The Ten Principles of Pain
Pain persists till something changes. Pain increases the longer it’s tolerated.
Dentist visits weren’t on my list of things to do during my early college years. We couldn’t afford it. I still have a gap in the back of my mouth where I lost a cavity-filled tooth.
Once that tooth started aching, it didn’t stop. It grew worse till it became intolerable. I actually tried pulling it myself.
Toothaches don’t subside they get worse. The thing that’s hurting today will only hurt worse tomorrow if you don’t change something.
- Organizational stress worsens.
- Interpersonal conflict escalates.
- Internal struggle intensifies.
The Emergency Medical Technician, before plunging a giant needle into my chest said, “This is going to hurt.” It didn’t!
I learned later, the sharpest pain is the only one you feel. The pain in my mangled hip masked everything else.
Look through pain. Biggest pain-points may not be biggest problems. They may be distractions. I could live with a broken hip but the pressure building in my right lung was crushing my heart.
Cause more pain. Stopping pain won’t solve causes. Plunging a giant needle in my chest actually caused more pain not less.
It hurts more just before it hurts less. It hurts to lance a broken department, for example. But, relief and health follow the knife.
Pain intensifies focus. Focus on changing you more than changing others. Change your:
- Willingness to listen.
- Definition of success and failure.
The most challenging changes are inside you. Ever notice how easy it is to focus on changing others? It’s incredibly easy to know what others should do. Blame exacerbates pain. Responsibility addresses causes.
Pain changes when you change.
The 10 Principles of pain:
- Pain persists till something changes.
- Pain increases the longer it’s tolerated.
- The sharpest pain is the only one you feel.
- Pain intensifies focus.
- Look through pain.
- Cause more pain.
- It hurts more just before it hurts less.
- Blame exacerbates pain.
- Responsibility addresses causes.
- Pain changes when you change.
Confession: Adding this list put me over 300 words.
What have you learned about pain?
How do you deal with pain?
I think the scary part is that we often think if we are “tough enough” we can (and should) push through the pain. Sometimes that is the right thing… but often we are ignoring something that really needs attention.
Thank you Karin. Great point. Push through or adapt?
Running a marathon includes pushing through pain…if we don’t push through we never finish.
Point 11 = Sometimes pushing through works.
Perhaps we need to push through pain that comes from doing “right” things.
I posted this question on facebook: “It’s best to press through pain when ________”
Funny you should mention marathons… I’ve run my share of those… and yes, it’s going to be painful and it’s usually the best choice to push through it.
I wrestle with this concept and don’t have it all figured out… I tend to push through a great deal, which is one of my strengths… I am sure there are areas that this holds me back.
I think the big question is the vision you are trying to achieve. Is the painful bit a necessary part that will get you to something greater? Or, is the pain a natural warning sign that you should heed.
It’s hard to think about that objectively when you are in the middle of it. Finding ways to step back can help.
So glad you dropped back in to share your insights.
Push through pain that we encounter on the way to noble goals. (Usually)
THIS IS MORE THAN WHAT HAPPEN TO YOU, IS SOMETHING THAT IS APPLICABLE IN EVERY HUMAN LIFE. IS JUST LIKE A BABY THAT IS TRYING TO WORK, IT FALLS MANY TIMES B4 IT LEARN IT RIGHT. IN SUCH MANNER IF WE DON’T PASS THROUGH CERTAIN THINGS IN LIFE, WE WON’T LEARN THE RULE.
Another good point on pushing through pain. Thanks
Pain is a wakeup call. It should make us aware that something is not quite right. Once we realize this, we must then make a conscious choice about how to respond. We can move away from the pain point and refuse to confront it, choosing to lie down and accept the misery. Or we can push up against it, knowing that it will hurt a little more for a while, and hopefully press through it.
Like most other things in life, I think pain and how we choose to respond teach us a great deal about ourselves and who we believe we are.
Thanks Martina… I must confess that one thing pain has taught me is I am very tenacious. My default setting to pain is press through. Not always the smartest thing. 🙂
When you are in pain, your only priority is relieving the pain (such as pulling your own tooth, ouch!), but we often need someone else, who is not emotionally involved, to help us figure out how to prevent the pain from recurring in the future.
Thanks Steve. Love the power of bringing someone else in. When I coach leaders, I’m the voice in their life that doesn’t have skin in their game. It’s very useful.
“No pain no gain” eh? Yep; I remember the giant hyperdermic syringe sticking out of my right knee as goodness-knows-what oozed out. But my knee unlocked and I could walk again. The UK remembers the pain caused by the better economic policies of Baroness Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister and, as Labour Party King-maker-of-the-past Peter Mandelson put it, “we’re all Thatcherites now”. Pain came when Gordon Brown adopted “prudent” (painful) Conservative economic policies in the late 1990s; but greater pain was caused when he (and others) seemingly abandoned the painful self-discipline of those policies and things like the Glass-Steagall Act!
However, there are also other pains needed sometimes: one is the painful acceptance that memories of “the means” will form part of “the ends”.
That’s complex. It’s saying the phrase “the ends justify the means” needs to be looked at in that context. For example, the peoples of colonised South America probably have memories passed down to them about how they were colonised. The indigenous peoples of Patagonia probably remember how the Argentinians treated their ancestors; and probably remember that control of their lands was taken from them. The Argentinians probably believe this was a beneficial process; but may, from time to time, need to think about how they acted; and about how the Spanish acted when they took what later became Argentina.
The British have had to do similar in Kenya. The South Africans have also looked at “Peace and reconciliation”. The Germans are still addressing the shadows of their past.
These processes are painful in themselves; but they address earlier pains; when the time is right.
Perhaps there are businesses that will need to do something similar. Especially so where employees have been shed/removed using underhand or simply deceiptful processes that have “given the lie” to true contributions in order to “save the bacon” (or sustain/develop the reputation) of those “higher up the chain”.
But business +is+ business, a voice says (i.e. “Get real”) ; but yet another voice chimes in and mixes over to the text of Dr Seuss’s “The Lorax”. “Kid’s stuff” again really!
Thank you Ben.
I’m walking away from your comment with an elephant in my head. Someone needs to point him out.
Perhaps the courage to point out painful things comes from believing we can work toward solutions. If I don’t believe a solution is possible, I’m not going to address the problem.
“If I don’t believe a solution is possible, I’m not going to address the problem.”
Wow, agreed. Elephant, et all. Sometimes the answer to the problem is to stop messing with it. A friend of mine calls it “the turd rule,” a little coarse, but it illustrates a point and essentially goes something like this. Sometimes a mess is no-matter-what just a mess. There are situations at times where no amount of handling it makes it any less a mess, but only more of a mess, making things worse and worse. You can throw money and counseling and planning at it. You can carry it around and apologize for it. But no matter how you might try to dress it, or what you might say about it, it’s still a stinky mess. There comes a point when you have to realize what you’re actually handling, that you are only getting messy yourself, that no one is getting any benefit out of you “messing” with it, then put the mess down, walk away, wash your hands and never touch it again.
Sometimes the answer is to stop feeding or perpetuating the situation. Sometimes the more you touch something, the worse it gets. Sometimes time and a band-aid to cover the wound really is the best course. Picking at scabs only leads to prolonged wounds and scars.
Perhaps this illustrates that sometimes the pain to face is the one of walking away. Or that we are simply making things worse and need to stop.
Wow! Great comment. I love the “turd” rule. “Sometimes the pain to face is the one of walking away.”
Choosing hands-off vs. hands-on is often a leadership challenge. Too much hands off and progress stalls. Too much hands on and progress may occur but the wrong people are doing the work.
Thanks Dan. 🙂 It’s been helpful to me as someone who always wants “to do something” about a problem. Sometimes you can’t or shouldn’t.
It can often be the fear of a greater pain that keeps us from addressing a current pain. We can “downsize” a pain to a discomfort if we feel addressing it will actually cause greater pain.
Thank you Eric. I think addressing a pain-point almost always causes more pain, at least at first. That’s what makes it tough.
We let personnel problems persist because of fear of more pain, for example.
Love your thought that we somehow adapt the way we think about our current pain if we think addressing it will make it worse.
“Focus on changing you more than others.” How true that is and how hard to accomplish some days. The definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results – came to mind as I read through your post.
The other thought that came to mind is that sometimes we need a little distance and perspective in order to see the real cause of the pain and figure out what type of change needs to occur.
Thanks for your thoughts and all the comments.
Thank you KB. I see a theme of getting outside opinions as one tool to use when things hurt. They help us see the real situation.
Another pain principle = Pain distorts perspective.
Leadership is influence not power.
I find that I manage pain differently depending on the situation. When I was in labor with my son, I relaxed and went with the pain (worked like a charm). When I had pneumonia, I ignored the pain (and ended up in the ICU because I’d convinced myself I only had the flu – evidently, high fevers turn me into an idiot). At work, I try to dig in and confront the source of the pain in a calm, matter-of-fact way, with various degrees of success.
I think you’re absolutely correct in saying that the biggest pain may not always be the biggest problem; it’s so easy to get distracted with what’s on fire in front of us that we forget to deal with the Big Thing that’s going to blow up in a year. Until it does.
Thank you Kathleen. Your personal illustrations expand the topic and help us see the complexity of pain.
I see issues of control in your comment. You can’t control labor pains. They’re coming!
Perhaps we can control other types of pain by backing off or adapting.
Great topic, Dan. So often we think of pain as something bad or to be avoided.
Pain is a warning sign, an important signal that something needs to be paid attention. When we are not aware of pain, we are at great risk. This is true for people with CIPA, a rare genetic disorder, who cannot feel physical pain. And for organizations. And the longer you ignore it, the longer it lasts.
What you resist, persists.
Thanks Jesse. Your contribution made me think about leprosy. Not sure if it’s related to CIPA but the symptom is the same. When we lose the sense of pain we don’t feel the flame burning our hand or the splinter in our toe that eventually festers.
Ah yes pain, the precusor of action, often misused and misunderstood.
Tooth pain, I feel ya Dan had a bad toothie about a month and a half ago and as I have said many times, “there is no pain quite like toothie pain”.
We humans are really quite simple creatures, although complex, ah the rub or paradox if you prefer.
We only act for two reasons…anyone want to debate, not smart, you will lose. Two reasons and only two, all eyes on me! LOL
bonus……who knows where this came from….”This year we will be successful if we focus on 3 things, 1. God, 2 Family, and 3 The Green Bay Packers”!!!!!!!
The two reasons are the anticipation of pleasure OR the avoidence of pain! Every thought that precedes action has to do with THE BIG OLE TWO as I have referred to them often!!!!!! Ok never put it that way before but I was rolling and got a little carried away with my own bad self.
Interestingly enough we will go far far far out of our way to avoid pain and will choose that over anticipating pleasure EVERY TIME!
Pain can be a good thing to teach us what to do and what not to do. It does not need to be a bad thing, just a tool we can use to our benefit.That is is we choose to use our brain to navigate us through the day or just have it run smoothly doing all of the unconscious actions it does all day keeping us alive! Our choice, I choose to try to use the thinking part every now and then, allegedly. How bout u?
Will sign off with a quote about pain! It is a doozy!
“There is one pain I often feel, which you will never know. It is caused by the absence of you”.
Now how about THAT for all you romantic human beings in Dan/Leadership Freak Land? Just makes you want to come hug the cuddly little bear writing this, don’t it? So there is a great quote for all you lovers out there so go share that with your special loved one.
Ok one more just for the heck of it! “Larry, you are fixing to enter a world of pain”! (from the Big Lebowski)! Anytime a quote from The Dude or any of his buddies is always a chance that should be taken to its fullest extent.
Great topic Dan, think you limit yourself to 300 words but that is not a talent I am able to display and completely void of ability of, allegedly!
Hope everyone has a GREAT day avoiding the pain and anticipating the pleasure! Think, act, be kind and laugh!
Thanks Scott. I’m not sure if I should feel good about enjoying your rambling comments or not. 🙂
Ok while I am trying to wrap my head around fractal geometry two questions you can ponder if you want to.
1. Why would you enjoy my two cents worth?
2. Why wouldn’t you enjoy my two cents worth?
I have always found finding the why is more important than how, when or where. How about you?
HI Scott…sorry to say that I’m a “What” person. Identify the why and then focus on what…
Hmmm… what makes your comments interesting is better, to me, than why would I enjoy your comments…
Reblogged this on Jill Merriam's Life Adventures Outside Key Hyundai and commented:
Great post about leadership. We’re all taught to “fight through the pain” but maybe the pain is telling you something that you should pay attention to and change.
No pain no gain isn’t always true. Sometimes pain says STOP.
Yes. Pain may indicate you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing.
What I know about pain is summed up by a quote attributed to Lance Armstrong but I first heard from Eric Thomas:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”
ET also reminds me to work through pain, because on the other side is a reward. Pain ain’t permanent. Don’t cry to give up, cry to keep going. To quote him,
“I use the pain to push me to greatness.”
Thank you Matt. Powerful contribution.
It’s certain that the path to greatness includes pain. Glad you joined in today.
Great timing on this post. I have a splitting headache as I write lol! I’m not sure you needed the list in the end. I think the first half captured my attention. Thanks!
Thanks for your contribution. Hope your headache goes away. 🙂
I am a Pastor/ leader that would like to know you alls thoughts on pain as it relates to a board member in your Church who have made it clear to others that they do not like and respect your leadership. Even though you have had conversations with them and still love on them they just don’t love you back. I believe it to be about them loosing control but I can’t get answers from them.
Sir, as a Pastor/leader you need to define your role as that leader before God and not before men. If you have done all that you can do to reconcile this person you have done your part before God. The pain you are experiencing is the same as what Christ experienced when he was rejected by his own people. Consider yourself blessed to share in his sufferings.
Thank you Roosevelt. Personal pain from adversity, resistance, and detractors is an interesting flavor of pain.
How does one deal with enemies? I define an enemy as anyone trying to block you from fulfilling your mission.
How can you place the best interests of your organization over your own pain?
Danger includes the challenge that sometimes the passion of those against you exceeds the vitality of those for you.
How can leaders invite so much positive passion that detractors lose power? Having said that, the negative power of resistors and detractors should never be minimized.
Is this something to address head-on? Name the elephant in the room and ask your board if having a detractor on the board is helping your organization move forward? Or, ask the board to choose?
Is it better to work behind and around this person?
One thing is certain, doing nothing won’t make this problem go away. Loving a person may include confronting them because they are damaging your organization, hurting themselves, and you.
Is it better to confront the situation in a one-on-one with this person rather than bring it to the board?
Another certainty: Always speak, act, and choose what’s best for your organization. Don’t make this primarily about you. If people are going to choose sides, make it be about the future direction of their organization.
Sadly, the energy drain from dealing with this is most likely preventing you from advancing your positive agenda.
Well, that’s a quick – off the top of my head – response.
You have my best,
Reblogged this on Jots & Thoughts and commented:
“Look past the pain” — helps to know exactly what that is! The hell you’re going through right now? STOP focusing on the pain. That’s not important. What’s important to you NOW? Focus on THAT.
Thought you might find this of interest, Dan: http://mindfulsolutions.net/2012/06/19/painful-leadership-lessons/
Only the leader of an organization knows the difference in pain that comes from pressing through hard work and that of crisis or injury pain.
Three weeks ago I suffered what could have been a life ending, massive heart attack. The kick in the pants is that I was warned five times for two weeks prior, but I refused to believe that I could be “that bad” at 48.
I was warned in my own body body through pain shots mixed in with other muscular pain (three) times, I opened Facebook and the first article I saw was “Four Signs Of A Heart Attack.” (four) I was with a gentleman in a fundraising banquet and I told him I had been experiencing some different pain in my shoulder and left chest area. He looked straight at me and said “Don’t wait, don’t wait, don’t wait! Go get it checked.” I waited and two days later I’m in a life flight helicopter.
Three things kept me from going in to get it checked…
Pride…”I am better than this, I run 3-5 miles a day normally, I can’t be having heart problems.” Just because you have done all the right things with your business to make it “successful” isn’t a guarantee or shield against a crisis. Sometimes you need help. Don’t think it’s weakness to get an outside opinion. You may not have to cut a department if you discern and act quickly and precisely enough to bring it to health.
Financial paranoia. “I will take it easy and go to the doctor after the new year starts and get it on my insurance deductible for that year.” The life of your business is much more expensive than a department surgery. Do what you have to do to get the business healthy and live another day.
Schedule. “It’s the holiday season, I have travel plans. I can’t stop for this. I can work through it.” Stupid decision. I missed Christmas travel anyway. Family didn’t care about another 50 dollar present. They want me alive. Your employees ultimately want to still have a job. Do what it takes to keep the place running and growing. The temporary pain of change is nothing in comparison with dissolving a company and the jobs that feed the families of your team.
Last insight…Get the right help.
I went to a chiropractor the morning of and a walk-in clinic for pain in my back and neck one hour before having a heart attack in a Walgreens parking lot waiting for pain meds. Neither health care professional diagnosed it.
The ambulance takes me to XYZ hospital who proceeds to tell me I have double pneumonia which I didn’t. It was fluid building up in my chest from the heart blockage.
A call was placed to a top-tier heart surgeon colleague, who should have been consulted two weeks earlier. The decision was then made to life-flight me to a hospital that was competent in taking care of me. I was on the verge of dying while waiting in the parking lot of the pharmacy for the wrong medicine. Only God saved my life.
Lessons learned…make the right call, do what it takes. Don’t jeopardize everything because of pride, financial paranoia, fear, or unwillingness to act quickly enough.
I know this was long but maybe someone needed to hear it.
Thanks for your blog!
KaPow! Thanks Terry. You left us a hear-wrenching contribution that likely applies to many of us.
If we don’t deal with our pain, we may lose everything.
We all need to hear it, Terry. Thank you.
Yes, thank you Terry.
Pain teaches, Trying to lessen pain, particularly emotional pain, may mean you don’t always learn all you can. Sometimes ‘sitting with our pain’ enables us to build greater capacity, capacity that will help us be better leaders, better friends, better spouses, better human beings.
Thanks Jim. Great seeing you again.
Love the quote “sitting with our pain.” Physical pain and frailty opens my heart to others, helps me be more accepting, and teaches me humility. Pretending it isn’t there is NO help at all.
This was a very interesting analogy. I have been a person who generally has to live with pain on a regular basis. I have fibromylgia and a long history of back problems along with an array of other issues. I have not let this get me down, but I use this to try and keep myself strong.
During my life, I have learned that there are 2 types of pain. There is good pain and bad pain. Bad pain is an indicator that something is wrong and it is hard to describe that pain. This kind of pain will in fact get worse if you try to endure it. This kind of pain will only go away, when the underlying problem is not addressed. Then the task becomes, what can I do to find relief from this pain. With the fibromylgia, I have been told that there is not much that can be done for this pain, so I will have to learn to live with it. I disagree. I have tried all types of medications, but they did not help, therefore, I CHOSE to go forward without medications whenever possible. What I did find, is that with changing some personal things in my life, focusing on others and keeping busy, I was more focused on others and not my own issues, that life became toleralble. When I get lazy or nonproductive, the pain increases. So, being painfree is a daily challenge, but the more that I do to stay busy and do the right things, the better I feel. The key here is to do the right things. Sometimes, doing the right things is not easy, so this brings me to the second type of pain. The good pain.
I describe good pain as the kind of pain that you go through while on the mend. For instance, when you pull your back, but you go for that massage and the therapist helps to work out the spasms and kinks. This pain is uncomfortable at the time, but eventually, it becomes better. There is relief and an end. Good pain is not permanent situation, it is ever changing and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I also have Fibromyalgia and after trying many different prescription medications, I have now opted to ‘deal with it’ without the mixture of chemicals that the Doctor advised, which were actually making me feel worse not better.
Making that choice and learning what pain relief methods work for me, listening to my own body and adjusting my life to be more flexible, allowing my body recovery time and sleeping when I can instead of when it’s a ‘normal’ time to sleep has worked wonders for me.
I am still in constant pain,
Coping with that, reducing it where possible and maintaining it at a level that I can deal with physically and emotionally is a daily challenge. But it’s a challenge that I choose to work through.
Neither of us chose Fibromyalgia but we have both made the decision to deal with the pain and not just ‘put up with it’.
That makes us strong and gives us back the control of our life that was stolen by Fibromyalgia. Well done.
Your courage is inspiring, Margaret, and Angela too. Thank you,
I’ve wondered about the fact we have the same word for emotional pain and physical pain. With severe emotional pain, it doesn’t seem that different from physical pain. And it needs to be dealt with as urgently as getting medical care. Translating that experience to leadership, for me, was just about being sensitive to the fact people have stuff going on in their lives and to be careful about how I communicate with people.
I agree it is really important to be aware that emotional pain can be just as debilitating as physical pain, a good team leader needs to be sensitive to their teams emotional wellbeing as well as their abilities.
Thank you, Angela.
A good leader knows when to push, how much to push and when to let up. It is something that good leaders learn and teach their team over time. We do not want to cause unnecessary pain.
Pain is one way God uses to push you to your destiny. Hence, Jonah in the belly of the whale. – http://www.rogertharpe.wordpress.com
The most challenging change is inside us! We are so confined to how we think and do things; This stops us from paying attention to how we impact others. If we really new, some of us would begin a transformation. Sad thing is that the people around us are not always honest enough to tell us we have a bad attitude or an imposing way of doing things. #honesty
I haven’t read all the commentary, but can see Dan’s post certainly seems to have struck a chord! Your post reminds me of Beckhard’s DVF model, where the D = Dissatisfaction, very similar to pain.
The V, vision, the F, First Steps, to overcome the natural resistance to Change. Culture and status quo is very powerful. It takes a lot to make a dent in the universe, and pain is useful that way! ~ Deb
100% true, our CEO likes to remind people that “Pain Brings Change” and it bears out almost every time. Personally I like to look at “pain” as obvious indicators that things need to change, I firmly believe that it’s not the change that hurts, it’s the stagnation. Change is the cure.
Man you Rock and you Rockwell, What a nice article. I think pain is situational. And as your name say DAN (Do As Necessary)- leadership decision.
my sister was pregnant and she was taking a doctor’s advice and the pain continued (blistering and itching on legs etc). we even went for a second opinion and the doctor said prescription is right. but sister was still in pain. its in our DNA sometimes . time DNA (Do Not Allow) for the things to change till the fruit is ripe. and the pain continued. One fine day all the pain subdued with a “blessed baby boy”. From all that pain a blessing is born.
the oral- moral of the glory-story is “our weakest moment is our greatest strength”