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Pain vs. Pleasure: Are You Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable?

Pain vs. Pleasure: Are You Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable?

This post is a bit different from my usual, but be sure to read to the end- it just may be the missing piece, which aids you in breaking through and achieving your life and health goals.


I was listening to a talk from human behavior expert Tony Robbins recently, and he made a statement that really struck me. I’ve been thinking about this ever since, because I think it is very applicable to those of us struggling to make positive changes in our health and lives.


When asked why some people choose to stay stuck in an uncomfortable or unhealthy situation and not take action to pull themselves out of it, Tony made a succinct- yet very profound statement: “They’re not in enough pain yet

What does he mean by that?


The Psychology of Change


Tony’s philosophy is that there are two core human drivers that influence everything we do in life:

–> The drive to do things that bring us pleasure (and flood our body with feel-good hormones).

–> And the drive to avoid pain (being prompted to make a change to avoid the pain and stress associated with a situation, person or event).

Now the interesting thing is that he says that our desire to avoid pain is a far greater driver of behavior that the promise of pleasure- and I tend to agree. We will move heaven and earth when we’re really motivated by the thought of avoiding intense pain to ourselves or our loved ones. And although the potential for pleasure and a positive response is a great motivator, it doesn’t always provide the urgency and the “I’ve got to do this now!” energy required to make hard changes.


Sadly, even if we know that a specific change would be more pleasing to Allah, we still often hesitate or become bogged down in doubt.  But here’s something even more interesting:


Even when it comes to our need to avoid pain – and willingness to make changes in our life in order to avoid said pain, there’s an interesting twist to this. Whether or not you are motivated to make the change depends on your internal pain threshold. What do I mean by that?


Basically, each of us has a level of discomfort that we’re willing to live with. This is why we may not eat as well as we should- even though we know the rewards we’ll likely receive (reward =energy, clear skin, weight loss), or try a new treatment or therapy that may cause us to have to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zone, even though it could benefit us (reward= less pain, better digestion, or lower inflammation).


In each of these cases, although there are potentially very attractive benefits associated with making the change, we often fail to do so because we’re “comfortably uncomfortable”. Have you ever felt this way?


Basically, it means that we’ve gotten used to the way things are, acclimated to a certain level of pain, EVEN though things could be significantly better. However, the amount of effort required to do so is unattractive.
Unless there is enough pain.


So, Tony’s theory is not only are we more motivated by the need to avoid pain, but it has to be an INTENSE enough form of pain, in order for it to really get us moving. Think about that for a moment.



How Does This Play Out in Your Life?


Are there any areas of your life or health where you’re stuck, experiencing pain or discomfort, or just plain unsatisfied?


We all have situations like that in one area or another. So the question becomes: why haven’t we made a real concerted and consistent effort to change in that area? It’s because even though we wish things were better, we’re not yet in enough pain (physically, emotionally, or mentally) to push us over the edge into action.


This is why (all of us) can “say” what it is we should be doing, plan to do it, and even talk to other people about doing it—but never take the leap into actually taking action. The higher desire to avoid the discomfort of the work required to make the change and see it through- even though there could be immense rewards at the end of the road- outweighs the current pain and discomfort we’re in. Interesting, isn’t it?


And this theory can be applied to any area of our life or arena of achievement. But if we’re talking about health and wellness, what is it that is keeping you reliant on your current methods- even though they may not be working well for you?


Are you existing in a “comfortable” level of discomfort, or are you ready to break free and move towards something more- even though the path may not be completely clear yet – and will likely require some work?


When people reach that breaking point- that threshold where the current pain is so intense, that the potential stretching and discomfort of growth looks like a better alternative, you’ll hear them say things like: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” or the famous “..I just can’t take it anymore!!”.


These phrases indicate that we have reached such an unbearable level of pain, and that we literally can’t stay in that situation despite how we may have been restrained by “comfort” previously. In an effort to avoid this level of pain, we are now willing to make a positive change, even though it requires a lot of “unattractive” work.


I find this to be true of many women I encounter who are under a large amount of stress, dealing with an illness, or suffering from trauma or abuse – and this was also true for me at one point.


We can get so used to the pain, anxiety, isolation and loneliness, that digging in and experimenting with new ways of living and healing don’t hold much allure. However, I can see that so many of us are reaching our breaking point- and at that point, we can either give in, or move in an empowered way to explore and embrace alternatives that may provide some relief- despite the growing pains we might experience.

Nothing worthwhile comes without effort. And as your health and emotional well-being is your most important asset- it stands to reason that it takes real and consistent effort to move along the healing journey and come to a place of thriving.


The question becomes – are you willing to take the first step?


I know it can be hard to take those scary first steps on your own. This is why I created The Self{ish} Project: Sacred Self-Care for Muslim Women. In this 8 week online course, we not only focus on self-care and making your health and happiness a priority, but we explore topics like this one in order to uproot and heal the underlying issues that hold us back from unapologetically embracing our need and ability to heal – inside and out.


The current round of The Self{ish} Project has recently ended, but you can access the Self-study version here or join our email list to be notified of upcoming sessions. I’d love for you to join our intimate and supportive group of women who have said NO to being “comfortable” with discomfort. During the course, we go in-depth into our internal barriers to wellness, evaluate old stories, and set new patterns. All in an intimate and caring group of women – who like you, are ready for a change in their lives. The sisterhood that evolves in these groups if powerful and beautiful to watch unfold, mashaAllah.


Join us by registering here. The Self{ish} Project Registration


Alhamdulillah, I gave guided more than 400 women through this course over the last few years and the results have been amazing. I’m excited about offering this opportunity to my Muslim sisters and can’t wait to see the impact, bi’ithnillah.

As this is the first time I’m offering it to our community, you get to benefit from a discounted price that is in effect for this session only. Take advantage of this opportunity to reclaim your life and finally put yourself first.


I believe that one of the reasons we become and remain ill, depressed and overwhelmed, is that as a society, we are fixated on treating symptoms- when the root of the issue is much deeper. The root often lies in our hearts, minds and spirits. We can be our biggest hindrance to healing- or our own greatest champion.


The choice is yours.

Isn't It Time to Finally Put Yourself First, in Order to Live Your Best Life?

Join the "Inner Circle" and Access Your Free Sacred Self-Care Assessment!



About The Author


Sister Khadija Abdus Sabur is a Transformational Coach who works with Muslim women to peel back the layers, heal old wounds and rekindle a deep sense of self-love, spirituality, and purpose - which allows them to stand up, show up, and level up in every area of life. Sister Khadija supports dynamic women who are looking to overcome their inner obstacles and commit to filling their cup first, in order to live out and share their true potential with the world. Who do you know in need of this type of transformation?

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