When I was in high school and college, I ran cross-country. In addition to the fact that I didn't inherit a runner's body from my parents, I wasn't a born runner either. However, I was determined to persevere against all odds. As a consequence, pain became an ever-present reality during my running years. When practice began in the fall, I accepted the pain in my legs or lungs as a motivator to get me into shape. All my extra hours of practice never transformed me into a world class athlete, but I did get into condition and learned a very valuable lesson for the race of life.

While running as a "fighting Muskie" at Muskingum College, I was to use pain instead of trying to avoid it. Pain forced me to deal with my lack of talent. When I didn't run because of the pain, I merely postponed the day of reckoning when I had to run. Pain motivated me.

What is true about pain and cross-country is true about pain and life. We pay attention to pain. A toothache gets us to the dentist. A sour throat gets us to our family physician. Financial pain forces us to budget. Here are some ways to make suffering work for you rather than against you.

  1. Face the pain head-on. Instead of attempting to numb the hurt by various coping mechanisms, face pain directly. Suppose you have a weight problem that is causing you both personal and medical pain. Don't cover-up your feelings of pain and concern. Use the pain generated with your weight issues to motivate you to lose unwanted excess baggage.
  2. View pain as a partner and not an enemy. Pain can be a very good friend of yours if you accept it as one. Denying pain's benefits will merely cause you to lose an advantage that you could utilize. If your pain is financial, address pain's concerns. Work on a financial game plan to get you out of the red. Denying the pain and red ink merely guarantees that you will fail. Make pain a companion that spurs you on to resolution of your money worries.
  3. Get a clear picture of the pain that you are facing. Sometimes, we attack a problem without much to show for it after weeks of work. Either we don't have a good grasp of the pain or there are multiple issues behind it. This is particularly true with interpersonal problems. If you are having marital problems, some of the pain is a result of what is going on now in your marriage. However, some of the pain has to do with unsolved issues from your childhood. Both pains need to be addressed or else neither pain nor the problem will be relieved.
  4. Develop a pain-reducing plan. Address what the pain is and then determine the necessary steps that need to be taken to resolve the problem. For example, you may want another job or a promotion, but you are being held back due to some educational needs. Write down what you will have do to upgrade your education and how you will go about obtaining it. This will reduce the pain and anxiety while getting you to your goal.
  5. Make your pain-reduction plan into a contest. If your pain has to do with a thorny issue at work, make your quest to defeat the painful situation into a contest-a contest between you and the daunting dilemma. Follow the above suggestions and then view the problem solving as a game. Imagine yourself running a victory lap after you have beaten back the demons of threatening disaster. Be creative and enjoy the effort. The vast majority of life is spent in the time between the setting of your goals and obtaining them. Focus upon the victory, but also don't forget to enjoy the process of getting to the victory lap. Enjoy the contest on your way to victory.

It won't be long before the fall will arrive again. I'll remember the years of running cross-country-especially the pain associated with it. Whether you ran or not, remember the lesson of life that pain taught me.