Planning for Pain Inflection Points


Whenever a person is improving a capability, he or she nearly always encounters painful inflection points as he or she grows. Individuals who plan out in advance how they’ll deal with painful inflection points have a greater chance at improving than those who do not plan out who they’ll cope with pain.


  1. Write down when and where you expect to encounter emotional hardship
  2. Come up with strategies for coping with painful moments
  3. Visualize / mentally rehearse the moment of hardship and practice implementing your coping strategy


“The Scottish study’s participants were the types of people most likely to fail at rehabilitation. The scientist conducting the experiment wanted to see if it was possible to help them harness their willpower. She gave each patient a booklet after their surgeries that detailed their rehab schedule, and in the back were thirteen additional pages — one for each week — with blank spaces and instructions: ‘My goals for this week are______? Write down exactly what you are going to do. For example, if you are going to go for a walk this week, write down where and when you are going to walk. She asked patients to fill in those pages with specific plans. Then she compared the recoveries of those who wrote out goals with those patients who had received the same booklets, but didn’t write anything.


As the psychologist scrutinized the booklets, she saw that many of the plans had something in common: they focused on how patients would handle a specific moment of anticipated pain. The man who exercised on the way to the bathroom, for instance, knew that each time he stood up from the couch, the ache was excruciating. So he wrote out a weekly plan for dealing with it: Automatically take the first step, right away, so he wouldn’t be tempted to sit down again.

Put another way, the patients’ plans were built around inflection points when they knew their pain — and thus the temptation to quit — would be strongest. The patients were telling themselves how they were going to make it over the hump”

Charles Duhigg, TheĀ Power of Habit

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