I don’t know who first said the phrase, “No pain, No gain,” but I question its validity. The question is can one change or grow without pain? Growing up my brother often had physical pain in his bones as he grew. I did not. I had this weird growth pattern where I didn’t grow for years and then I would grow a bunch. But it didn’t hurt.
A few years ago, at my class reunion one conversational thread was “we loved learning, why don’t kids today love it too?” Of the almost twenty years I taught — every year more kids viewed school as a painful place to be. I had a rough go to convince them they didn’t have to go through a lot of pain to gain good grades. These same kids, however, knew every code and nuance of the latest video game. The difference was relevance. The kids didn’t see how knowing that a river flowed faster on the outside of curve meant more erosion. The difference was need. The kid reasons (and probably rightly so) if I do buy a house on a river and I want to know whether it is better to own a house on the inside or the outside of a curve — I’ll look on the internet.
I believe it is a lack of relevance and need that lead to pain and probably a lack of gain. If you had a chance to buy a house that is a little bit nicer than the one you have would you go through the process of change for that little bit of improvement… probably not. The same goes for a job or a relationship or even spiritual growth.
I went to get a diagnosis and left my job when my MCS was finally so bad I could barely walk. I left my marriage when there was not one bit of good left in it. I pursue my spiritual growth when I am so down the only place left to look is up. So no I don’t think we have to have pain to gain something. There is the whole inertia thing: a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by another force. For me and I imagine many humans that force that will finally break through my inertia is pain (fear) but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m slowly learning that when I feel a little bit of happiness, I tend to go into inertia mode and it takes a lot to get me striving for something better. I’m working on happiness and love as my motivating forces rather than pain or fear.