When The Pain Gets Great Enough - Erin's Inside Job

When The Pain Gets Great Enough

Every life change is preceded by some level of pain. When the pain gets great enough, you change. What does your threshold look like?

Change is hard.

If change were easy, people would have no problem with it and we wouldn’t have books and workshops on how to change our lifestyles or eat healthier or stop unwanted habits.

I’ve often spent time complaining about a situation, but was unwilling to put in the work required to actually change it. It’s just easier to say words than do actions.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned over the years: when the pain gets great enough, you’ll change.

Each person has a different threshold for pain. Some make changes easily as a result of the discomfort felt when they are in an unwanted situation. Others are so used to living a life of many complaints and little action that it takes something jarring to spur them into change.

Let’s go through a couple examples so you understand what I mean.

Imagine someone wants to start getting up earlier in the morning. He or she will repeatedly hit the snooze button until the last minute and then rush to get ready and out the door. For some people this is fine. My early mornings, for example, I give myself 15 min to change, wash my face, brush my teeth, grab a meal bar, and head out the door. For some, their morning become a stressful adventure in getting ready for work as quickly as possible.

If that person is only mildly affected by that routine, it’s unlikely that it will change. It might not be until they start forgetting things or suffering tardiness consequences at work that they decide to actually commit to a new one.

Another example is adopting a healthier lifestyle. As an aside, I don’t like the verb dieting. It implies a short-lived change in habits that is not sustainable. To live a truly healthy life, a person needs to define what that means to them and make that the way they live their life.

How many times have you read weight loss stories that start with “I just had enough?” For these people, the amount of pain they had gone through had finally reached a cap. They were unwilling to endure any more and this was the catalyst for change. If you repeatedly complain about your weight, how you feel, or how you look, but don’t take steps to change those things, you simply haven’t reached your pain threshold yet.

Finally, let’s take my example.

I’m an intelligent person. I know that driving drunk is wrong, I know that doing drugs is wrong, and I know that stealing is wrong. None of this changed my behavior while I was using. The consequences I experienced weren’t painful enough for me to change what I was doing. Sure, I was miserable, but as someone who lived with undiagnosed depression for many years, I was capable of withstanding a tremendous amount of pain.

For me, I had to lose everything I had in order for me to change. I had to reach a level of pain that I hadn’t experienced before.

As time has gone on, my pain threshold has gotten much lower. Living in discomfort is not something I’m willing to put myself through anymore, so I’m much quicker to make changes if I feel like my life is getting a little out of control.

Think about things in your life that make you uncomfortable. Things that you complain about or wish were different. Maybe it’s your relationship. Maybe it’s work. Maybe it’s whatever. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I complain about the most?
  • What would it take for me to change it?
  • Why am I not willing to make those changes?

As silly as it sounds, sometimes I just don’t know that I have a choice. I’ve worked in more than one job I hated, but it never occurred to me to find a new one. I had to be told by someone on the outside that maybe I should just quit and find a new job. Sitting down and asking yourself the above questions may help bring some clarity and shed some light on pain and discomfort you didn’t even know you were experiencing.

One final note: I know change is hard. More than being hard, it’s scary. Even though we may be uncomfortable or in our own version of pain, sometimes it’s easier to stay with what we know than to make a change where we don’t know the outcome. Think about your own worth as a person and realize that you don’t deserve whatever pain you are sitting in. As you start making smaller changes and learning your own value, your capacity to endure pain will start to decrease.

There are small changes and there are big changes, and each comes with their own level of preceding discomfort. The question to ask yourself today is how much are you willing to endure?

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.


  • Have you ever put off making a change?
  • What did it take you to finally make it?

34 comments on “When The Pain Gets Great Enough

  1. This is very true! For me though, one of the hardest things is when you ARE doing everything you can to make a change and it’s just not happening. For example, I was in a terrible terrible job situation for two years. I had definitely had enough and was doing everything I could to get out of the situation (applying to jobs every day, making my resume perfect, etc) but nothing was happening for me and I couldn’t financially leave my job with nothing else. What should a person do in those situations? It’s so hard!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…Monthly Must-Haves: August 2016My Profile

    1. Totally agree. That’s so frustrating. My only advice is just to keep working towards that goal and eventually you’ll get there. Sometimes the change doesn’t happen immediately :/

  2. You always know just what to say! Yes, I almost 100% agree that the biggest change happens when we are fed the F up. With clients, it’s cool to witness the change (when they don’t always realize it). I could tell them time and time again that they need to move more. Eat better foods. Eat out less. And they’ll say yeah yeah I know, but won’t do it until they’ve reached a certain point where they can’t take it anymore!

    1. That’s always super frustrating. I just want everyone to be out of those painful situations but it’s not me who decides when they’ve had enough

  3. Kind of along the same lines of resisting change- i suck at asking for help when I need it (like real help not like stupid stuff, lol)… I think it’s hard for people to admit something in life isn’t going the way they wanted it to… no matter no big or small. Glad to read in the comment above things are good and you’re just being introspective!
    Dietitian Jess recently posted…Thinking Out Loud ThursdayMy Profile

    1. I refused to ask for help for a long time so I totally get that. Now I get so uncomfortable I’m like PLEASE SOMEONE HELP ME 🙂

  4. I so agree with this; God took me lovingly like a kind Father through some years of trial. And He even used things that were painful in my life and used them for my good, and I can say that the change was SO good for me. Was it easy? No, but the change was what helped me grow.

    Agreed with this… <3
    Emily recently posted…Why I Don’t Take Body Transformation PhotosMy Profile

  5. This is so spot on. And the thing is, sometimes you talk to someone – a family member, a friend – and they complain about something and you try to suggest how they can make positive changes and then they go back and keep doing what they were doing… until they come to you to complain again…. and then I say “you’ll take action when you’re ready, when you truly had enough”.
    It’s hard to watch someone – yourself or someone close to you – go through pain, but they can only make changes themselves and sometimes that takes time.
    San recently posted…13.1 lessons I learned from training for and running a half marathonMy Profile

  6. Nothing changes if nothing changes. I tell this my clients every single day. And if I have to hear “it’s hard” one more time I think I my throw myself off something. Of course it hard..if it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you. I find, especially these days, people don’t want to do the work. Just give the quick fix. Well that just doesn’t work, nothing is learned by someone else doing it for them or giving a quick fix. I’m teaching folks how fish. Every behavior meets a need, I’m not saying it’s healthy, but a need is getting met. I help identify the need then help to get that need met in a different way. You will be amazed at the “games” people play to stay stuck in a situation especially those “I’ve tried everything folks” and those who complain all the time. First thing I have them do is gratitude list. Open the door to change by being grateful for what is already in existence.

    1. Love that! Yes, it’s super frustrating when you try and help others who aren’t ready to be helped. I love your metaphor and here’s to hoping that people will care about themselves enough to improve their lives!

  7. Great post! I used to really embrace change as something positive, but lately I’ve let fear of uncertainty hold me back. Your post has really motivated me to make some changes I’ve been putting off for too long! Thank you 🙂 Love reading your blog.

    1. They’re at least on their way if they’re looking for help, but sometimes they don’t realize how much work it will take.

  8. I’ve experienced something like this recently. I am so averse to change, but when I realized that I was affecting the people I love most, it was time to make some changes. Luckily they are changes to benefit me, too.
    I think my fear of the unknown…and fear of rejection…makes it even tougher to make important choices like this.
    As always, great post!
    Catherine @ A Cup of Catherine recently posted…Sparkling SimplicityMy Profile

    1. Absolutely. Fear is often the root of a lot of my issues. It’s really tough to try and get through it. Baby steps…

  9. Your writing is truly amazing. I keep trying to subscribe to your blog and just don’t get the email. Checked my spam and Its not there either, any other way to subscribe to your new posts?

    1. Thank you so much! That’s so weird. If you have Bloglovin you can follow me on there but if not, shoot me your email address and I’ll see if I can manually add it!

  10. oh yes, I have totally put off change. During the depths of my eating disorder and laxative abuse, I knew what I was doing was so wrong but I kept doing it anyways. I felt that high from using those behaviors and I continued to use them until I hit rock bottom. Change is so hard, but it is possible!

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