This could be the most important word in your vocabulary!

This could be the most important word in your vocabulary!

We’re all striving for something.

For some it’s health and wellbeing. For others, happiness and contentment, joy and / or fun. And for others still it might be performance or productivity or success.

Regardless, no matter who you are and what you’re striving for, there will always be obstacles and challenges! 

I don’t mean this in a negative way; just as a statement of reality.

But the good news is that no matter who you are, what you’re striving for OR what obstacles might appear in your way, you can still strive, you can continue to work towards your goals and version of happiness, you can, as strange as this might sound, stay positive despite the negativity.

Let me explain …

In an earlier life, I dedicated many years of my professional life to pain. My PhD research, and more than a decade of my earliest years as a clinician / therapist / researcher, were devoted to understanding and helping people cope better with chronic pain.

As you might imagine, this was a complex area, an issue often described as having multiple biopsychosocial contributors, and so no one factor could explain everything for everyone. There was no secret!

That being said, a concept primarily developed by my supervisor and mentor, was found to play a significant role when we looked at those with chronic pain who coped better, those who reported pain yet still got on with and functioned well in their lives.

This magical factor? We called it pain self-efficacy. And it was the belief that one could exert some control over and get on with functional activities DESPITE ongoing pain. 

Those who functioned (and felt) better didn’t necessarily have less pain; they just didn’t let that pain overwhelm them or their lives as much. And I believe this construct is relevant to all of us whether we have pain or no.

Or, another way of thinking about it, is that those aforementioned challenges and obstacles can be thought of as a type of pain, so if we can develop a similar version of pain self-efficacy, we can get on with our lives, with our striving for happiness and success, DESPITE, well, despite whatever! 

So, in summary, try asking yourself some of the following questions and/or pondering some of the following suggestions:

  • can you keep going and do what you want to do DESPITE fear or anxiety, depression or low motivation?
  • do you have to listen to those self-defeating, self-critical thoughts in your head OR can you accept them for what they are, just thoughts, and move on DESPITE them?
  • could you get up and get going DESPITE low motivation (or mood)? I’m well aware this is easier said than done but … can you take even just a small step?

Ultimately, I guess it comes down to whether or not you believe you have to feel good to do good. But what if you could do good DESPITE not feeling good? What if you were good DESPITE not always feeling as such?