No Pain, No Gain

You know the old adage, “no pain, no gain.”  

For some, it conjures up an image of an old school coach with a whistle hanging around his neck, red-faced and unsympathetic as his athletes puke all over the field and writhe in pain, rubbing out their muscle cramps.  And, while he may seem harsh, he knows this hard work is a prerequisite for glory. 

Others picture their personal trainer, demanding another rep, pushing them beyond their comfort zone, dangling promises of a leaner and meaner physique in front of them. 

It’s not much different in academics. A recurring statement in my high school classrooms was, “This is so hard, Miss.” Except, the cramping wasn't muscular in nature; it was happening in their brains. My response always went something like this: “Yes, I know. If the work isn’t difficult, if it isn’t making your brain hurt a little, you're not learning.” I usually got a few dramatic eye rolls in response, signaling that I had won the debate.   

That’s right, learning hurts. Think about it: if you breeze through an assignment without nary a head scratch, you’re not learning; you're demonstrating mastery of the subject. That’s fantastic when you’re taking a final exam but not so great when you’re supposed to be learning something new. 

Here’s where you’ll need to change your mindset.  It’s just human nature to avoid pain by gravitating towards things that are mentally and physically comfortable.  That might work in certain circumstances, but when it comes to sharpening your mental skills, it’s a no-go.  

So, what are you supposed to do next time your brain is feeling the burn?

  1. Embrace it.  Tell yourself, “This is part of learning. This is good.”  
  2. Power through.  Instead of throwing in the towel, resolve to see the task through. It will require time, energy, and endurance.  But, doesn’t anything that’s worth it?
  3. Work it out. Be creative here. You’ll have to experiment with different methods and attack it from different angles. Seek help from resources such as textbooks, friends, teachers, tutors, even the internet.  
  4. Give yourself credit.  When you finally nail it, remember to congratulate yourself.  You’ll begin seeking this self-praise more and more, which means you’ll seek challenging learning opportunities more often.

These four steps will change your life. Do them and do them often, and you will learn to love the burn!


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Annmarie FerryComment