Not all the pain you experience is created equal. Sometimes it’s part of striving to reach some other goal; other times it’s a signal that something is amiss; and still other times it occurs for seemingly no reason.

Sometimes you may choose a path that involves pain because you know it’s required to get where you want to go. The athlete who punishes his body in training does so in order to achieve victory in competition. The farmer who toils long and hard does so for the harvest. The training and toil aren’t easy, and may be painful at times. But they’re important and necessary steps in achieving a higher goal.

Other times, the pain you face can highlight things you need to address moving forward. Maybe the current pain is due to previous poor choices. Maybe it’s a signal that something’s been neglected. Granted, you can’t change the past at this point. But you can choose to pay attention and make any necessary changes, which in turn, can dramatically change the course of your future.

And other times, the hardships you face will stem from sources beyond your control. That’s just the way life is. Just remember that even in these moments, where you’re unable to change the circumstance, you still retain the power to choose your response.

Next time you’re experiencing pain, take a moment to consider the cause. Is it stemming from something outside your realm of control? Or is it highlighting something else that needs your attention? Or is it a necessary step in the journey you’ve chosen to take?