THE BLOG

Are you ready to choose pain?

26/01/2016 10:07 GMT | Updated 25/01/2017 10:12 GMT

So it's that time of the year again - or more specifically a new year again - and we all have a tendency to think about what we want to make happen, what we want to prioritise and very often key things we want to improve or change.

Over the Festive Season I found myself reading an article by Mark Manson, originally published in November 2013, who was at one point in his career a professional dating coach for men (www.markmanson.net/question). Manson makes the very compelling argument that what we get out of life is all about how much bad feeling we are willing to sustain to get to the good feelings - put another way, there is no gain without pain.

Making change requires breaking old habits, trialling new ways and hard wiring what works into the patterns of everyday life. None of this is easy for us humans - we are creatures of habits and habits die hard. We also have a tendency to avoid talking about our appetite for pain but actually that is what we need to face when it comes to achieving something new. We fixate for a while on the end goal in the hope that will be enough - because that is a far more positive approach - but it rarely get us the desired outcome because it misses the reality of what we have to deal with to get there.

We also associate happiness with lack of pain and yet you only have to read about the focus and determination of world class athletes to know that the two are not mutually exclusive. People like Jessica Ennis-Hill are the embodiment - literally - of a commitment to a regime for success, which undoubtedly comes with pain as she constantly looks to push the boundaries of her capabilities and stamina.

Back in organisational life I am not espousing that everyone needs to be told that working life is going to be a misery - not at all - but what I am saying is that not enough leaders are trained to understand that exceptional results tend to come with a ruthless commitment that could and probably should take you well outside of your comfort zone. This is a place where you might struggle, feel exposed - where bad feelings dominate over good feelings. But if it is part of a journey and modus operandi that you have bought into and understand your part within it then you have every chance of getting where you want to be.

Of course what is also critically important is encouragement all the way and evidence that any pain is worth it. Again and again we see research - not least for example in Jim Stengel's top 50 companies featured in his book "Grow" - that highlights the role of the compelling leader who demands high standards and is ruthless in their commitment to achieving them. Let's not misread this as great leadership equals cracking the whip. It is more about leadership constantly rekindling belief in the goals and ideals in a way that drives understanding of the need to push beyond the current state, coaches the organisation through the pain barriers, recognises and celebrates the progress being made and as a result elevates performance.

I am not saying any of this is easy but perhaps a new year resolution for us all is to ask ourselves, as Mark Manson suggests, how prepared are we to deal with the negative to get to the positive. What is our resilience? How real is our determination? How do we help the organisation understand and work through the inevitable pain of change? As Richard Branson once said .... "You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over" - and that hurts!