The Pain Fallacy

If you’ve ever read a synopsis of anything successful, you have certainly heard about sacrifice. “No pain, no gain” has become the motto of people trying to change their life for the better, even justifying physical pain in exchange for ______________ (insert desired physical outcome here).

I tend to refuse that outlook on life. Pain is not good. We invented chemicals to overcome it, damn it! There’s a collective mindset that “effort is better than success” (“A for effort!”), which relegates anyone who manages to achieve success with less (perceived) effort as some kind of cheater to be frowned upon.

We live in a society that insists in praising “effort” above “success”. Want a real job? You better have as much college debt as the rest of us. Want a raise? You better be sleep deprived and never see your family like the rest of us! The odd thing is most of our jobs no longer consist of physical labor/effort. It’s like we’ve found new ways to inflict that highly sought for “physical pain”: sleep deprivation, malnutrition, back pain, depression, loneliness… Gotta make that body pay, right?

It never occurred to me what the true connection between sacrifice and success might actually be until now. To be clear, I don’t mean to deny the need for sacrifice in order to achieve success. That’s a well-documented exchange. But I’m starting to realize that the sacrifice required on the road to success is less about damaging tendons, nerves, neurons or otherwise inflicting some degree of physical pain or punishment, but about *choices*. It’s about saying no to things you enjoy. It’s about spending less time with the people you have a good time with. It’s about getting paid less. It’s about saying “No” more often. It’s less about doing what you don’t like and more about looking ahead, defining what “success” looks like for you and working back from there. It’s about removing the distractions and obstacles that keep you from getting there. It’s about going to bed earlier instead of binge-watching the latest season of House of Cards because you know your brain works best in the morning after a good night of sleep. It’s about not drinking that extra shot because you’re not willing to sacrifice your productivity the next day. It’s about not playing your favorite video game today, because it’ll take away the time you should be spending with your wife today so you can work on your side project tomorrow.

On the road to success, sacrifice is less about pain and more about choices.

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