. For instance, I to cram in a lot into my social life. As I have got wiser, I now limit myself to one quality activity at a time.

So rather than trying to see three or more friends together in one evening, I now arrange to see just one friend properly. It makes it really simple now – rather than having to co-ordinate the diaries with three other people, it is a matter of a quick phone conversation with the friend that I want to send some quality time with.

7. Find Easier Ways to do Things

I have learnt that there are easier and simple ways of doing almost everything.

Assuming that you actually do need to do the activity you are doing, then look for an easier way of doing it.

Nowadays there are so many tools and resources on the net to help you do things more easily and effectively.

Also make sure you understand and apply the distinction between effectiveness and efficiency.

Effectiveness is doing the right thing and efficiency is doing the right thing well.

So anytime you do anything work related, ask yourself first if you even need to do it and secondly how you can do it more easily.

Just as importantly check in with yourself that do need to do this activity or fulfill this social obligation, and you are not doing so simply because someone else said you had to!

Life is a breeze or a struggle – it is your choice.

What will you choose?

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  1. Justin- AlittleBetter.net says

    While I definitely agree that none of it has to be painful I do still say that life does not come in easy. I use this to eliminate all of my excuses, if it isn’t going to be easy anyways, than I might as well do what I really want to do, rather than what society tells me is going to be the easiest way. Society is fooling themselves.

    • Justin, yes life may not come in easy, but that is no reason to make it hard.

      If we have light-hearted approach to life, than no matter how insurmountable the odds may be, it will be easier than otherwise.

  2. But how do you convince yourself that something is easy when you simply do not believe it? I have been struggling to heal a severe skin condition for 5 years now. It got so bad and I was in so much pain that I very nearly committed suicide.

    I didn’t and it is better now, but still severe enough for me to be in pain every minute of every day and unable to work or do 95% of the things that I used to.

    I try to tell myself that this doesn’t have to be hard, doesn’t have to be a struggle, but it is. And I feel trapped by it still, all these years later. I used to believe that I would find the answer and it would soon be all gone, but the longer it goes on the harder it is keep that belief. I do not want to live in anger and sadness forever, but how do you find acceptance in the unacceptable?

    • Mark, I have no easy answers to offer you as chronic pain is not something I have ever suffered.

      Hard as it may sound, can you accept this skin condition as part of your life journey?

      Maybe your learning here is to develop your own perseverance and tolerance to tough life challenges – and to make you realise and appreciate the value of life and good health.

  3. Jai Kai - SharingSuccess.tv says

    Great points… For me the most important way to work or rather play with ease is to have that child like attitude. I think we all need to play a little more and enjoy. I use to facilitate workshops for personal growth… I now call them joyshops – because their is no work involved.

  4. Arvind, I agree with you on most points. Life is not always a struggle and No Pain, No Gain should not be the main motto of your life. However, I appreciate a little bit of struggle in life. I think that if we do not learn to fight for something, to give our best to get it then we cannot fully appreciate what we have. I do love a little bit of pain in exercise 🙂 but moderation is the key, this is true.
    The problem that a lot of people face, in my opinion, is that if they get something without pain they do not believe it and cannot be completely happy about it. They start looking for some hidden stones, for some kind of pain that they are supposed to experience. This negative thoughts will darken even the most positive gains in their lives. This is where your advice becomes especially handy. These people need to stop cultivating this negative “painful” mindset inside of them and learn to enjoy their gains no matter what.

    • Anastasiya,I have just been to a talk by Robert Holden who is famous for his Happiness Project and was on Oprah a year ago.

      I will be writing a post soon about the evening but he mentioned something yuo bring up – how some people cannot accept happiness if it comes too easily. It is as if anything that is obtained easily cannot be worthwhile and they were not worthy of it.

      We all really need to learn to be joyous all the time – joy and happiness are after all our birthright:-)

  5. Life is a mixture of the pleasant and the unpleasant.
    Sometimes all our wishes seem to come true, we knock and the doors are open to us, we ask and we are given.

    But at other times,things just dont seem to go as we wish… is this struggle or just a part of life ?

    How do we differentiate between struggle and harmony. During my travels I often marvel at people walking miles through deserts and difficult terrain for water, this for me would be a really big struggle but for these people this was part of their life. Just daily routine.

    How we view life contributes to our belief about it being a struggle or a pleasure – adding to our experience bank to deepen our spirit and our soul meaning.

    • Shilpa – you put it very nicely – how we view life ie a joy or a struggle dictates our perception of each life experience.

      If we see every experience as a learning on our journey of life, then it all becomes a joy!

  6. I agree that the “no pain, no gain” mantra is so counter-productive. In terms of exercise, to push to the point of pain (meaning muscle injury) means that one has to go easy for a bit before pushing too hard again. How much better to do just a bit more each day.

    I also agree about avoiding the media’s negativity. I don’t watch TV either, partly because much of it doesn’t seem worth watching. I read the newspaper but avoid news about unspeakable crime committed by crazy or unbalanced people. I don’t want to know the gory details about every rape and murder.

    • Madeleine, “no pain, no gain” is such a limiting belief and it erodes a lot of joy out of our lives.

      If we believe that life is hard and it will be painful to get anywhere, then that is exactly what will show up in our lives.

      As for the media and the news, I occasionally catch up with world events by looking at the bbc website (www.BBC.co.uk) and it is invariably full of negative news. So now I have to really limit that exposure too.

  7. fiona mccudden says

    Thank you Arvind, I was feeling a little blue for 30 mins approx, when I read your “No Pain, No Gain”. I cannot wipe the smile from my face at the thought of you scaring those poor newspaper people. We have the same type of papers here in Dublin, but being Irish we do things in reverse and get them in the morning. I carry a plastic bag, so that I dont have to refuse,(dont read them) it means they dont have to stand longer perhaps in the rain. Right here it goes. Life is a struggle, it is challenging and it presents some with challenges more than others. Aha!The key is “acceptance”, knowing that adversary (if we are receptive) makes us a better human being. Michael Cain “Market Kitchen” Chef with one arm, Micael J Fox, has done so much for Parkinson. If I gave away my TV I would’nt know these. Facing reality can be painful, anaesthisising and divorcing oneself will not lead us ultimately to help others and of course ourselves. Now where is my crown!

    • Fiona, I am glad my post helped remove your blues!

      We also get a free newspaper in the morning outside London train stations – there is just no getting away from them:-)

      If only everyone else was as considerate as you and carried a litter bag – most of those newspapers inevitably end up being strewn across the train carriages.

      You don’t need any crown as you are not a drama queen!

  8. Arvind, Love your advice to approach life with a childlike attitude and curiosity. We tighten ourselves when we approach any challenge with seriousness, on the other hand, when we approach the greatest hurdle with a child-like mind, we seem to cross the hurdle much more successfully. I have seen people who approach life with this attitude achieve many a milestone, without breaking a sweat :-).

    About your title, though, I realize why no-pain no-gain is a byproduct of our up-bringing, but its just so irresistible, just been drummed into our heads! When you engage with life you realize sometimes things don’t happen for a reason and a “lucky” break, if you are ready for it, can make you leapfrog over many a hurdle. But damn, its hard to let go of this myth! :-).


    • Krishna, it is indeed to hard to give up this myth of “no pain, no gain”

      In my own life I am continuing to look at areas where I make thing harded for myself then they need to be – and there are quite a few!

      As for being childlike, I was at an award-giving event yesterday for WellChild, the charity for which I ran the London marathon earlier this year.

      I met lots of very young chidlren who were all facing some serious health challenges – but it was so inspiring and heartwarming to meet them and to ee how joyous they were!

      I will never ever again feel sorry for myself.

      Life is a joy – if we only we choose to see it like that.

  9. I think much of the misery in people is the drama we tend to make for ourselves. And possibly the worst part is the fact that the story we create in our mind make up a lot of the misery we felt. Exaggeration of the reality in which we are experiencing is bad for health. Simplify life is definitely the way to go here.

    • Karlil, I am on a mission at the moment to simpify my life in all areas and am finding that my life is already becoming smoother:-)

      Simplify, simplify, simplify!

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