Excerpted from naturopathic doctor Joseph Christiano’s latest book, Living Beyond Your Chronic Pain, in which he teaches people to manage the physical and mental aspects of their pain in natural, wholistic ways.
The right attitude
"Focus on the purpose not the task." Dr. Joe
In this first healthy lifestyle step, I want to talk about the importance of your attitude. The role your attitude plays is crucial; in fact, a positive attitude is what will “get you through it.” No matter what you are facing, the right attitude is the key for overcoming it. The underlying factor that makes all the difference in your ability to withstand, endure and push through is your mental attitude. The strength to overcome and walk through your healing are not medications or supplements or treatments—it is your willingness to keep a positive attitude.
As you suffer with chronic pain on a day-to-day basis, it is difficult to take your mind off of the pain. In fact, pain becomes the central part of your thoughts, actions, conversations and can become a real distraction in your job, relationships, plans, etc. What I want to do now is encourage you to remove your focus from your painful condition to where you want to be—pain-free. I want you to start visualizing living beyond your chronic pain. You will have to remind yourself several times a day to stop focusing on the pain as it flares up and stop giving attention to the obstacles and challenges you face. Rather, focus on living pain-free.
I was able to overcome a very challenging career decision in my life at an early age that taught me how to look past my painful situation and stay focused on where I wanted to go—living beyond my chronic pain. Even right up to this very moment of writing my book I strive to keep a positive attitude every day regarding all aspects of my life.
We all know how debilitating and mentally draining chronic pain can be. It will rob you of hope and a bright future. It becomes a dark looming cloud of discouragement and gloom. That is why I’m encouraging you to do your best to look past the immediate obstacles and challenges that come with the territory and focus on living beyond your chronic painful condition. This positive attitude will definitely help you in making important decisions, whether it’s surgery, career changes, loss of income, family issues, etc. It takes effort, but I was able to overcome many obstacles to get where I wanted to go—and you will too!
Willing to change!
Before I share my experience, let’s talk about change. Unless you’re willing to change from a lifestyle that is less than desirable when it comes to your health and embrace new and exciting lifestyle practices that can change your health and quality of life for the good, then there is no hope for you.
Change comes hard because most people have never been taught how to develop a positive attitude. This is why you see so many seminars on positive thinking for getting out of debt or how to gain wealth or how to overcome negative obstacles that prevent you from being all you can be. Most of us have a tendency to cling to what we feel good about or what makes us feel safe and comfortable. Because we’re creatures of habit, change is difficult to make. But when the heat is turned up and your circumstances change, and you’re facing a health crisis like crippling joint inflammation or degenerative joint disease where pain medication doesn’t help and you cannot do the things you used to do, it’s very easy to fall into a negative, pessimistic mindset and give up on your hopes of living pain-free.
Plan to look at your circumstance with a more positive mindset now so the new adjustments you’re forced to make can be an easier transition. Our attitude is constantly bombarded when suffering from intense burning pain of sciatica or not knowing what to do when a medical treatment failed or trying to function normally in society while in pain. Any challenge that requires you to switch from the status quo to focusing on your objective or goals or purpose requires you to develop a positive attitude to be successful. The willingness to change, keeping a positive attitude and positive belief, will make all the difference in your recovery time after a surgical procedure and is a lifeline for healing and how to best manage pain.
Because your attitude is a powerful mental attribute you possess that has no boundaries or limitations, you must take time to develop it. As you read through this first healthy step, re-evaluate your attitude and see if your attitude needs a positive boost to look past the challenges you’re dealing with so you can focus on a life without pain.
Renewing your mind
» Remember, you are walking through your healing!
» Be willing to change for the good!
» Look past your pain and hold on to hope!
» Focus on living beyond your chronic pain!
The G man
“Obstacles are the greatest faith builders!” – Dr. Joe
Focus on the purpose not the task. That was my mantra years ago as I faced life’s challenges that came my way and is something I live by today to help me get past any situations that seemingly have no solution.
At the age of 25, I had tried several different employment opportunities. I had been in the military, was attending college and had a family of five to feed. During this time everything I did needed to be exactly planned out because my plate was more than full. I had a plan in mind to graduate with a degree in child psychology and special education. But something was stirring deep inside me, somewhat clouding my focus even though I was moving in a certain direction at the time.
My heart wanted me to be a natural health professional, a longtime love of mine. As I got in touch with my natural, God-given passion to help people be healthier, and though the prospects of being involved in natural health was very appealing to me, pulling it off was another story. There were several major obstacles to deal with, one was to relocate to Florida and another was the cost of relocating and starting a business. Sure the thoughts of palm trees, miles of sandy beaches, and the fact that Florida was not known for its snowy, ice-cold winters were pleasant dreams, making it happen wasn’t easy. My current $200 per week paycheque served as a motivator to find something more lucrative, but how could I ever take the next big step to move and make my dream come true?
Listen to your heart
It all happened when I was employed by a major sanitation company in Western New York. I was the company’s dealership sales rep and sold heavy-duty compactors and waste management equipment—you know, those big cardboard compactors in the back of the stores at the malls. Shortly after being with the company in that position, the company lost their dealership. I thought for sure I was going to be in the soup line, but instead I was offered the position of operations manager. Consequently, I learned how to operate a large business. And one evening my opportunity for relocating and pursuing my new career presented itself.
On a cold, wintry western New York day as the guys were finishing their garbage routes, coming back to the locker room to change clothes, punch their time cards and go home, my career change jumped out in front of me. As I was watching the guys, I noticed most of them were between 18 years of age to 25 (my age). One guy was much older; in fact, Don was 55 and looked extremely weather-beaten, tired and weary.
I felt badly for Don and asked him how he was doing. He said he was dead tired. I asked him why he was still on the back of the G truck throwing garbage every day. He said, “When the owner of the company and I were young guys, he told me he wanted to start a sanitation company one day, and said if I would help him from the beginning that he would take good care of me.” Well, Don’s old friend and now owner of this huge sanitation company apparently forgot what he told Don. Consequently, Don, who was waiting for the owner to “take care of him,” was instead stuck on the back of a truck. My next question for Don was, “If you could do it all over, what would you do?” He looked at me and without hesitation said, “If I were 30 years younger [that was me, by the way], I would start my own garbage company, grow it, then sell it and move to where the weather is warm.”
Little did Don know but his answer to my question was divine clarity for my next move. I was that 30-years-younger man he spoke about, and I knew right then what I was going to do. I would become one too—a G man!
I knew the business. I learned the ropes, but never was on the back of a truck nor ever wanted to be. This huge task that I was about to take on was not at all what my idea of making a career change was about, but it was a means to get me to my ultimate purpose. In my mind all I saw were those sandy beaches and beautiful swaying palm trees—no more snowy, ice-cold winters. I saw myself becoming a natural health professional—my vision and purpose in life!
Not coming from money nor having a cent to my name, I went to my parents to see if they would give me a loan. All I needed was $5,000 to purchase a truck to start my new business. I suppose it wasn’t quite the lavish bankroll one needs for start-up money to begin a new business venture, but because I already managed a major sanitation company much larger than one man and his truck and had negotiated a pick-up contract/schedule with a homeowner association and had a cheque for the first month of service in advance, I figured I was as prepared as possible. My folks could see my excitement and determination and were very gracious to loan me the money; but before the conversation was over my mother said, “Just don’t put your name on the truck!”
Wow! Imagine those words of encouragement? I could have easily taken to heart what my mother said and felt insulted, even defeated but I had a purpose to fulfill, so instead of giving up on my plan, I used her negative words as fuel to help motivate me for the unknown journey ahead. I knew I was in for a long haul, but didn’t realize exactly how long or what it would take to build this new business with hopes of one day selling it so I could move to Florida and pursue my dream.
I recall those frozen winter days when I had to wake up at 4 a.m., shovel my way out of the driveway, and then drive to my truck. Once there I had to start a frozen truck engine, and if I could without needing a jump, I began my day. After fighting blizzard-like conditions, freezing my fingers off climbing snow banks to get to my customers’ garbage cans, and not having any flat tires or accidents, I would return home by midnight. I also recall the hot summer days when the garbage smelled so terrible I could vomit. And the times when I dumped a can in the back of the truck and the soupy garbage filled with maggots splashed back in my face.
As my company grew, so did my workload and tasks. I had to remind myself many times of my purpose and goal and keep a positive attitude during those four long years. When the day-to-day tasks became overwhelming, I made myself look to the future—to where I was going, not where I was. By keeping a positive attitude and believing, I was able to accomplish more than a 25-year-old rookie entrepreneur without a penny to his name could ever have dreamed of accomplishing.
Finally I reached my goal! I sold my business and moved to Florida. Today I’m a naturopathic doctor and have owned a natural health and fitness company for the past 35 years. Oh and off the record, after growing my company for four years with several trucks seen all over town, my mother said, “Joey, you ought to put your name on the trucks so everyone will know it’s you.” Hmm…?
So as you face those trying times of pain, inflammation, difficulty in walking or moving without pain, worrying about your finances, or before you lose hope for your future, please remember my mantra, focus on the purpose not the task. You will overcome every obstacle if you are willing tochange your attitude and do all that you know you should do to be pain-free and enjoy your life.
Renewing your mind
» Focus on the purpose, not the task. Repeat this mantra out loud daily.
» Reinforce your attitude and thoughts that you are going to overcome!
» Look beyond all your challenges and focus on where you want to be.
» Refocus your mind from negative thoughts to positive thoughts!
» Never stop believing!