Learning (AKA Behavior Change) Occurs at the Point of Struggle

No Pain Principles, Meditation, PTSD, and Self-Regulation

I recently had a patient who was also managing recovery from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). As part of his recovery program, he was prescribed exercise and meditation. I had to smile as this may be the most brilliant of prescriptions on many levels and for many reasons, not mention that it reinforces the No Pain Principles from ALL GAIN, NO PAIN. These two activities may be the most underutilized and powerful “drugs” we have at our disposal to make the changes necessary to restore our self-regulation and change our lives for the better.

He mentioned how frustrated he gets while doing his meditation that his mind drifts to random thoughts and pull him away from focus on his breathing.

“Excellent!” I said.

He cocked his head to the side with a confused look much like when I’m reading to my dog and he looks at me and wonders what I’m trying to convey. (don’t ask)

“That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. It’s not just your ability to hold your focus on your breath, but rather, your ability to recognize when you’ve lost focus and to bring yourself back to the moment. Back to the breath.”

“It’s supposed to be hard,” I said. “Changing the brain should be difficult and challenging. Learning occurs at the point of struggle.”

“Oh? Now, I get it,” he said as he began to smile too.

Why do you think changing your behavior for the better is so difficult and challenging?

Because it’s supposed to be.

If it was easy to make changes, the changes would never stick.

If it was easy, our attention and efforts would be constantly pulled in this direction or that direction with no real progress begin measured. No positive change. Busy but nothing to show for it.

The next time your faced with a behavior changing decision, recognize it. Smile. Revel in the fact that you’re about to make a favorable change that will enhance your future self.

Each time you exercise your “decision muscle” and make the best choice, it gets easier. This spills over into every aspect of your lift, too, by the way. These are new connection in your brain that get stronger with use.

So, the next time you struggle, know that probably doing it right, and you’re about to make a change for the better.

Quick Advice:

Have a strategy or a plan in place before the tough decisions come.

Missing too many workouts?

Join a gym that’s on your way home from work and take your workout clothes with you every day.  Better yet, go to bed earlier, get up earlier and get your workout in before work.

Prepare your meals ahead of time and store them in the fridge, so they’re ready when it’s time to eat.

Missed your morning meditation? Take the first 10 minutes of lunch time and get it done.

Embrace the struggle!

Get the 7 Secrets to a Pain-Free Comeback to the Gym!



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Shane Mclean

    Makes complete sense to me after reading this of course. Great post Bill.