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Pain: Are You Growing or Dying?

Alan Andersen

Growing Pain_SG.jpg

4 Minute Read


Pain is much like death and taxes. It is an inevitable part of life, regardless if one is looking at their personal or professional endeavors, pain will impact them.

Candidly, I know that this is not particularly motivating to hear or even maybe a “normal” topic that you will find on a professional services blog. However, it is the truth.

One of the best leaders that I know of, a person who exceeds expectations in both their personal and professional world, shared one of the wisest gems that I’ve ever heard.

Before I pass it on, I’ll share the context. I aim to grab coffee or lunch with this gentleman as much as I possibly can (typically monthly). As we’ve gotten to know each other over time, I finally asked him how he had become so wholistically “successful”. His response was gold and as follows.

Alan, you have to be willing to be hurt. I am willing to be hurt. I don’t necessarily try to get hurt, I don’t make reckless decisions. In fact, I strive to be a faithful steward of everything and everyone that I am entrusted with. And yet, I know I will be hurt by others at some point or another. I have been hurt by others, but that pain has not been wasted.

Wow! Even as I review my notes now from that meeting and reiterate them here, I am blown away. Maybe you’re wondering why are you so easily awed. But seriously, who in their right mind is OKAY with getting “hurt”? Or to put it another way, who is on the lookout for pain and doesn’t merely avoid it at all costs?!

The truth is, the best of the best. Exactly like this gentleman that I mention here. High performers do not shrink from a challenge, they rise to the occasion.

This idea may seem like an “extreme growth mindset”, but it reminds of one of my favorite quotes. A quote that we’ve likely all heard (from one of the greatest boxers of all time, mind you).

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

While Mike Tyson said this in the context of the boxing ring, does it not ring true for every area of life? I submit that it does. Namely, we must be open to embracing the growing pains of maturity.

Side note, one of the biggest lessons an aspiring boxer must learn is that it is not only about how hard one punches, but how well that person can take a punch and keep going.

The Gist

As we begin to experience pain or hurt in realtime, my aim is to help begin to say, “In spite of this pain, I will keep moving forward in the right direction.” However, what if we are not naturally able to practice this mindset?

Growing vs. Dying

Practicing self-awareness is where we begin to learn how to distinguish between growing pains and dying pains. We strive to embrace the discomfort of healthy pain and differentiate between unhealthy (or unnecessary) pain.

Physiologically, most people can see and or sense the tremors of “would-be” pain. Whether this is the pain of interpersonal differences, conflict resolution or simple communication contrasts.

Here is how we can learn to embrace the growing pains and hurdle the dying pains.

  1. PAUSE

    At the first signs of pain, pause. Don’t run away, don’t hide, AND don’t just dive head first into the thick of it. Pause for just a moment to get a “good look” at what you’re experiencing.

  2. ASK

    Consider the nature of perceived or apparent pain and ask yourself, “If I avoid this situation will it come back to bite me?” Or, “Will this be more difficult to deal with in a day, a week, a month, etc?” Or, “What if I embrace this situation now, while it’s a smaller deal or incident, will it save me time, energy, and headache?” In my experience, it’s usually the latter!

  3. ACT

    For God’s sake take action! Indecision is nearly as bad as pure avoidance. Why? Because our brain and body can become accustomed to doing nothing… which in most cases is actually choosing to breath to death!


    Finally, after a decision has be made, whether to embrace the clunkiness or to ignore it, look back and see what would have been best for you to do. Then next time simply iterate based on what you learned.

In closing, I want to remind us of a fundamental reality. As my friend and former navy SEAL Leif Babin so often says, “There’s no growth in the comfort zone.” That is the truth!

Now, let’s embrace the growing pains so that we can hurdle the dying pains.

Pulling for you,

Alan Andersen

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