What is your happy pain place?: April 2019

David Graham March 30, 2019

Coaching Tips, Leadership Insights, Monthly Newsletter

Over the weekend I did a 5k charity race with one of my clients, which has become a tradition each Spring. It was the perfect day for a run, where the tip of my nose was cold and both my toque and shorts were suitable attire.

I started a bit too far back in the pack and the first few minutes I spent weaving through the crowd to avoid tripping on heels. I slowly got to the point where I was now the obstacle to faster runners coming up from behind. As I found my stride, I let out a sigh of relief…

I found my happy pain place.

It wasn’t too fast and wasn’t too slow, it was just right; I was in The Goldilocks Zone! This is a concept that I learned from Dr. Theo Dawson while I was studying at The Ivey Academy. When we challenge ourselves, it’s critical that we land in a place that’s difficult enough to be uncomfortable, but not so difficult that failure is inevitable.

Learning in the Goldilocks zone, triggers a cycle in the brain known as the Dopamine Opioid Cycle. When we achieve a goal, our brain releases opioid hormones which make us feel good. It also triggers the release of dopamine which is the striving hormone motivating us to do it again…and so the cycle continues. Dr. Dawson calls this the Virtuous Cycle of Learning.

For leaders, this is valuable information. If we can set targets that are just right for the team, success is inevitable. You may be thinking: if it’s that easy why don’t I have a team of gold medal runners? Well, the fascinating and frustrating thing about teams is that each team member has a different pain place and it’s our job to discover the Goldilocks Zone for each of them.

  • What insights do you already have about your team?
  • What conversations can you have to discover their Goldilocks zone?
  • As a leader, where’s your happy pain place?

If you need some more thought starters, give us a shout. We are passionate about developing great leaders and ironically our happy pain point is helping you find yours!

Happy Spring!


David Graham

Dave coaches good leaders who want to be great leaders and he works with leaders to build high performing, super-focused teams. For transformational experiences, he takes teams out of the boardroom and into nature.