Maybe You're Not In Enough Pain | Sally A Illingworth
Updated: Jul 19
As an over-analytical female business entrepreneur, I’m forever trying to correlate ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ when it comes to personal and professional growth. One thing that has become increasingly interesting to me is the relationship between pain and progress. We’re conditioned in society to avoid pain and deviate from any activity that inflicts pain upon us. But what if we should instead be gravitating towards painful experiences that satisfy a particular criteria so we can achieve the growth we want?
Before you think “Is this woman crazy? I don’t want to read a blog for 9 minutes and be told I should be in pain”, hear me out.
Striving to live a life of pain sounds absolutely absurd and it’s not something we traditionally perceive as healthy. Now, I’m not suggesting you should strive to live in pain or try and inflict pain on someone else because it’s going to somehow improve their life! Instead, let’s explore the role of pain when it comes to achieving personal and professional growth through progress.
Our first conscious exposure to pain is usually at a very young age and for many of us relates, likely, to a small incident where we don’t get what we want or we’re hungry. Regardless of what we decide is inflicting pain upon us, we express sadness, frustration or some other emotion that we determine is reflective of the pain being felt. We let ourselves acknowledge the pain, we immerse ourselves in the pain, we recognise patterns relating to the pain and then we move on for the moment.
What’s interesting is that as we grow older and we become more capable of developing experience-backed and socially-informed perceptions deliberately our perception and approach to pain tends to evolve. One of the key characteristics of this evolution is how we approach pain based on our perceptions of pain.To satisfy our natural human desire to preserve energy and the pride of our ego, we grow into the habit of avoiding pain. This is helpful in terms of survival (which is what our brains are wired to prioritise) however this works to the detriment of many entrepreneurs who want to evolve and build a great business because the entrepreneurial journey involves greater than usual risk. And with greater than usual risk as an entrepreneur comes the second order effect of greater potential exposure to needless pain.
In 2013 I heard Eric Thomas say “Pain is temporary, it may last for a minute, an hour, a day or even a year. But eventually, it will subside and something else will take its place.”
This quote really stuck with me, and I believe it to be true. As you’re reading this, think about a time in your life where you felt extreme pain. Maybe something happened to a loved one or maybe your business was challenging your pride and your goals. What happened? Did the pain subside? And when it did subside, why did it do so?
Maybe you’re enduring a painful experience right this second. Maybe something is going on that is unequivocally causing suffering for you and you’re questioning every decision you’ve made and feeling skeptical about your ability to make another decision.
Consider why you are experiencing that pain? What caused it? Can the cause be linked to you or is it a byproduct of something outside of your control? This is a really important thing to get clear on because too often, we punish ourselves for the pain we’re feeling even though we’ve played no role in its cause.
Recently I was speaking with Grace Lever at dinner and for those of you who haven’t heard of Grace, you should certainly tune into her story. Grace has been a longstanding business entrepreneur and business coach who has unequivocally experienced needless pain as a result of her relentless pursuit to build great businesses. Notably she has built a business with annual revenue greater than $10 million - her business delivers several female evolve programs to support business coaches and consultants globally with building a sustainable service-based business.
Part of our conversation was around the topic of motivation and I had posed the question of “Why do we sometimes not do what we know we need to do to take our business to the next stage?”. Given her experience with women entrepreneurs specifically I knew she was in a great position to provide thoughtful and substantiated perspective on this exact challenge. Even though I was deliberately seeking her insights, the nature of her response was certainly not expected!
Grace said to me: “Maybe you’re not in enough pain”.
She proceeded to reflect on her experience when starting her [current] business and said that it was the pain of feeling like she was at rock bottom with six lines of credit card debt that made her do what her goals demanded.
Grace went on to explain that she was dining in a restaurant on one occasion during the early days of her current business and witnessed a powerful conversation between a couple. The male partner had said to his female partner “You’ve been trying for a long time and it’s time to give it up” as they sustained an intense conversation about her obvious pursuit of female entrepreneurship.
Grace said to me: “When I witnessed that, knowing what it feels like to be that woman, I had to ask myself what I could do to help women NOT feel like that”.
My conversation with Grace and Eric Thomas’s quote, in addition to my curiosity surrounding the relationship between pain and progress has powerfully empowered me to deeply explore what we can do as female entrepreneurs to better understand and prepare for the growth pains we experience as we build big, global and sustainable businesses.
So maybe we shouldn't avoid pain but instead we should seek to identify and leverage the purpose of pain.
The best place for us to start? By connecting and communicating with one another to share our stories.