Why You Need More Pain in Your Life

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I attended a workshop yesterday at my local Mac store, and the conversation turned to iPhones. This was pretty inevitable, because we were surrounded by the bloody things; still, it turned out that one attendee, whom I’ll call Cheswick because it’s a funny name, had not yet made the switch. He fully intended to, but said, “I guess I just haven’t reached my pain point with my current provider yet.”

I’ve been thinking about that, and it occurs to me that a lot of us need to reach our pain points a lot sooner. Yes, I’m saying we need to bring more pain into our lives. Why?

Because change is scary (or so we believe), so most of us won’t change until our current situation becomes more painful than the alternative. But when change is the alternative, many of us find we can bear a whole lot more pain than we think. We’ll put up with a lot if it means we get to keep the status quo. To us (or to Cheswick, at least), the pain of change is worse than the pain of where we are right now.

I was talking with a friend once (yes, I have a friend, and yes, I actually talked to him once), and he said, “Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a person is to make $35,000 a year.” What he meant was that $35,000 (or $45,000, or $65,000; the actual number isn’t important, and varies from person to person), while not enough money to live in luxury, isn’t low enough to compel somebody to change the situation. In other words, $35,000 isn’t low enough to hit the pain point. So most people settle for this “sure, I could be doing better, but I’m getting by” mindset.

Now, there are some people who can be perfectly happy making $35,000 (again, the actual number isn’t important), which is great for them. But for many others, it does mean just getting by. And if you’re a business leader, do you want your business to “just get by”?

We need to reach our pain points sooner, so that we’ll take action sooner. Another friend of mine (surprise!—I have two friends!) is in serious financial trouble right now because she waited too long to take action. She needed to make a change in her sales process, but to her change was more painful than where she was, so she kept the status quo. Naturally, things got worse and worse. So now she’s reached her pain point—and she no longer has the resources she needs to make the necessary changes. She fell behind the power curve. Had she reached her pain point sooner (i.e., when she could still do something about it), she’d be a lot better off today.

Boredom was the pain point for the Beatles. They very quickly got bored doing the same old thing, writing and playing the same old songs. For them, the status quo was more painful than the prospect of change—and so they changed. And changed. And changed. And the competition still hasn’t caught up.

The bottom line is this: If you’re a business leader, and you reach your pain point before the competition reaches theirs, you’ll change quicker than the competition, which gives you the advantage. In a competitive world, a little pain may be just what the doctor ordered.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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