Let me begin with a radical comment: No one likes pain. (And you needed to read a blog for this?!) We do almost everything we can to avoid it.
We have a pain avoidance reflex. It’s evident in the flinching when a foul ball comes into the stands. It’s the knot in your stomach when you have to go to the doctor or dentist. It’s the desire to ditch the spin class and eat a pizza. We are averse to suffering.
Some forms of pain, or at least discomfort, are a part of almost any worthwhile task. Exercising, dieting, working hard, learning a new skill, eating liver… these are the kinds of things that, while uncomfortable can improve our lives. Other forms of pain have no apparent use at all. Our inclination is to completely avoid them–hitting your thumb with a hammer, sitting in a traffic jam, getting stung by a bee, eating liver (I’m moving “eating liver” to this category. I am not going to suffer the liver thing ever!).
For leaders, pain avoidance can be a serious hazard when it comes to delaying hard conversations, difficult decisions, or distasteful tasks. All of us suffer from it. The question is: Does it keep us from doing what needs to be done? If there is someone you need to talk to but your dodging, it probably has something to do with avoiding pain. If you are procrastinating, it probably involves some sort of pain avoidance. If you are putting off tackling something that is going to present a challenge, involve a potential conflict, or take you out of your comfort zone, then…you guessed it…old mister pain avoidance is probably lurking.
Here are thirteen notable quotes that cover several different aspects of pain avoidance:
“First, do no harm.” (Hippocratic Oath)
Don’t try to cause pain. We are here to help and encourage.
“We are all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work”. (George Costanza)
Small adjustments along the way can prevent monumental shifts. You can avoid a lot of pain by taking care of small stuff before it becomes big stuff.
“If you have a lot of tension and you get a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle: “Take two aspirin” and “Keep away from children”.” (Anonymous)
Things rarely get better by themselves. Leaders are supposed to pay attention to those things. The “aspirin” your team needs may just be the action you’ve been avoiding.
“Aye, there’s the rub!” (Shakespeare)
The only way for there not to be heat is to forego friction. Growth is dynamic, moving. We must manage the accompanying change. As change happens, there WILL be friction…and, friction often causes blisters!
“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.” (Max Lucado)
Leaders will inevitably encounter difficult situations. How one deals with them is the issue. Be prepared: where there are two or people; there are two or more points of view.
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” (Mark Twain)
Once there is an issue, deal with it. (see #3) Delay only promotes the “monster in the closet” syndrome.
“Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement.” (Ronald Reagan)
A really good question: What do you want this to look like when we’re finished? Steven Covey calls this beginning with the end in mind. Take charge of the future by working toward the future you want.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” (Mark Twain)
The fear of the issue is always worse than tackling the solution…well, almost always. Even if it’s a little scary, have courage.
“It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse. “ (Adlai Stephenson)
Leading and managing are hard work. Leadership is not for sissies. Be confident. Do what’s right.
“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” (Winston Churchill)
Don’t seek conflict but neither run from it. We owe our followers the best possible chance at health. Speaking the truth in love is often the best way to accomplish that.
“His location was fantastic. I don’t think he threw a single fastball over the center of the plate.” (Mark Loretta)
Having difficult conversations or resolving difficult situations should be done in the right place, at the right time, with the right tone. Matching the apt word with the proper delivery and timing is an art that takes practice.
”If you make every game a life-and-death thing, you’re going to have problems. You’ll be dead a lot.” (Dean Smith)
If you’re just trying to win, you’ve already lost. Make sure it’s meaningful. Seek truth…even if it comes from the other person! Listen for how YOU can be better. Health is vastly more important than wins and losses.
“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” (Zig Ziglar)
Stick to the point. Make it about the issue, not the person.
This is longer than most of my posts. My apologies. But, this is a HUGE deal. It is amazing how often we derail ourselves by avoiding pain and allowing inaction to rule. Here is your assignment: Start small. Find something you’ve been avoiding because you thought it would be too hard or painful. Do it. A task, a conversation, a meeting, a discipline…find something and DO IT! My belief is that you will be surprised to find that the pain of jumping in was not nearly so great as the fear, waste of energy, and lack of progress that came with the avoidance.
Let me know how it goes.