I recently had a good reminder of how tough development is, whether it is physical, mental, adult, mindset, leadership, etc. About 18 months ago, I started experiencing some pain in my hip, lower back, and hamstring area. I first chalked it up to sitting more because of the work-from-home shift during the pandemic. The pain came, stayed for a week or so, and went away independently. Clearly, I was fine because the pain went away.

This pattern repeated for several months, and I thought it was time to make sure nothing serious was wrong. Having my mobility restricted is a big concern of mine. The orthopedic doctor completed some tests and determined that my body was not structurally wrong. That was great news, but the pain persisted.

She recommended that I start physical therapy when the pain returned. Once the pain returned, I promptly ignored her direction. I used all the logical excuses in my development of reasons why this wasn’t a priority:

  • I did not have time for this.
  • We lost health insurance for a while, so it wasn’t financially feasible.
  • It will probably go away again
  • Do I really need to do something about this?
  • How bad is it, really?

Finally, the pain didn’t go away on its own like it used to. It became pretty consistent. It wasn’t hampering my ability to exercise or move, so in my mind, it was still a nice-to-have fix rather than urgent. When the pain started waking me up at night, my threshold was passed. I set up the appointment. 

Development is painful

Turns out I had soft tissue issues with my hip flexors and sciatic nerve. I had my first appointment, and it was physically painful as the therapist manipulated the soft tissue in the area. The home exercises were even worse in terms of physical pain. Apparently, my quad muscles were very angry, and hated the foam roller.

The therapist told me I will eventually get to a point where my hamstrings would crave the foam roller. I was anxious to see the results of this physical development; at this point in my therapy, I did not believe her. After completing my 2nd round of home exercises, I told my husband that, for the first time, I realized why people live with consistent pain without trying to alleviate it. It hurts. It is hard. You have to go through the pain to get to the other side.

At my second appointment, I told my therapist the truth – that I would rather quit and live with the consistent pain than bear the pain that happens in the appointments and home exercises. I won’t quit. I know the benefits on the other side. I know it wouldn’t be as painful if I had dealt with the issues when they first occurred. I want to continue to be mobile for decades to come. It is worth it, but it is hard! 

How does this relate to my work? It shows up in every session with the executives and leaders I work with. 

  • There is an area they want to develop, blind spots they want to uncover, and some automatic responses that they want to rewire. 
  • They have experienced some pain in these areas for a while, but not necessarily enough pain to dive deep into it.
  • If they had started development at the first level of self-awareness of the challenge, the pain likely won’t be as great, the recovery might not take as much time as if they were to let it fester for some time.  
  • Going through the development of these areas to the new behaviors is hard and, at times, painful, especially in the beginning when it feels like you are doing a lot of work and aren’t seeing the benefits yet.
  • Their coach can seem overly cheerful about this pain you are experiencing. Spoiler alert: your coach can see your progress and knows the good things on the other side of the pain. 
  • You can do a “surface fix” for the challenge that feels good in the short term, but the challenge will re-emerge in the near-term future. You have less pain in the short term but haven’t addressed the root cause.
  • The client realizes there are benefits on the other side of this temporary pain. The benefits will far outweigh the costs in the long term. This knowledge can help motivate clients through the toughest times.

Change is hard. Development is hard. Find someone to help guide you through it, support you and hold you accountable so you can experience the long-term benefits.