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Why growth is so insanely painful

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Is that statement true? That growth is insanely painful… Perhaps yes, perhaps no. I guess it all depends on how much growth you expose yourself to, doesn’t it!? For some people, sad but true, the only growth they experience in life is growing older. I’m sure you can think of a person like that. In case you prefer listening, rather than reading, perhaps you’ll enjoy this podcast episode where I share some powerful stories about why and how growth is so painful. This may be my favorite episode actually: The Eagle and The Lobster.

Have you ever gone through a process that PUSHED you to bring your absolute BEST performance, to dig deeper, reach further, deliver better than ever before, and still it wasn’t good enough, or it didn’t lead to the result you aimed for? You think you have just delivered your best article, presentation, speech, performance, gourmet dinner or write up EVER, only to get feedback that lets you know it can be SO much better. Someone thinks or believes that you, or “it”, can be done much better.

If you have been in that situation, I’m quite certain you know, just as well as I do, that it’s in the specific moment that happens JUST AFTER that pain, that GROWTH happens – or doesn’t happen. Sometimes we are simply too overwhelmed with the feedback and the feeling of failure that we can’t find the strength to try again. We give up. There is no growth. We remain convinced we did our best, and cannot do any better, that’s it. Most people do just that. They try, most likely their absolute best, but get feedback that is not what they wanted or expected, and then they give up.

The strongest feeling, that is all-consuming in that specific moment, is that we’ve been pushed back so hard that the only natural and sane thing to do is to stop, to not try again, to give up. Who wants to stand up and proceed right towards that pain AGAIN???

I’ll share one example: working with my speech coach Roddy Galbraith, I write, learn and record 3-minute scripts, and work on entering a stage time competition presenting to a live audience of thousands. Great opportunity, great fun, great challenge, great exposure to growth. Like Roddy says:

“People send me their recordings and say they look forward to the feedback, but what they really mean is “I look forward to hearing how brilliant you think it is”.

Why? Because they really did their best. And then, they get super disappointed when they get constructive feedback. First time I heard Roddy talk about this I giggled and thought “haha, silly people, they think they are THAT good”. Until it was time for me to send in my first recording. I will admit, I was looking forward to that exact same feedback: “excellent Annica, it’s brilliant”. Because I had just sent in my absolute best 3-minute speech. Hearing Roddy say “that’s the best I ever heard” did not happen. Never did, and never will. Roddy is there to help improve, and I think no matter how many times we tweak; a final script, painting, pitch or lyric can always be improved – in one way or the other.

Being comfortable and brave enough to acknowledge the work in progress and not be too attached to our “final” delivery, but more consider it “my best draft” has the potential to take away a LOT of pain from the growth process. This is also what makes it so difficult, as so many of us are high achievers and go all in to deliver our absolute best, not just a “best draft”. We want the gold stars right away, top score, A+.

If you’ve never been in a situation like this, if you tend to interpret the “constructive feedback” as a statement that you’re simply not good enough, so you stop trying, then you may not be able to grasp the full impact of “growth”.

Personally, I believe that growth is insanely painful. And at the same time so exciting.

That moment, when you’re being pushed back, when you get negative feedback, or even constructive feedback that you didn’t expect, when you get a bad surprise, the unexpected setback or being challenged to perform “even better” when you’re already doing your absolute best, that is the moment that will define if there will be growth, or not.

How could you possibly do even better? Or push even harder? Deliver even smoother? When you’ve already given it your everything…? And – you’re honestly quite exhausted from all the hard work. Why push yourself even harder? Especially when your closest support says “it’s OK, you did your best, let it go now”, because they don’t want to see you under pressure. They “care” about you. Another truth is that if you keep pushing and create positive change, you will make them uncomfortable with not making the same effort in their life, so it’s easier to support you in playing small, staying stuck, not reaching the big dream.

That’s when you have to take a moment, catch your breath and find that inner strength, your superpower strength. COURAGE.

This is self-leadership; the ability to lead yourself forward, when you feel like you’re being dragged backwards.

Courage; you’re gonna need it to bring out the force to try again, bring it to the next level, that little extra… you can do it! That inner strength holds a LOT of courage. At the same time that you know you can’t possibly do any better, can’t push any harder, can’t deliver anything to a higher standard than you just did, that’s when you HAVE to believe in yourself and have oodles of courage to dare to believe that you CAN do more. And then you do it. Kind of reminds me of what Emerson said; ” Do the thing. And then you get the energy to do the thing”. But more like;

“Be convinced you can do it, and then do it”.

The process of growth, when you’re right in the middle of it, is so excruciatingly rough and uncomfortable, yes, even painful; it is so hard that it takes crazy amounts of inner strength to bring yourself together, put together the pieces of your crushed self-confidence, inhale and auto-charge yourself with pure and solid courage. You have more to give! Always.

When you do that, the process of growth can gracefully bring you to its next level; triumph!

Knowing and feeling that you persisted, that you continued against the odds, is very empowering. Like the Japanese say;

“Fall down seven times, get back up eight”.

Or like Rocky said; “it’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and still keep moving forward“.

The big success and growth in your desired area comes when you are willing to embrace the negative, or constructive feedback, believe with your mind, body and soul that you can do better – and then DO IT.

Be #unstoppable!

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