Column: Playing through the pain

Posted 1/30/23

The game was close, there was less than two minutes to go, and the field was a mix of snow and slush. On the previous play, his hand had been caught between two helmets as he attempted to make the …

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Column: Playing through the pain


The game was close, there was less than two minutes to go, and the field was a mix of snow and slush. On the previous play, his hand had been caught between two helmets as he attempted to make the tackle. When the play was over and he made his way back to the defensive huddle, he refused to look at his hand because he knew it had been broken. He didn't want to come out of the game. As he took up his position as an outside linebacker, the opposing team threw a pass play in his direction, and with his good hand he was still able to make a play on the ball and deflect the pass. He played through the pain.

That story was shared with me about a high school athlete who had the heart of a lion. After that last play his coach called him to the sideline as he knew something wasn't right and he took him out of the game. And indeed, his hand was broken.

Each of us has probably lived through at least one season of life, if not many where we also played through the pain. It might have been personally or professionally, but we knew that no matter how much it hurt, we had to rise to the occasion and play through the pain for those around us.

If these last few years have taught us anything, they have taught us that things in life are broken. Education, healthcare, the economy, relationships, things at work and just about every other part of life. Some things just aren't working the way we would want them to. And it becomes frustrating as we do our best to muddle through only to hit the wall again and again.

We think that there must be a better way. We believe that there must be someone somewhere who has the insight and intelligence to fix the problems in our government, in society, in the workplace, and even at home. We ask ourselves, who is that person or where are those people who are supposed to have all the answers? And what can we do while we wait for those in charge to come up with a better plan and get things moving in the right direction?

We start playing through the pain.

Soon enough we will realize that the people who we believe have the solutions to our problems and challenges might be struggling themselves. And it's not that they don't know what they are doing, it's simply that the problems and challenges require more time, money, resources, planning and processes to get some resolutions and to turn things around for the better. And while that is going on, we need to do our very best to do what we are in control of doing, making a play, even if it means playing through the pain.

We can remain optimistic in the face of negativity and pessimism. We can look at our stack of to-do items and get after it without looking over at others who are paralyzed by the dysfunction. We can help those in our community who need help and do it generously and cheerfully knowing we are serving the greater good. Now don't get me wrong, it doesn't mean we don't also feel the frustration and the challenges. It doesn't mean the pain and the problems aren't just as real for us. It just means that we have a choice to make, we can choose to get sucked into the vortex of doom and gloom, pointing to all the reasons why we cannot be successful, or we can choose to do our part in playing our position as best as we possibly can, even if it means playing through the pain at times.

We are all part of a team somewhere. At work, home, school, church, in our community and in society. And it will never be perfect and will often be frustrating. As a part of a team or family, I would love to hear your story of how you deal with staying motivated in the face of frustration at And when we can grit and smile, and play through the pain when we need to, it really will be a better than good life.

Michael Norton is an author, a personal and professional coach, consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator of individuals and businesses, working with organizations and associations across multiple industries.

life coach in denver, michael norton, professional coach in denver, motivator


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