Setting Goals With Pain

Do you have any goals? If you have chronic pain, I bet one of your goals is to “cure” your pain. That’s a pretty natural feeling to have but you might actually be working against yourself. When we focus only on results we are more likely to be unhappy. That might seem like a cop out. You may say, I want success so why wouldn’t I focus on getting the best result possible? That’s because we can’t always control results. However, what we can control is our effort and behavior.

If your main focus is to be 100% pain free you may miss out on happiness. What if therapy, exercise, nutrition or other lifestyle changes lead to a 50% reduction in your pain? Is that good? It depends on your perspective. If it’s 100% pain free or bust then you may not even notice such a big improvement. You’ll be disappointed, frustrated or even angry that you haven’t “cured” your pain. That sounds like a pretty stressful way to live if you ask me. But what if you feel joy that, not only is your pain 50% better, but you’re lifestyle has completely improved? Isn’t that worthy of celebration?

Western medical philosophy emphasizes cures. Although some issues can be cured, pain is so complex and so specific to each individual that there just isn’t a magic cure for everyone. The magic is in the work we put in every day. More movement, mindfulness, balanced exercise, holistic eating, and stress management. It’s the daily effort that we can control. Trying to control things we can’t- well, that’s just failure waiting to happen.

Focusing only on pain reduction is not going to breed long term success. Yes, you want to have less pain but most people find that their pain improves when they invest effort into what they can control like physical activity. Don’t just use your pain level as a way to judge your progress. Take the whole picture into account. Are you more active? Do you have more energy? Are you sleeping better? Are you doing more of the activities you enjoy? Are you giving life 100% effort? Improvements in these areas probably means you’re getting more out of life. So cut yourself a little slack, give 100% effort and accept some credit for doing so! 

Devin Davis