So I’m wearing braces. Again. I had them for a few years in middle school, and now I’m enjoying them all over again as a 27 year-old. Horrifying, right? It’s actually a much different experience this time around. For one thing, I’m much more aware of them at a conscious level. After all, I very definitely chose to undergo treatment, whereas when you’re younger it feels like the will the world, as implemented by your parents, is forcing you into it.
Solving Pain…With Pain!
Braces illustrate this concept perfectly. I’ve come to understand it as universal truth. To avoid something you must undergo it. What does this mean? Let’s use my braces as an example. It all started with tooth pain. Of course, nobody wants tooth pain, so I (eventually) went to the dentist. They discovered this wonderful mess:
Whoops! Looks like my upper wisdom teeth are causing some trouble.
It’s Going to Suck
Here’s the kicker. Want to stop your teeth from hurting all the damn time? Put on some braces. Then your teeth will hurt some of the damn time! Want to stop being out of breath after walking up some stairs? Force yourself to feel out of breath by jogging! Feeling stumped by a particular subject, like programming? Submit yourself to that stupid feeling by hitting the books! Terrified of speaking in public? Get to a Toastmasters club and, you guessed it, speak in front of people. And it goes on like this.
I’m not sure there is a magic workaround to this phenomenon. The best course of action is to accept it and approach it with discipline. Arm yourself with the end goal in mind and apply that vision as needed to get through the pain and discomfort, with the realization that the exact kind of pain and discomfort you’re feeling is what you’re freeing yourself from.
If you’re working out, visualize performing your physical goal effortlessly–a marathon, or a bike tour, or whatever–whenever your hit that psychological wall. Push through the confusion in your studies by imaging the clear understanding that awaits you. Dream about the appointment when your braces come off whenever a headache creeps in.
Stick With It
Eventually, the braces do come off. You realize you can run a mile without even feeling tired. The concepts and ideas that baffled you now seem intuitively obvious. All it takes is time, patience, and a little discipline.
And in the meantime, take some ibuprofen and get back to work!