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2006: Issue 14

No Pain, No Gain.

We are reading and hearing about the brain’s plasticity in all different venues.  From the table display at Barnes and Noble showcasing books filled with brain exercises to the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know, followed by the sequel, What the Bleep!?:Down the Rabbit Hole.   And if you are lucky enough to be members of AARP, every month you have at your fingertips a page of brain teezers. 

As I work with individual and organizational clients to optimize their potential, achieve their goals and then some, I often see their frustration build as they struggle to do things differently, to change, even if they say, “I love change.”   We discuss how change is hard, yet most have accomplished “hard” things before so why not this? Good point; so we continue to think of reasons why, identify the hurdles and what they can do to overcome them….you know the drill.  And I continue to wonder, what is really going on for it shouldn’t be this hard. 

Fortunately, I found some answers in an article titled, The Neuroscience of Leadership, by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz.  The authors contend that the latest research in neuroscience clearly shows that “change is pain,” and support their conclusion with a lesson in brain functioning, a reminder of why biochemistry led me to change my major.  So I simplify to three take aways: our brain likes routine; much of what we do is our brain operating on automatic pilot; and our brain has a strong capacity to detect “errors”, ie doing something differently. 

It clicked.  The reason we struggle with change--it’s painful.  Not that this is good news, but at least it is news that I can work with.    We are all familiar with pain, hopefully of the acute nature versus chronic; thus, we know that it can resolve.  We know how limiting it can be and how the anticipation of pain often keeps us from trying something new or doing something different.  We also know there is great truth to the familiar refrain, “no pain, no gain.”

As I share these latest findings with my clients, they, like me, find it refreshing---for it is no longer about simply a weakness on our part, it actually has a physiological origin.  By phrasing it that way, it is easier to put our attention and focus on the new process, the new behavior, as we envision the outcome, and see that the gain will be worth the pain.   

Everyone seems to have something they want to change, and struggle to do so.  We repeatedly tell ourselves it is simple, and feel bad when we aren’t successful in making it happen.  Now we can understand that what we were simply doing was resisting pain: who wants it, don’t need it, already have enough. 

Recognizing that our brain is wired to resist change, avoiding what it naturally sees as unnecessary pain, gives us an objective paradigm to work within.  We no longer need to scold ourselves for not being successful in doing something different, and say we failed.  Rather, as we do when exercising our other muscles, recognize that pain means gain, and thus, we can push on through.


  1. Email me for a copy of the article. 
  2. Stay tuned for our next ezine, identifying the strategies for working through the pain.
  3. Think of your brain as a muscle, and identify your care plan for optimizing its performance. 

Janet Crawford, MHA, MBA
Professional Certified Coach

David Scheiderer, MD, MBA
Executive Coach

Tiberius Rx ... written for professionals who defy the law of average and want to explore, experience and excel in all aspects of their life.

“It is what we think we know that prevents us from learning something new."
– Claude Bernard

"Something we were withholding made us weak, until we found it was ourselves."
– Robert Frost


It is time for the next evolution of Extra Ordinary Living. Stay tuned for additional details as we continue to explore and experience better ways of optimizing our results.