Are You Just Trying to Avoid the Pain?

Are You Just Trying to Avoid the Pain?

None of us like pain but some level of discomfort today is often the price we must be willing to accept in order to avoid even greater pain in the future. Our ability to experience pain is a vital feedback loop for everything we do in life. Sometimes feeling a small amount of pain is part of the path to progress.

Twenty+ years ago I took up cycling. I vividly recall participating in my first multi-day charity ride with hundreds of other riders. I brimmed with excitement and nervousness because I didn’t know exactly what to expect. As we were getting underway, our team captain told me not to worry about taking a spill or two because it would help me avoid larger falls in the future. These were wise words because I indeed had a couple of minor crashes that left some “road rash” but ultimately provided experience and helped me avoid more substantive crashes. If I could accept some discomfort, I could expect to participate and benefit from the ride.


Pain is useful because it gives us immediate information on what works (and what doesn’t). Without this data we have difficulty forging a path in the direction of our most important objectives.

In our financial lives, we generally want everything to be “pain free.” We want the road between where we are now, and where we want to go, to take us along a brand-new highway, lazy and wide. But alas, the world doesn’t usually work this way and our path often has to go through areas of potential danger and pain.

The abstract concept of pain is one thing but we don’t understand it fully until pain is experienced. Pain is a combination of perception and expectation. There have been research studies that show the huge differences between how actual physical pain is percieved by those with chronic pain conditions, (e.g. burn patients), versus those who have never experienced long-term pain. Those with long-term pain temper their expectations and adjust; those new to experiencing pain are constantly scrambling for solutions.


Perhaps the best example of “no pain, no gain” from a financial perspective can be found among lottery winners. These individuals typically treat their winnings far differently than someone saving each month from their job. Since they won the lottery by chance (luck), they didn’t experience any of the normal “pain” that occurs when making a trade-off between current consumption and saving for the future. This often is a recipe for disaster.

Think about the things that you’re trying to accomplish financially. Inevitably, achieving these goals will involve some discomfort, uneasiness, or outright pain. Embrace a little “road rash” so that you can improve your financial future. Start there. Ready for a real conversation?