We are all faced with painful decisions and onerous projects – sometimes they are big (terminating an employee, moving your company out of state) and sometimes they are smaller (reorganizing files, preparing a presentation). How do you know whether to push past the pain or to let it “work itself out”. The answer is actually about working against your own grain.
Let me tell you a story…
Early last year, I did a week-long hike in southernmost Chile in Patagonia. Days into the hike, over slippery glacial terrain, I lost my footing. Despite my hiking poles, I fell down the incline and crashed into a shrub that stopped my fall. At the time I didn’t know I had torn two ligaments in my right ankle. Four hours away from the nearest refuge, my guide and I started the long painful hike back.
Rejoining my small group at the refuge that night we surveyed the options. We were still another four hours from the nearest road and from there we would have to hike another four hours to the next refuge.
There was a small chance I could take a short hike downhill to the pristine lake fed by glaciers and get out by rubber boat. But the winds at “the end of the earth” can be treacherous, and we weren’t sure when or if the boat would come. The only other options were horseback and, if all else failed, that slow (and painful) hike back out.
Truth be told, my muscles were so tired from hiking I had my hopes pinned on that rubber boat. Of course, if I hadn’t twisted my ankle, I never would have taken the day of rest I needed. After all, I was the oldest member of the group and my pride wouldn’t have been able to withstand “special treatment”. My natural tendency is to push through pain, rather than give myself a rest.
Fortunately, the boat arrived and I had a day to rest and resumed the remaining short hikes with my ankle, purple and gruesomely swollen, strapped up.
Prior to the trip, I’d worked out with a trainer to build my leg strength and increase my cardio. There were days I didn’t feel like working out (you’ve been there, right?), but I kept working the muscles in spite of the soreness, because working through the discomfort meant I would be more prepared for my trip. And, I am someone who tends to push through the pain.
But when I arrived back at the gym with a swollen and painful ankle, my wise trainer Latina said, you have to rest it. “What about my hard earned strength?” I asked her. “Maybe I’ll just walk a bit.” She shook her head. “You have to let it rest!” And I finally did.
Have you struggled to stop “working” something that needs a rest? Sometimes letting it rest is the best advice: A new idea might need time to percolate, a relationship may need time to blossom organically, torn ligaments do need time to heal. Maybe tomorrow it will be easiercan be the best piece of advice for ourselves. Sometimes…
For some things, however, it isn’t the best way, but we act as if it were. We tell ourselves maybe it will work itself out…. After all, what harm will it do if I wait one more hour? Day? Week? Month? Most of us know deep down that it’s NOT going to get easier. Most of us know deep down that we need to bear down and just get it done.
Whether it’s updating your resume, creating a proposal, having a difficult conversation, some things don’t get easier being postponed.
As my trainer said, when your body hurts you have to decide whether the pain needs to be RESTED or WORKED OUT.
Some of us are more inclined to push ourselves constantly. Others of us let ourselves “off the hook” too easily.
And some of us do both. We rest when we need to push and push when we need to rest!
So the next time you have an activity that is painful to tackle, ask yourself what’s called for. Do I work it or rest it?
If you know you tend to push and push, try letting something rest. If you know you tend to rest and postpone – push it.
Are you someone who works past your limit? Or, do you let go when the going gets tough, even when rewards are waiting on the other side? In the comments section below, let us know how you overcome your natural tendency to rest or push it. We want to hear from YOU…
Until next Tuesday. YIPPEE!