The Most Vital Element for Change

May 15th, 2017

We all want change. Everybody, everywhere, would prefer life if some thing was a bit different. We spend a lot of time trying to change things. Lose weight, increase income, have better relationships. It takes a ton of effort to effect real change. We also need a few other things.

What’s the number one thing we need to really change something? Well, I doubt you’ll like my answer.

We need to suffer.

Nobody wakes up one day, says “Man, everything is pretty great. I am content. And I have to change.” No, we say something more akin to “I’ve had enough of this. I can’t stand this anymore. I... have got to change something.” It’s the pain that spurs us to make a change.

And it isn’t usually a small amount of pain, or just discomfort. Human beings will often choose to remain in homeostasis rather than address low-level pain and discomfort. Even very high levels of pain sometimes aren’t enough to get us to change how we do things. But time and time again I have seen that the pain getting to be too much is what spurs people to change.

One of the things this means to me is that often, when we seek to ease other people’s pain, we are actually harming them. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% in favor of helping out my fellow human beings. But over the past few years, I’ve come to seriously question what “help” really looks like.

When help temporarily eases the pain of a situation that will inevitably occur again, this is just delaying the time when the pain becomes too much to endure and the sufferer decides to make a change. After that decision is made, when help is aiding the person in building their own mechanisms and solutions to ease and prevent pain, this is more likely to assist them to grow.

It is not easy to be the person in pain, the person who time and time again slaps on a band-aid, or the person who refuses to put on a band-aid. There is no one sweeping action or inaction that will apply to every situation we find ourselves in. I personally find it incredibly difficult to refuse help to anyone who asks for it, even if I am physically incapable of giving the help.

I try to ask myself “What will this action accomplish?” Is this a person who rarely reaches out and would really benefit from being able to vent? Is this a person who fears seeking professional help and will call on my ear over and over again instead? Am I the only one this person has to turn to, and if so, why is that?

Pain is the reason we change. Taking away pain can also push positive change further away. Sometimes we need to fall flat on our faces to know what we want to do after we get back up.

What was the best thing that pain created in your life?