Yep. I said it. Pain is the enemy of change.
Now I know that goes against what a lot of us have been taught. It even goes against a whole selling methodology (I’m looking at you, Challenger…).
But here’s what I know: if something is painful, people won’t do it. At least, they won’t do it long term. Why not? Because it hurts. Physically or emotionally. Or both. Either way, pain isn’t sustainable… and yet we want change to be.
I know, I know. Making the “pain of the status quo exceed the pain of change” has gotten you some (maybe a lot) of success in business or in sales. You’ve seen that if you make the situation someone is in so uncomfortable, so actually or potentially painful via costs or consequences, that they act.
But action and change are not interchangeable. Just because someone acts doesn’t mean they’ve changed.
Sure, you can use pain to drive an action. And, in fact, there’s a ton of research that shows that it works. By and large, we are more motivated — in the moment — to avoid a loss than to realize a gain (thank you, Daniel Kahneman). But that loss-aversion moment depends on a lot of things. It depends on how close someone already is to their goal. It depends on whether or not they’ve already heard good or bad news about their goal.
And I gotta say: I’m not a big fan of “it depends” variables like that. Particularly not when the Change I’m advocating for is important. Particularly not in the face of the most powerful force in the universe.
What is that, you say?
Homeostasis.That “tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium” — the tendency to keep things the same. That “tendency” drives pretty much everything in the universe. Ask a scientist.
Which means causing someone to act in the moment isn’t always good enough — not if you really want to create a permanent shift in thinking or behavior. You have to make that action consistent with as much of someone’s status quo as you can. (Which is why, as we talked about in the last issue, it’s far easier to change someone’s perspective than it is to change their goals or beliefs.)
That also means that the Change you’re asking people to make — the permanent change, that is — also has to feel small to the person you’re talking to.
And that means sometimes you have to set your sights for a particular communication a bit lower. Ask yourself, “What’s the smallest, sustainable change this person (or I!) can make without pain?”
The key is to make change — the Change, if you’re building a Red Thread — easy. Maybe that means breaking up your big five-figure service offering into smaller modules. Maybe it means asking someone to agree to set up a meeting with decision-makers rather than pushing for the sale right then. Maybe it means going down to two venti Frappuccinos a day rather than three.
So, sure, make the pain of the status quo exceed the pain of an action (like changing perspective). But to get someone to change permanently, we need to do something pretty counterintuitive: we need to make the pain of change the same as the pain of the status quo.
It’s the only way to to make change that sticks. And isn’t that what you really want?
If you’re a regular reader, I’m guessing (hoping!) it is.