“I can’t believe this is happening,” I thought to myself in between gasps for air and excruciating pain. I went down and went down hard.  I remember those moments as if it were a slow motion movie in technacolor from the 70’s.

I wish the photo on the right was of me. But it was who I aspired to be at the time. I mean, look at that hook kick to the face!

In this moment, however, I was having trouble just trying to get my helmet off.

Have you ever experienced that? Something so unexpected happens that you spend a great amount of time trying to figure out what was going on? Well, this was true for me, but on the mats that early morning of November, 2011, I wasn’t thinking anything other than how do I make the pain stop.

I had only one goal that I was highly motivated to achieve: STOP THE PAIN!

We had been sparring for at least a minute and I was getting in a few solid roundkicks to the hogu. When she jumped out of the way, I was fairly confident that I could hit her by just stretching and rotating my left roundkick to the right. However, my right leg didn’t get the message that we needed turn and stayed put, so when I went to hit her with a left roundkick, the upper half of my body turned with such force that it sheared off my ACL  – kaput, nada – GONE! I heard a big pop and went down hard.

I remember rolling around on the mats grabbing my knee and trying to stop the pain. The narrative went like this: “Stop the pain, take off helmet, turn left, pain, stop, take off hogu, turn right, pain, stop, get hogu untied, sit up, pain, get hogu off,” and on it went. Eventually, the pain reduced to where I could sit up and then stand on my good leg.

When you are in it, your focus narrows and you process things very slowly (one thought and one action at a time) – Christine Jeffrey

If you noticed, I was processing one thought at a time, but the ultimate goal was consistent. The goal “to stop the pain” directed each subsequent thought and action that I had with a constant check in to see how I was progressing. I also noticed that when I focused on an action,  I couldn’t focus on the pain at the same time, and by directing myself in those tasks, I was reducing my experience of the pain.

Have you noticed a similar pattern in yourself? When you have something you must do, doesn’t it take your mind off the pain in that moment? For example, let’s say you have a headache, but you get so engrossed in an activity, that you don’t even realize your headache has gone away?

When I recognized this pattern in myself, I realized this sequential thinking and focus in service of a goal could help me deal with all sorts of pain –  the pain of discipline, failure, disappointment et al. The greatest surprise was the realization that if I could manage pain then I didn’t have to be afraid of it anymore.

When you are not afraid of something anymore, don’t you feel stronger and more capable?

The next step was to create a system that I could use whenever I experienced pain, so that I could get through it faster with the minimum amount of discomfort. When you practice the steps and automate it, you become very resourceful in getting to the solution quickly.


How to transform your pain into progress that leads to success

  1. The Pain – Recognize pain for what it is. Pain is an indicator that something is important and needs your immediate attention. The pain is the result of a sequence of events. That’s it. What you do with your pain is decided by your priorities. So before you high tail it to the nearest safety zone, you might want to identify what those priorities are.
  2. The Priorities – Identify them. What is most important to you right now? What is the goal? What is most important to you in the long term? How did you get to this spot? What would you like to have happen. When you ask questions that identify your priorities, you get clarity on what matters most.
  3. The Power – To access your power, you have to put yourself into a state that fires you up and gets you to take action consistently, so that, you can transform that pain into progress and then into success. Tony Robbins describes state as having three parts, a) Physiology, b) Belief and thought c) Language and emotion. By identifying what body position, what belief and what language you use when you are at your best, you can access your power to progress through the pain. Then, you ask yourself empowering questions and make statements that fire you up and get you into that state.
  4. The Path –  Once in state, you take the actions, necessary, that take you on the path through the pain. Once there, you find the lesson, the feedback, the opportunity, the gem in what has happened and use it as a building block toward your next level of success.

I have come to learn that pain is sometimes a necessary stepping stone to teach us lessons that would, otherwise, take us decades to learn. It is an accelerant like gas is to a flame. If you practice this protocol  and use it, you not only become less fearful of pain, you recognize how best to use it for your continued success.

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Thank you so much for reading and until next time,

Make the most of the time you have!

With love,

Coach “You’ve got the power”