No pain, no gain. For decades, this was the accepted mantra of those who competed in bodybuilding or power lifting events, which was then passed on to and assumed by the general population as the only way to exercise to improve health, lose weight, or change the shape of their body. As years of research and a better understanding of the effects of exercise on the body have shown, the “no pain, no gain” theme is not really fair or accurate. Or is it? Most exercise “novices” or “naysayers” would say it is bad advice, but as a fitness professional I have another perspective to offer you.
Success, whether in life, your career, your relationships, and even your body is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and that may require embracing some pain. To reach high levels of physical and personal success you must approach your training, and your entire life, as an endeavor in constant growth. The ultimate truth is, you are either moving forward or moving backward; growing or dying. There’s no such thing as comfortably maintaining. To grow, you must step above past achievements; beyond your perceived boundaries and limits. That means stepping out of the known, into the unknown; out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar; out of the comfortable into the uncomfortable. You must get out of your comfort zone.
Cavett Robert, who was founder of the National Speakers Association, said, “Most people are running around their whole lives with their umbilical cords in their hands and they’re looking for some place to plug it back in.” A majority of the population is scared of the new, unknown and unfamiliar. They prefer to stay in that womb of comfort. When the going gets tough, when the effort gets painful, when the work gets hard, they always pull back into safety. But the extraordinary people do the opposite. They know they have to get out of the comfort zone, and into new territory or they’ll stagnate and die. You can’t grow or change by doing what you’ve already done. You’ve got to train just to prevent yourself from going backwards. Maintenance doesn’t occur when you do nothing. Maintenance is working to fight entropy (the tendency for things to naturally deteriorate).
Nevertheless, most people still will not leave their comfort zones. They won’t do it in business, they won’t do it in their personal lives, and they certainly won’t do it when seeking REAL change in their health and fitness. Why? Because it hurts, it’s uncomfortable, and it means more work beyond what they consider to be hard work already. And that’s what it means to step outside the comfort zone. It is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable, whether it’s physical mental, or emotional. It requires discipline, sacrifice, uncertainty and fear. To say, “no pain no gain” is bad advice is admittedly accepting things for the way they are, and if you are happy with that then no one or nothing can change your mind. The fact of life is that you don’t grow unless you are constantly stepping outside the comfort zone, and outside the comfort zone requires a little discomfort and pain.
The statement “no pain, no gain” has been misinterpreted, criticized and labeled a fallacy by many. However, those doing the criticizing are almost always the pretenders, the “comfort zoners” who haven’t achieved much. My advice to you is to ignore them. Step out of your comfort zone and follow the small percentage of people who press on and achieve great things. Embrace the “good pain” of growth and when it subsides, enjoy the benefits of the change. But I forewarn you. Enjoy the view for a short while because it’s not long before that higher level becomes your new comfort zone and then its time to press on again.
Featured in October 2009 Issue of 422 Business Advisor