Brandon Love MagicBrandon Love Magic

by Brandon Love

Growing Pains

We are officially five days into the new year. Congratulations! I don’t know about you, but I welcomed 2017 with open arms.

Perhaps this year, more than ever, I’m interested in pushing my limits. I know that I can learn, do, and be more. So I’ve made some changes to my daily schedule. Not drastic changes, but things that I hope will nudge me into the best version of me.

It’s only been five days. And what a painful five days it has been.

Allow me to explain: To improve my writing practice I’ve set myself a goal of writing two hours every morning. I wake up, make some tea, and sit in front of my computer with my hands on the keys. The goal is to keep my fingers nimbly typing as thoughts flow effortlessly from my mind.

It’s challenge enough to sit at a computer for two hours. Never mind the fact that thoughts almost never flow effortlessly and my fingers aren’t reliably nimble. Writing is tough work!

I’ve found myself watching the clock, doodling on scrap paper, checking my email, checking the fridge – basically doing anything that distracts me from the pains of writing. There are lots of moments when I want to give up, thinking I’ve given all that I’ve got. Believing that I’ve reached my writing limit for the day.

There are lots of moments when I want to give up, thinking I’ve given all that I’ve got.

It reminds me of a time when I was a kid in karate.

As part of our warm-up in class one day, our instructor told us to do as many push-ups as we could, holding ourselves in a plank when we had eked out every last push-up possible.

So off I went: One, two, three, four, … After doing a bunch I pushed my face away from the floor one final time. I remember huffing and puffing while holding my best plank. The burn went all the way through my body, while I hoped he’d tell us to rest.

Instead, our instructor came to each of us, one by one, and told us to do one more push-up while he watched for proper form.

“Are you kidding me?!” I exclaimed… silently, and safely, in the confines of my own head.

He came to me first, so I didn’t have much time to think. With my arms gently shaking, I lowered my nose to the ground. Then using all my might, and maybe a little re-directed anger, I heaved myself up to my plank once again. I can only imagine how red my face turned then.

“Good,” he said to each of us in turn, as he moved down the line. Every student in the class did one final push-up, before he allowed us to rest.

When it was all over and we sat there catching our breath, our teacher explained the exercise. “I asked you all to do as many push-ups as possible, and yet, when I asked you to do one more, each of you could do one more. And I bet if I asked you to do one more still, you’d find a way to make it happen.

The question, then, is what made you think you’d done as much as you could the first time?”

We looked at each other. “It started to hurt,” we agreed.

“Right, it got painful. But because you pushed through the pain, you are now all stronger. Pain will always be there, trying to control your decisions, trying to put limits on what you think you can do. It’s our job to work through the pain. To get used to being a bit uncomfortable, so that we can continue to get stronger, and faster, and smarter.”

It’s our job to work through the pain. To get used to being a bit uncomfortable, so that we can continue to get stronger, and faster, and smarter.”

I must have been 12 or 13 in that classroom. In 2017, this lesson seems especially relevant.

Adopting a new writing schedule was never going to be easy. After all, making change is seldom painless. I often catch myself wanting to run from the discomfort. To leave the computer, to go make some food, to browse around on the Internet. I find myself making excuses and creating distractions to help me avoid the discomfort of sticking to my writing.

But I try to remember that pain is trying to limit what I can do. And that I can always do one more push-up. The old adage is true: No pain, no gain.

In order to have, do, and be what we want, we have to do more than “set our minds to it.”

Instead of running from the pain, instead of using it to justify giving up, we can train ourselves to lean in.

What would your life look like if you embraced pain? What would happen if you expressed gratitude for your discomfort? If you’re in the same boat as me, you’re experiencing a little resistance as you set out to achieve your goals. Here are a few ideas I’m using to help me tolerate and navigate my growing pains:

  • Remember that you can probably do more than you think – you’re supposed to experience pain when you’re growing. Most of our limits are self-imposed.
  • Find ways to enjoy the process of change, growing pains and all – force yourself to smile while you work, you’ll find yourself having more fun
  • Focus on what your future self will gain from your persistence – be clear on why are you making this change, and use that to motivate your next “push-up”
  • Think of your ability to manage pain like a muscle – at first you might not be very good at it, but with practice you’ll get better. The key is to keep coming back to the work, even if you get off track.

The key is to keep coming back to the work, even if you get off track.

So, I’ll continue to write every morning for two hours, sometimes staring at a blank document with a fake smile on my face, but sometimes with my fingers typing so nimbly that the thoughts have a hard time keeping up. Keep your eyes out for the results.

Pain is a necessary part of being human. We can choose to fear it, or to accept it and embrace it. We can let it direct the course of our lives, to establish our limits, or we can use it to help us get to where we want to be.

What changes are you making for 2017? Or perhaps more importantly, what pain are you willing to endure this year?

About brandonlovemagic
Brandon Love is a magician, speaker, and coach. He helps people un-stick their minds to become more creative and achieve the impossible. Combining his unique blend of awe-inspiring entertainment with experience-derived insights, Brandon creates an unforgettable experience on stage or up close. He is also the co-author of Brainsprouting: How to Become Fearlessly Creative & Have Better Ideas More Often.

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Growing Pains