In the 20th Century, many coaches and physical trainers used a trite, but powerful message to urge athletes on to ever higher levels of performance. “No pain, no gain” was the conventional wisdom. Push yourself until it hurts, and then, push yourself some more. That was the way you achieved athletic success, or so they thought.
Physical fitness experts have now determined that this notion is a surefire way to do lasting damage to your body. Forcing yourself to endure acute physical discomfort does not enhance your physical prowess; doing so actually weakens and eventually destroys it.
The same is true with your career. “No pain, no gain” implies that you should work at whatever maximizes your paycheck, even if you hate every moment you spend on-the-job. It suggests that you should endure unpleasant working conditions or a disrespectful employer as long as they permit you to earn a living. And, that view is also completely wrong.
A dull or unpleasant job transforms your working life into the daily grind or, worse, into an experience that grinds you up. It leaves you feeling wasted and even abused. It doesn’t enhance the health of your career: it profoundly weakens and eventually destroys it.
Career Activism, on the other hand, encourages you to see your work in a very different way. Any job that seems dull and unpleasant to you should be done by someone else who finds it interesting and exciting or, at the very least, satisfying. For both of you, the employment experience should be a chance to “play” at something you enjoy and get paid to do.
A healthy career unfolds like an adult game; it is a series of challenges—the jobs at which you are employed—that enable you to dream bigger, reach further, and achieve more than you ever have before. Your work, in essence, becomes the way you discover more about the champion who lives inside you and, as you come to know that person, to raise the level of your performance on-the-job.
That achievement of your personal best, in turn, unleashes a chemical reaction in the brain that humans are hardwired to seek. It produces a cognitive state that every person craves. Psychologists call it happiness.
Pushing yourself to develop a healthy career, therefore, should not be a form of torture, but a pathway to something invigorating and, ultimately, beneficial. It is the way you transform the single largest segment of your life—the time you spend at work—from a painful passage into a journey of self-exploration and self-fulfilling expression.