I had the pleasure of hearing Julien Smith speak in person on Friday night. I’ve been following Julien’s blog “in over your head” for a couple of years now. A lot of Julien’s work focuses around human nature, and how our biology isn’t often well adapted to the pace, stresses, and landscape of modern life.

During his talk on Friday he put up a slide which was a comparison of two hand-drawn graphs – both tracking two models of “pain” over “time” which looked something like this:Pain Graph

His point: the first model is the one we all shy away from – lots of pain quickly, and then sustained over time – because it is really, really hard (think ripping off a band-aid). This is the kind of pain that makes us stronger in the end.

The second model is the one most of us fall into – slowly rising amounts of pain which at first don’t bother us all that much until before we know it those days, weeks, months, or years start compounding quickly and rise exponentially. This is the kind of pain that kills us in the end.

The graphs stuck with me, and I started thinking that night about the difference between “perceived pain” and “actual pain”. Thus my hypothesis is that the interplay between these two concepts, using Julien’s model, might look something like this:Pain Graph - modified

This hit home for me as for much of 2013 I have been living the first model. It has been tough at times, but as memorably phrased in The Shawshank Redemption: “That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time”.