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Short Term ‘Pain’ For Long Term Gain

February 20, 2012 · 96 comments

in Life, Personal Finance

Just about six weeks ago, I had surgery to reconstruct my Anterior Cruciate Ligament.  (ACL)

Having this surgery was a big decision.  For one thing, I really wasn’t debilitated by my injury.  I could still walk (straight ahead), I wasn’t in pain, I had full range of motion.  However, pivoting even slightly caused my leg to give out.

I could have possibly gone on the rest of my life without have this ligament replaced.  However, my life would be altered.  Sports would be gone.  I would also have to think about any lateral move I made.  If I did the wrong thing, I was at risk of tearing my cartilage or tearing other ligaments.  So although surgery was not REQUIRED, it was recommended if I wanted to go back to doing many activities.

Just after surgery, my knee was huge, I had to put a full leg brace on my leg even for getting up off the couch, and I went to therapy three times a week.  There was a lot of pain, but there was also a lot of progress.  Each day got a little better, and at this point, my knee is more of a nuisance than a ‘focus’.

My recovery process reminded me that so many negative things in life are really just temporary.   When my pain medications wore off the day after surgery and I was miserable, I felt like I would never walk normal again and I questioned by decision to have the surgery. In less than four weeks though, the brace was gone and my normal gait was back.   (Not that the knee was fully recovered at that point, it still was very stiff and I still had another couple months of physical therapy to go.  However, day-to-day activities were manageable.) Sure those four weeks were not fun, but it was totally worth going through the pain and physical therapy to regain the ability to run around and live life again.

The Lesson:   Difficult Circumstances (Usually) Don’t Last Forever!

Sometimes you might just have to bite the bullet for a little while to get through certain circumstances, and then life will return to normal.  (Even though it might not seem so short-term at the time.)  This thought doesn’t apply just to health, but to almost anything.

For example, imagine you need to come up with an extra two thousand dollars to pay down a bill.  Maybe all it would take is working a second job for a month or two so that you can earn the needed money.  Sure, it might not be fun, but again, it is something you would only have to endure for a short period of time.   Next thing you know, the time has passed and your debts are settled.

Or, maybe you are considering starting a side business, but you keep putting it off because you ‘don’t have the time’. Well, think about how you really spend your time.  Do you spend a few evenings a week watching TV?  Would it be possible for you to give up some leisure activities for just a few months so you could devote your time and energy to your new venture?  Sure, those few months might be tiring, but the payoff could be huge.

So, next time you think of something you would like to accomplish in the future, really think about what is stopping you from doing it right now.  Do you really have a reasonable roadblock?  Or, could you push through for a few months to attain what you want?


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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

FG February 20, 2012 at 11:08 pm

This is great advice, Kris. I really am glad to hear that you are getting better, and although I wish you hadn’t tore the ligament in the first place, it is good that things are improving and now you can draw some neat analogies. Things always seem tough in the beginning, especially when it comes to big changes.


Kris February 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Thanks Kevin. It seems like whenever I am real sick, I think I am never going to feel better again. Or if it is the dead of winter, I can’t imagine being able to wear short sleeves again. Same kind of thing, it all passes in time, you just have to get through it.

Hope your venture is going great!


The Biz of Life February 21, 2012 at 9:23 am

Good luck on your recovery. The pain and inconvenience will be worth it.


Kris February 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Thanks Biz. I am so glad I went through with the surgery. It still hurts, but that won’t last forever!


Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager February 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Sounds a lot like my mom’s saying “short term setbacks in exchange for long term success.” Right now I’m looking for my first home. My biggest roadblock is there doesn’t seem to be anything available in my area and I’m not ready to settle!


Kris February 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Maybe once spring starts there will be more houses out on the market? I am shocked here in my neighborhood in Michigan how many homes are selling, and pretty fast. My neighbor’s house even sold recently, although that one is a bummer for me because it went so cheap.

Good luck, and I hope you find something you love!


Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager February 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Thanks! That is what a co-worker said, “who wants to move during the rainy season, unless they have too?”


retirebyforty February 21, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Hope you are feeling better now. I agree with you that most problems are temporary. We just have to be persistent and work through them a bit at a time.


Kris February 21, 2012 at 10:04 pm

RB40- thanks for the well wishes. It is good if you can find little successes along the way to keep you motivated. Regardless, just plowing through at something for a few months can really pay off!


Robert @ The College Investor February 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I came across this for grad school – I went with the short term pain of doing grad school and working full time. It was hard, but now that I’m done I’m glad I did it.


Kris February 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Robert, you and I employed the same strategy for grad school (except I didn’t work full time, just part time). I knew I needed to just get through it, and I did. Got it done incredibly quick because I knew that I may never go back if I didn’t do it right after undergrad. Was glad to have it ‘over with’, which is not the best way to approach learning I suppose.


Tie the Money Knot February 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Glad you’re getting better. You’re conveying a good lesson on how getting through short-term discomfort and pain can lead to bettter times ahead. Taking a money angle, it’s kind of like working extra hard to earn more income, or cutting back significantly on expenses, in order to pay off debt. Painful at first, but good things can come from the actions later.


Kris February 21, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Exactly my point. Take on that second job to pay things down. Sure, working 15 hour days or whatever isn’t the most appealing thing in the world, but neither is living under a mountain of debt.


First Gen American February 22, 2012 at 6:42 am

I can truly say that I don’t regret any of the sacrifices I made in the past for my future self. I LOVE being college educated and having a high paying job. I would have NEVER EVER been in this position if I hadn’t studied for long hours in high school and college, and worked all the way through. Was it miserable? Yeah for parts of it, but it was so worth it. Do I regret buckling down and paying off all our debt? No way in hell.

A lot has changed in my perspective since having children. I don’t work nearly as many hours, but that’s what my 20’s were for. I was stronger, hungrier and younger back then. Although it’s no way to live my life indefinitely, it sure helped me get in a good position as I approach my 40th birthday. Even so, if poop hit the fan and we needed cash, I absolutely would work a second job again if I had to. It’s never to late to make a fresh start and it’s never too late to get your finances in the black.

Great inspiring post Kris.


Kris February 23, 2012 at 8:13 am

It is funny because when I think of all that I did when I was young, I am exhausted thinking about it! You are right, that is what the 20s are for. 🙂

You have accomplished a lot, and you have a great work ethic. I can’t see you ever slowing down!


Christa February 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

This is inspirational: I could spend more time working on a side venture than I do, rather than simply watching tv. I’ll have to get my butt in gear!


Kris February 23, 2012 at 8:12 am

I know what you mean Christa. I could have written a million posts while I was sitting here icing my knee for hours each day. Instead I slept and goofed around. 🙂


Jeff Ehrlich February 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I recently had a hip replacement and it was the best decision I every made. I was limping with bone on bone and had a hard time walking down the street. 3 months after surgery and recovery I was walking 12 hours per day around Disneyworld with NO pain.. The same can be said about finances – Like Dave Ramsey says, “If you live like noone else now you can live like noone else tomorrow..” The short term pain of giving up some of your Wants will give you the long term gain of becoming debt free and getting control of your finances..
Thanks Kris,


101 Centavos February 24, 2012 at 12:42 am

Just like with a project, Kris. A few late nights and early mornings may push you over the finish like a little sooner. Pick up the urgency, and git r done!


Thad P @ thadthoughts.com March 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Kris, I blew my knee out playing basketball 6.5 years ago (I was in my 40s playing with guys in their 20s). It hurt like everything, and the surgery and recovery took about 6 months (I had excellent care and therapy).

But in some ways it was the best thing that could have happened. I overcame the limitations caused by the injury, stayed with the therapy (when it hurt) and got through it. Even better, I got more serious about my fitness. I am not done, but I am continuing. No pain does usually mean no gain.


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Sarah December 14, 2012 at 7:42 am

Last year I tore a ligament in my arm due to repetitive arm movements associated with tennis. It was important that after my surgery I attended the required physiotherapy sessions in order to ensure a speedy recovery.


Jules Nelson March 3, 2013 at 10:43 pm

I had my ACL reconstruction surgery (for my left knee) back in June 2012. Had it done using the graft. Was wondering whether you have the same experience that I do : When I stretch, I hardly feel any stretching pain at the calf right up to the hamstring. Also, when I perform lunges, I can hardly feel a thing on my left thigh (that burning sensation that my right one experiences). Hope this is normal.


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