Two years ago, I was trail-running and snapped a bone in my foot. I hobbled home and hauled myself over to the orthopedist. Well, okay, my wife actually hauled me over, I couldn’t stand.
It was a clean break, which means the bone was completely separated and there was a risk that the pieces would heal out of position if I continued to walk on it. So I was put into an air-cast, then spent the next month on crutches, followed by a second month walking on the foot in the air-cast.
When I was finally allowed back in shoes, every step still caused intense pain. I was sure something was wrong, so I called the doctor. Everything’s fine he said, the bone is healed. He then shared how my month on crutches, while necessary, also wreaked a bit of havoc. The muscle becomes seriously atrophied and the connective tissue becomes constricted.
“I know it hurts,” he said, “but you’ve got to keep walking through it.” That was the only way for the muscle to rebuild and the connective tissue to become unstuck and re-pattern itself back into something more functional.
So, I walked, still convinced something was wrong. It shouldn’t hurt this much, I thought. But it did. And I kept walking.
Over time, I started to notice something. Actually, I started to notice what I wasn’t noticing. The pain. It was, in fact, starting to ease. The doc was right. Over a period of months, my foot began to get better. In fact, it was this very lack of continued “forced” movement into pain after a shoulder reconstruction years earlier (don’t ask, I was a gymnast as a kid, ack!) that is very likely why my should never re-patterned or returned to normal function.
But, here’s the bigger issue…
I’m very body-aware. I’ve studied, practiced and taught various forms of movement for my entire life. But I still wasn’t equipped to determine whether the pain that followed my time on crutches was good pain (to be leaned into and worked through) or bad pain (a signal to stop doing what I was doing). I’d never been on crutches before or experienced the level of atrophy, constriction and loss of function that it led to. This was new territory for me and I couldn’t draw upon my normal database for answers.
Sometimes we can figure these things out through introspection, learning and intuition. But other times, we need to turn to others to help us know whether what we’re feeling is good pain or bad pain. Either because we’re too close to the pain, emotionally and physically to be able to make an intelligent decision. Or because we simply don’t have the knowledge needed to intelligently translate the signals.
And that’s not just about our bodies, it’s also about our businesses and lives. Self-awareness, observation and intuition can cover you in most situations. But sometimes, they’re still not enough.
One of the strongest moves we can make in business and in life is to own the need to occasionally surrender and be open to receiving guidance.
So, I’m curious, have you guys ever had a similar experience? With your body, your business or life?
And, if so, how do know whether the pain is good or bad?
And who do you turn to if you’re having trouble figuring it out?
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