Handle a Painful Experience With Skill and Tact


Several years ago I had a fall rock climbing and caught my foot on a ledge. I didn’t break it, but it hurt like I did. It wouldn’t have been such big deal except that I was planning on climbing two 10,000 foot volcanoes in Oregon . I could have backed out, but I traveled across the country to climb them and I really hated the idea bailing. After the first day of climbing, my foot looked pretty ugly. My climbing partners asked if it hurt. I told them “only when I stepped on it.” They laughed and said I was lucky it only hurt 50% of the time. I laughed too and said “Yup, just part of the experience I guess.”

When I said “It was part of the experience,” I wasn’t being glib, I really meant it. When you go up into the high mountain’s you’re going to feel some, if not a lot of pain. It just comes with the territory. It took me a few big climbs to come to that realization. The first time I climbed a big mountain I remember feeling like I was going to die. It was a total sufferfest. But each time I climbed I found my attitude shifting. I was still hurting, but I was embracing it as just being  part of an amazing experience.

Pain and suffering is part of everyday life too. As a society, we spend an enormous amount of time and money trying to avoid it and trying to find ways of getting comfortable. But we would be better off just leaning into the uncomfortable parts of life and embrace them as being  “part of the experience” of living. Everyday life gives us some amazing vistas which we often miss because getting there makes us too uncomfortable.

So the next time you are uncomfortable or in a painful experience, try embracing it and see how your attitude changes. A good challenge is to get uncomfortable every day. Maybe it’s speaking up in a meeting, going to yoga, confronting a boss, or climbing a big mountain. Don’t avoid the hard parts of life.

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