Athletes are often proud of their pain tolerance. How much pain we can push through is admired in many performance settings – and required in endurance sports, where a personal best time is often synonymous with a personal best in pain sensations as bodies are pushed to the limit.

But, how do you feel when you “tolerate” something? Usually frustrated, right?

Tolerance suggests a conflict. An active “not wanting of what is” combined with a begrudging or forced desire to experience it…not a formula for peace, happiness, or excellence in performance.

I am not suggesting that you need to enjoy pain. At the same time, there is an advantage to welcoming it, being open to it, finding meaning in it, and learning what it has to teach you. I discuss this in the following FOX17 interview:

All pain has something to offer. In sport, it is a sign of positive effort toward your goal. In relationships, pain often comes out of love and vulnerability, signaling you are still connected, but maybe something needs to be addressed. Pain in health often is a warning of danger, allowing us to respond appropriately. And even in chronic pain, where the pain signal is no longer a signal of damage, it invites the opportunity to practice acceptance of what is so that it doesn’t get in the way of what we value most.

No matter where you’re facing pain in your life, it’s important to move beyond a high pain tolerance. Instead, learn to identify it, embrace it, and find out what it’s trying to tell you. From there, you can work your way to a better you.

Dr. Eddie O’Connor is a nationally recognized clinical and sport psychologist, and has traveled the country speaking to schools, universities, teams, business organizations, and academic conferences about how to overcome obstacles to excellence.

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