Pain + Reflection = Progress

This equation is one of my favorite quotes from Ray Dalio. He notes that “…when we’re in the moment of pain, we tend not to reflect, but after that moment of pain, whenever anybody makes a mistake, about anything, it’s not just the market, it’s about life. There’s a message probably there.”

What message can we learn from the everyday struggles we face?

Pain doesn’t necessarily mean PAIN!!! It can mean stress or strain or challenge. These are necessary requirements progress, but so is the other side of his equation.


You can’t simply go through the same stress over and over and expect to invoke change. You might see a little, but real success happens when you take note of how you reacted to that stress, what went well, what went poorly, what did you learn, in what ways can the process be improved? And then act upon that knowledge.

As far as health and fitness goes, a simple way to get started is to keep a food journal and/or workout journal. If you are exercising, the stress is inherent in the system, all you have to do is show up and take note. What are you eating, how do you feel? What was your exercise, how do you feel? Did you get what you needed out of it? Could you have pushed harder? Did that late night snack speed you up or slow you down?

Don’t stop there!

As Dalio said, this is about life! How does your exercise, eating, and sleep affect the rest of your day? You know, the other 13 hours. Are you more energized, are you clear headed, are you ready to attack the day?

If so, great! Cull through your notes and start figuring out what works best.

If not, great! Cull through your notes and start figuring out what works better.

You see, there’s always room for progress, but without a real measure of where you’re at and where you want to be, it’s easy to just live circularly and plateau. Similarly, if all you do is reflect, you never take action due to analysis paralysis. We need a balance of action and inaction, missteps and successes, and stress and recovery.


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