The “no pain, no gain” myth about stress

Know-how Sharing, Leadership / Mentorship, Women in Business

by Loredana Popasav, Transformative Coach, Mentor, Humanist, Diversity & Inclusion specialist

When I first started my career as a coach, my teachers were praising me for the speed I was learning and the speed with which my coaching practice was growing. They called me a “sponge” for knowledge. However, no matter what they would say to me, I was dismissing it immediately. I pretty much told them all they are wrong and was becoming very suspicious.

One day, one of my teachers and mentors, Piers Thurston, after I completely dismissed his great feedback on my performance, asked me “Why wouldn’t you believe that you are good?” My answer was something like this “I have been good and successful before. It’s been hard work, stressful and painful. This is easy. How can I be good if I didn’t break a sweat?” I was damn serious in my answer and very convinced I was right, yet he seemed rather amused. I think he even giggled. “Did you ever consider you might be talented at this? Did you ever consider being good at something doesn’t have to be painful?” Somehow, the answer that came out was “not for a long time…” 

That conversation made me realise that I have spent a few good years being guided by stress instead of passion. I was wrongly attributing my level of performance to stress and even calculating how much stress a project, or any endeavour, should have. 

This got me thinking… what if? What if there isn’t any connection whatsoever between the amount of pain that goes into an endeavour and the success of it. What if the “No pain, no gain” idea is a complete and utter nonsense? What if, in all those years, I wasted my time stressing out for things, projects and situations that I can’t even remember? Though, I do seem to remember well the joy and the flow of moments when stress wasn’t present, yet I was performing at my highest levels.

My friend and colleague Michal Kopcan says “If you watch birds fly, you will notice that they don’t always flap their wings. They mostly glide. Effortlessly…” 

Stress versus involvement and passion

One of the most common answers I get from people when I suggest that the stress they are experiencing might not be good for them, and that it might affect their life, health, relationships, or job, is “but if I am not stressed people will think I don’t care”. 

This answer makes no sense to me anymore. “Why would being stressed out a sign for caring?”, I ask. Being stressed and being passionate, or being in love with something, or someone is not the same thing. They don’t even lead into the same direction. One is guided by love, the other one by fear.  

It is a simple misunderstanding that creates a lot of confusion. Stress is not a badge of honour, or an indicator for the level of our commitment. Stress is completely unnecessary and just a reaction to our thinking in the moment. We think fearful thoughts about a made-up future, we get stressed. We think loving thoughts, we calm down, get back to clarity, back to passion. The difference is thought. When people realise the creative gift of thought and the inside-out nature of experience, they are able to use its power, instead of being used by it.

Thinking differently

“All feelings derive and become alive, whether negative or positive, from the power of Thought.” Sydney Banks  

So how comes passion is a better guide? Pretty simple – there’s no fear, no doubt and no anxiety in passion. Without fear there is no stress which means a clear head operating at full potential. There is the willingness to do something that we want to be done. There is the clarity to move forward and there is the resilience to bounce back with ease from unexpected, adverse circumstances or events we come across in our journey. 

Of course, there might be bumps, real or imaginary, in any journey, but why should they matter more than the journey itself? Getting anywhere is about going, not about the crossroads, or stop signs, or speed bumps. It’s about love and passion driving and guiding us.

About the author: 

Loredana Popasav is the owner of The Simplified Mind, a coaching company, where alongside her colleagues, works with private clients, clients in business and sports arenas, women organisations and NGOs by bringing pioneering approaches to mindset transformation. She is the co-organizer of the Understanding Human Mind International conference, co-founder of The Human Potential Academy, an international NGO dedicated to promote mental health and the human potential, an entrepreneur, a farmer, a teacher and a humanist. She also has over 20 years of experience in the marcomm industry, working on projects of media development, account management and new business, one of the most important positions being New Business Director at Publicis Romania.

Loredana is an experienced Associate Coach with a demonstrated history of working in the management consulting industry. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Negotiation, Budgeting, Mathematical Modeling, and Coaching. Strong community and social services professional with a Practitioner focused in 3 Principles from One Thought Institute.

Photo 45279917 / No Stress © Roberto Binetti |