Several years ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table chatting with one of my friends when she suddenly looked up at her 12-foot vaulted ceiling and exclaimed, “I can’t take it anymore!”
I squeezed my eyes together and looked toward the ceiling to see what she was talking about.
“Take that,” pointing to the silk plants positioned on a lateral trellis below the ceiling. “Dust! Dust on the plants. I can’t take it anymore.” She got her ladder, climbed to the top and started handing me plants that needed to be cleaned.
Later, I reflected on my friend’s awareness of the dust, the agitation that she felt, and her determination to do something about it. I thought to myself, “Now that’s my problem. I CAN take it.” Unlike my friend, I have a lot of tolerance for dust on a 12-foot ceiling. My discomfort threshold for dust is higher than hers; therefore, I don’t act on dusty objects until the situation becomes worse.
Isn’t that what often happens in our lives? Situations deteriorate and the subsequent pain increases before we are motivated to action. Pain and discomfort are powerful change agents. We are driven to respond by our need to relieve our pain and rid ourselves of discomfort. The problem is that if your discomfort threshold is high, then it may take you longer to act, get up, or do something about your situation.
I talk to people all the time who want a better life. They sincerely desire a better relationship with their spouse or children. They want real financial stability, a healthy body, college education, or achievement of a dream. However, they lack the motivation to change and struggle to do anything about their circumstances. In many cases, their struggle is directly linked to their high threshold for discomfort. They have adapted to the anxiety of living pay check-to-pay check, to the pain of remaining in an abusive relationship, or to the discomfort of carrying a few extra pounds. They have built a tolerance for things they don’t like and can “take” the situation they are in.
RESET YOUR PAIN THRESHOLD
If you struggle to get motivated, then one of the things you need to do is reset your pain threshold. You need to get in touch with the painful feeling of remaining the same. A strategy to help stir up agitation is to write down your life story and then project forward to the end. If you don’t take action, what will your life be like in ten, fifteen, or twenty years? How much will you grow in the next five years if you remain employed in the same organization? How will your current spending habits affect you when you reach retirement? What will be the long-term impact on your self-esteem and that of your children, if you remain in an unhealthy relationship? Write down your story and imagine what life will be like if you continue the path you are on.
YOUR NEW STORY
Write a second story. This time, envision what your life can become, if you act now. When will you reach your goals if you work on them now? How will your family eulogize you if you take time to restore and develop your relationships now? What opportunities will be available to you if you start on your educational pursuits now? Where will your dreams lead you if you begin to realize them now?
If you want to change, then you’ve gotta feel the need for it. So, stir up the pain! Stir up the discomfort! Lower your threshold till you just can’t take it anymore!