If you listen to any strength coach or athletic coach they will tell you that life (in athletics and off the field or track) is 80% mental and 20% physical. Our body and mind constantly offer us signs, signals and bio feedback loops; question is; are we listening? Even in language we see the paradox between non-verbal vs. verbal communication, 60% of all communication is derived from body language, another 30% in the tone and only 10% of the actual linguistic representation. You will gain much about the person’s state, interest, disinterest, likes, dislikes and what they place meaning on by learning how to read a person’s body language and most of what a trained NLP or coach will see is the sub conscious at work.

Our physical body’s work the same way; our physical body in sport and in the world, at work, at home, with your partner, your kids – our body and brain is constantly telling us something, and it does this in bio feedback loops. Energy is a cycle.

The Mental State, Is A State of Mind:

The interest in peak performance has in recent years, well maybe not so recent, as science and the evolutionary growth of the human species will show – that peak performance isn’t just for the athletic fields or arena, but the workplace as well. Peak-Performance techniques , once used only in high level Olympics, secret ops (as in recon operations, military and space programs); have become increasingly explored in tv shows, articles, movies, life coaching and even in schools. We all need a consistent edge and in today’s busy world, this isn’t always healthy.

What does this have to do with Chronic Pain? Most pain wasn’t so chronic. Pain becomes chronic after long periods of body compensation and when we choose not to listen to “that aching back,” or “those tight traps,” till one day you herniate a disc or go into adrenal fatigue.  It all doesn’t just happen over –night, we just excel at creating coping strategies that do not serve the betterment of our health.  This article is about how to re-gain the competitive edge, with ease and grace, without the need to suffer to succeed, how you can choose to let go and start listening to your body, as well as start re-directing it out of pain and into a space that you feel confident to perform and live the life you envision.

Chronic Pain is Physical, Mental and Emotional:

If we back track to ancient Greece, you will see the birth place of “mental training.” The importance of an athlete’s mental state was recognized more than 2,000 years ago at the cradle of the Olympics.  Nowadays, we understand the paramount role of the mental state in any successful position (whether it be winning a race medal, or just being able to walk without searing pain).  The mental strategies used in Olympic level sports, military programs and space programs are the same as those found at the foundation of sports psychology, life coaching and NLP. We just approach it a little differently and with a linguistic representation the non-athlete or corporate person can relate to.

In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he talks about the art of finding your purpose; that “greatness is not a function of circumstance, greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline. He proves this by asking us to draw three circles (in a triangular format, so that they all cross each-other in the middle). The top circle you write “what am I most passionate about,?” the second circle you write “what am I best at the world at,?” and the third you write,” what’s my economic engine.?” Your purpose is where they all meet in the middle.  There was once a time when we said a “Jack or Jill or all trades,” was a good thing, but science will show the most productive people choose what they are best at and excel at it. If you choose something that you are not passionate about, or where you just settle –you will be unhappy. It’s an easy equation. And guess what that leads to – low energy, fatigue, and pain.

In the book “Red Gold: Peak Performance Technique of the Russian and East German Olympic Victors,” by Grigori Raiport, M.D, P.H.D (Motivational Psychologist for the USSR Team Olympics), he writes, “It’s believed that a Jack of all trades cannot be molded into a master in any single discipline. Instead, the educators look for unexpected brilliance that could be the mark of talent in a specific area. They are then molded into mastery.  Your external environment, is just as important as your internal because both directly relate to the viability of your health and happiness long term.  In order to determine the outer limits of human potential, the primary task is to first define the human being; which we concentrate on three essential area of human nature; physical, mental and emotional. If one is out of balance, the other two will also be unbalance.

The human body has a built in program to find balance, to restore the body and mind to a healthy state, but life sometimes gets in the way. We work too much, we sleep too little, we pop pills rather than take the time to self discover how to heal ourselves – the list is endless, and this is what I believe leads to chronic pain.

Explore the State of Natural Inspiration:

What moves you ? What excites you? What inspires you to get up every day?

If you can’t answer these questions, then it’s time for a reality check and you have some serious work ahead of you. Congrats, because you have a great opportunity here to take charge of your life, your purpose and above all else, your health.  Pain never exists without a cause. It is always a symptom of some physical or mental disorder. There is always a stress producing factor when there is pain, and your body does not recognize the difference between physical or mental – it just feels pain. This displeasure serves as a motivational force; that motivational force is your body and mind is telling you something needs to change. Thus, pain can actually provide you with the catalyst to initiate change; and it can be a progressive force.

The East Vs. West:

“There is a distinct difference between the east and west; a certain glorious progress of the human species. The very complexity of our nervous system is the result of the evolutionary process stimulated by a general motive – optimal avoidance of displeasure. “

In the east, many leaders of enlightenment attribute their ability to find the source of happiness, by letting go of all suffering and coming to terms with detachment. Many geniuses, east and west credit their sufferings with having elevated themselves through overcoming obstacles. Obstacles and challenges are necessary so that we can choose what we do not want in life, and show us that we have the freedom and will to choose.

In the West most people are reared with the idea that pain is something to be avoided at all cost. Aversion to pain has been imbued in our historical lineage since childhood. We learn through experience. Quantitative reality shows us that pain is merely a springboard for transformation and development. Pain is not abnormal, it is a way of life. You cannot know pleasure, if you do not know pain. It is the duality of our existence.

The Quest for Excellence:

The first objective to riding the body of chronic pain is to explore that special state of inspiration in which a particular when you surmounted great obstacles, when you felt at peace in mind, body and soul and whatever that memory is, when we remember it – our brain immediately re live it and release serotonin, and happy chemicals into our systems. The goal is then to teach you how to re-create this state of free will and apply it when you need to take a step back and restore, recharge, re-wire.  The next step is to identify and accept what is holding back or standing in your way. As the old saying goes, it’s usually our own self that prevents us from both facing the fear and moving past it. The idea is to get to know who you are, what abilities you possess to move on and where you want to go. Once you have a goal and a timeline, then you have the freedom to do the work and the permission of the self to start building a future rather than re-creating the past.

Learning this tool, and let my first say it sounds easy, but takes time, guidance and practice…and patience, but overcoming my own chronic pain led me to understand the there is a vast, untapped reserve of strength available to all of us and that we are each capable of far greater achievements than we habitually produce, that somehow our mental powers, either propel us forward or self-sabotage our efforts and hold us back. If we can learn to move past this fear, and the fear of pain, on the other side you are able to tap into what we call “optimal functioning,” when one feels invincible and full of personal power.

Fear of Change:

“Be the change, you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi

Most of us have a fear of change, because we may lose something.  We fear change because we may not attain the goal. Thus, we are resistant to it. I have many clients that say to me; “but what if I am in more pain, what if I don’t get better,” and my response is always the same, “you have to ask yourself, the worst case scenario is that you won’t change, your pain won’t go away, and what would that mean? Does that mean you just stop trying? Would it not be better to try then to stay the same?” Besides, if you need scientific data there are hundreds of reports and publications that will state; “the worst thing for chronic pain, is to do nothing.” Humans are designed to move, and we designed to flourish.  Once the client can realize one’s perceived state; pain free and their own personal ability to use the power of their mind, as a coach we then start to show them the physical tools so that they can learn to summon forth at will and make that mental shift.

The brain responds by integrating the nervous system and we start to burn off those mental warts (laziness, procrastination, insecurity); which are very real and painful, but you cannot “protect” these flaws like a sort of “diplomatic immunity.” Your pain, does not define you, unless you let it. For instance; think of it this way, if you were stuck in a pitch, black room for years (think of this as your pain), and suddenly someone starts to guide you towards the a switch , and you fumbled around a bit, maybe even stumbled around and then you find that switch and you turn it on.  The light in the room would be at first blinding and glaring and even though you suffer small sharp pains you can feel confident that the light is now turned on, and you do not have to live in the dark anymore, unless you choose to switch it off. These fears have a single cause, the inherent conundrum of our atomic age, the same human nervous system that paradoxically contains all those infinite possibilities we are trying to bring forth.

You Always Have  a Choice:

The key towards unlocking the power of living pain free is to first make the choice to not be defined by it, to not let pain define even one day. Even if this is a mental objective to start, it will give birth to the physical manifestation of better health. There is a ripple effect in self-control and affirmations. When a person learns self-control in one area of life, it will automatically change how he or she relates to all his or her areas of life and feel compelled to exert that mental fortitude further. If you exercise your mind and your body diligently, you will develop the strength to move past your pain, but if you let it slide, it will overtake you.” Exercise in any form and focused intention on breath are the two fundamentals towards starting this journey. Both work to activate the neo and pre frontal cortex of the brain to secrete serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine levels etc – which in turn restore and relax the body’s systems. Spend 30mins minimum per day every day for 3 weeks and you will no doubt start to feel a shift towards living a pain free, happy and healthier lifestyle. By choosing to let go of pain, removing the barriers and conscious patterns we build up ourselves and by taking charge of your life – this is the first step towards living a life free of pain and optimal well-being.

Next week we will take this one step further and discuss movement and pain. How to safely exercise, and the secret behind movement coaching and corrective movement for clients with chronic pain.



“Red Gold: Peak Performance Technique of the Russian and East German Olympic Victors,” by Grigori Raiport, M.D, P.H.D ( Motivational Psychologist for the USSR Team Olympics).

Good to Great by Jim Collins –

About the Author: Sarah Jamieson

Sarah Jamieson has written 155 posts on this site.

Sarah is the owner and head movement coach at Moveolution; a Vancouver based consulting company focused on the integration of movement and recovery science. Bridging the gaps between the clinical and performance fields Sarah’s passion stems from lifelong passion of Yoga, Jujitsu, and Qi Gong; which she integrates into her coaching practice. She is a full time social change maker, a ‘run-a-muker’ of everything outdoors and repeatedly engages in random acts of compassion.

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