How to make pain your friend

What if instead of avoiding the pain caused in our relationships, work, self-inquiry journeys and even sports — we lean into that pain and make it a welcomed guest?

Davida Ginter
4 min readJan 17, 2018
Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

“I can’t suffer anymore — I’m quitting this misery right now!”

This is the thought which crosses my mind pretty much every time I’m out jogging. Especially early in the morning, particularly during the first kilometer.

I’m not a professional runner. I started practicing five years ago and it gradually became a nourishing, meditative habit; when I’m able to stay consistent. Over those five years, I have identified three basic reactions to the first-kilometer-suffering issue:

  • To quit when it happens. Why suffer?…
  • To continue suffering. At least I’m getting exercise!

The last option literally changed not only how I run, but also the way I manage my business and even how I handle my interactions with people.

Leaning into the pain does not mean suffering, but embracing a totally new approach to dealing with that pain. This process is not an easy one, but it can be taught and practiced. The process basically consists a few levels:

1. Identify the exact spot of the pain.

Just like in jogging, where it is important to figure out whether it is your foot or knee that hurts, the same goes for your initiative: it is crucial to realize whether your pain derives from unmet goals, team relationship issues, financial instability, etc.

2. Avoid repression of the pain.

Acknowledge the pain, respect it and make room for it. You could be talking about it with others or with yourself, create an intentional conversation about what causes the painful situation and how it feels. The key here is to immerse yourself into it as a primary step to deal with it. This is not about complaining, this is about sharing, acknowledging and resolving.

3. Find someone who shares a similar pain and consult him/them.

When my knee started hurting after the first year of running, I found other people who suffered the same pain. It led me to several solutions, such as running in a different technic, or switching to light running shoes. When my business projects didn’t progress as I wished, I approached a few colleagues and friends who had experienced similar situations, and took their advice on what else I could try. At the most basic level, this step will help you discover that you’re not alone– and that is often a pain killer by itself!

4. Try out different attitudes or practices than the ones you’ve used so far.

This is not so much about solutions, as it is an overarching behavior or approach. Try those new paths even if they are counter intuitive or way out of your comfort zone. Decide on a time limited trial, and give it a chance — if the problem persists, at least you are being active about fixing what’s wrong. Just the feeling of being proactive could potentially ease the pain.

5. Take some deep breaths and imagine the pain as an opportunity to learn something new.

Visualize it as a growing pain; just as your bones and muscles grew as a child, your skills and your competencies are growing right now. Picture yourself in the “groan zone” (a term that describes the phase in which you’re groaning as you go through discomfort towards your goals and vision — I highly recommend to read some more about it). Painful, but necessary.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding”. ~Khalil Gibran

The key to the process of dealing with pain — whether it is within the entrepreneurship journey, leading processes, facing personal challenges or practicing a new skill — is to constantly reminding ourselves that though suffering is not a healthy state, working with pain can become a healing process. The difference between PAIN and SUFFERING is the underlying thinking: you suffer when you think of pain as a bad thing. You suffer when you let the pain hinder you from achieving what’s important to you. You suffer when you let your negative thoughts lead your decisions and actions, rather than your true passions and curiosity.

Pain is a guest in almost every journey we are walking. It is our choice whether to treat it as a persona non grata, and hope it will get the hint and disappear, or to welcome it, respect it, embrace it and learn the lesson that this guest intended to share with us.

Interested to read more articles by Davida Ginter about accelerating change and social impact driven leadership? Please visit Be the Change



Davida Ginter

Author of “Burning Out Won’t Get You There”. Co-Founder & CEO of Enkindle Global. Never say “no” to coffee & good conversations