Well, if not pain, how about a little discomfort?
Most of us tend to make decisions in life that take us along the path of least resistance. We make decisions that allow our lives to be more comfortable and less stressful. As we settle into our comfortable lives, our passion and drive tend to decrease to a level that could cause us to stop producing and stop growing. If you are content with not growing and not changing, stop reading and continue doing what you are doing. If, however, you desire to develop new skills and continue to work toward a life of excellence, consider the following.
When I think about the most productive time in my life, I can easily point to the time when I was the most uncomfortable. I had little money, I was in a new place, and I had new challenges to face daily. This pressure, or that pit deep in your stomach, or that splinter in your brain that keeps you up at night can be a very powerful tool. If you don't have that feeling anymore, maybe it's time to invite them back in.
I have been at the point in my life when I lost that drive and lost the urgency to push hard. I became complacent, bored, and ordinary. I suggest 5 actions that can help you add a little helpful pain back into your life and help you push towards excellence.
1. Volunteer for projects/positions/tasks/speeches/etc.
The key to this is to volunteer for something outside of your comfort zone and outside your area of expertise. This will force you to use mental muscles and skills you haven't used in a while. The quickest way to become stagnant is to keep doing what you are doing, and continue to be afraid to try something new. Here is a recent example from my own life. As a guitar player, I am very comfortable playing blues or rock. My typical environment for this is in a bar where it is loud and people have more going on around them than just the music. So in other words, a generally low stress environment. I found myself playing the same things over and over. So, to take my playing to the next level I volunteered to play solo acoustic guitar at a friend's wedding. This is on the opposite extreme as far a "gigs" go, a totally exposed environment where every note is heard and everyone is focused on you, at least for a few minutes.
Some other possibilities include:
Joining a book club
Teaching a class, tutoring, or giving lessons on something
Asking for an extended role at work or to lead a new project
Give a speech at a wedding or anniversary or some sort of gathering
2. Talk to new people....aka strangers.
What better way to meet new people and learn something new than to make it a regular habit to talk to new and different people. I had a friend in grad school who was very interesting and knowledgable himself, but he was also a master at starting a conversation with a stranger. He had the ability to quickly get to know someone and learn their interests. He would then spend time discussing their interests and passions and learn all he could from them. This can be a very valuable tool. I encourage you to start making a regular habit of talking to at least one new person each day.
3. Move your exercise from the gym to the great outdoors.
I'm reminded of Rocky in Rocky IV when he travels to Russia to train for a match. He runs in the snow, climbs mountains, and trains in an old barn using homemade equipment. Along with some serious muscle, he was also building perseverance and determination. The extreme conditions are a great way to put a spark into your exercise and in your life. If you can get up at sunrise and run in 10o weather, just imagine how much easier it will be to face that difficult client at work or have the mental toughness to push through that 2pm slump and finish the day strong!
4. Help someone else.
A great way to gain some perspective on your life and re-insert some passion is to help other people. This could include helping an elderly person clean up their yard or helping a single mother buy some groceries for her family. The ultimate example would be to take a mission trip to a third world country and help build houses or bring clean water to a village. Look at how grateful people can often be over things we regularly take for granted. This can really re-focus your prospective and make you a little more grateful of your own situation.
5. Rethink your vocabulary.
I have read about this from other people, but it is a really powerful tool. A classic example is to say "I get to go to work today" vs "I have to go to work today". This really focuses you on the positives. I like to take it a step further and use it to remind myself of all the benefits available because of that statement. For example, I get to go to work today, therefore I get to provide for my family, I get to have a meal tonight, I get to sleep in a warm bed. To take it another step, look at the negatives you avoid. For example, I get to go to work today, therefore I don't have to job search, I don't have to worry about finding money for groceries, I don't have to worry about foreclosure. Apply this to all areas of your life.....I get to exercise today, therefore I get to have energy to play with my kids, or I don't have to take cholesterol medication. It's clear to see that using positive language puts you in a better state of mind about your tasks and responsibilities and it can also help you to remember all the positive outcomes of that action as well as all the negatives you are avoiding.
Take a look at your life today. Are you happy with it? Are you passionate and pursuing excellence? If not, consider letting a little pain into your life to jumpstart you back on the road of passionate living.