Choose the Helpful Pain

Our tribal ancestors had to travel hundreds of miles to find food. This basic necessity was tough to come by–that is until we developed agriculture. Hooray! Our suffering was cured.

But we had to work so hard for that food. We toiled all day in the heat just to survive. In search of an easier way, we built machines to do the work for us. Now we could let the machines do all the work while we get to relax. Life is grand!

But then we realized how many other problems there were outside of pure survival. We were a long ways towards thriving.

While this story shows how far we’ve come, it also makes one point very clear–life is hard. Just when you think you’ve solved all your problems, another one springs up. It seems like a never-ending cycle. Regardless of how much you want to escape the pain, you’ll never be able to.

The good news is that you can choose your pain.

On a long walk

Imagine your life as a trail, and you’re walking barefoot. The goal is to get to a higher elevation to avoid getting hit by a flood. The path you’ve been walking is flat, and there’s nothing around it–not even a tree. You’re walking along when it suddenly forks into two directions.

On first glance, one way is remarkably similar to the path you’ve been walking. The other path has a steep drop-off with many sticks and rocks in the way.

Which way do you choose?

Initially, it may seem that the first path is a no-brainer. The walk has been fine so far. Let’s just keep going.

But it’s never that simple. The walk of life is never an easy one.

When you look closer, you see that the easy path has thorns scattered across the ground–not so good for a barefoot traveler. Looking farther ahead, you also notice that the path slopes downhill as far as you can see.

So what about the other path? There’s a steep drop-off initially which puts us in flood territory, and the sticks and rocks will be painful to traverse.


But when you look farther ahead, you see that the drop-off is merely a valley, and the path clears up after. Once you’ve crossed the treacherous valley, the path heads straight up a large hill with lots of trees at the top.

Now, which do you choose?

The path that starts off easy ends in pain. The path that starts with pain ends in comfort.

C’est la vie

Such is life. If you’re going to keep walking down the path of life, there is no way of escaping the pain altogether. Struggle will hit you one way or another.

The way to traverse this path is by choosing the pain that is beneficial to you.

The first path has much less pain overall. You may need to deal with a thorn in your foot every once in a while, but overall it’s not bad.

The real problem comes if the water levels start to rise. If you take the easier path downhill, you put yourself in real danger.

The second path has much more pain. But the pain in this case is helpful. You struggle in order to get to a better place.

Pain on it’s own is not good. In the correct direction, pain is progress.

Financial paths

You take the comfortable path when you spend your entire paycheck. Every time you choose to buy new clothes instead of saving and investing, you take one more step on the comfortable path.

You may be able to walk down this path for a while. But sooner or later, the flood will come through surprise medical bills, home and auto repairs, or an unexpected death in family. If you keep walking further and further down the comfortable road, you’ll get swept away.

The painful path is the way to financial independence. The steep drop-off and messy path is when you’re saving for your emergency fund. You need to sacrifice a lot in order to build it up.

It’s tough work, but its worth it. And once you’re done building the emergency fund, then you can start investing that money.

That’s when you start walking uphill.

Anyone who’s been on a hike will tell you that walking uphill is no easy task either. It takes dedication and stamina to do it for a long time. But every step made uphill puts you in a better position that you were before.

Even if you haven’t reached the top of the hill yet, you’ll still be protected from the smaller floods.

And eventually, you’ll reach the top of the hill and no flood will be able to hurt you. Then all you need to do is sit under the shady trees and figure out the helpful pain you will choose next.

Thanks for reading!

Featured photo source: Toomas Tartes on Unsplash

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5 thoughts on “Choose the Helpful Pain”

  1. “The path that starts off easy ends in pain. The path that starts with pain ends in comfort.”
    This is so true! I’m working on building my emergency fund and it’s a lot of work. I’m saying “No” to many things right now, but it will be worth it in the end!

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