No pain no gain?

Casey Onder, PhD
2 min readNov 26, 2023
Adapted photo by Juan Goyache on Unsplash

There’s truth to this saying — and it can set us up to make things harder or less pleasant than they need to be.

What if we reframed “no pain no gain” to “pain for gain?” Like any exchange or investment. Typically the more gain one strives toward, the more (emotional) pain from the challenges. Likewise, more pleasure. Fleeting from wins, en route from intrinsic rewards of learning and improvement.

We fight the good fights, and choose our battles.

Pain can be problematic when we lose, surrender, shy away from or restrict our own power. There are potentially subtle, important distinctions between real devotion, deference, dogged determination and various forms of self-smallifying and self-sabotage. These show up as burnout and worse. Others tend to numb or avoid pain en route to results by becoming defensive, chameleonesque or performative/self-inflating, diminishing or dominating others. Each tendency has strengths. None is genuinely healthy or sustainable.

To sum up, yes to work smart versus hard, and those committed to growth would do well to embrace their ego’s punches, deflections, inflations and cries to the contrary (AKA fight-flight-fawn-freeze patterns). IME the clearer and more adapted our egos, the quicker and more deeply we center in wisdom, oneness and equanimity even as reality presents roadblocks, puts a knife in, burns like hell or whacks our most passionate beliefs, efforts and desires like a blunt instrument.

Hopefully it doesn’t get to this, and anything’s possible.

We would do well to keep big picture in mind, to keep eyes on the prize, to welcome heaven to earth in our most trying moments.

“Follow your bliss,” said Joseph Campbell.

I hope we each go far, and fly like the wind.

Bliss isn’t going anywhere.

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Casey Onder, PhD

Executive Coach | Psychologist | PhD. Follow me on LinkedIn or sign up for my newsletter @