The Purpose of Struggle

Published: March 7, 2014

The Team Clock Institute's upcoming release, Useful Pain: Why Your Relationships Need Struggle, was written as an enticement for growth. Based on a simple concept, interactions between partners are viewed in necessary cycles of meaningful challenge.

The Team Clock Institute’s upcoming release, Useful Pain: Why Your Relationships Need Struggle, was written as an enticement for growth. Based on a simple concept, interactions between partners are viewed in necessary cycles of meaningful challenge. Of course, instinct tells us to make the pain go away. The reward is relief from, you name it, tension…fear…anxiety…depletion…the threat of failure. But what might happen if we allowed the struggle to run its course without being soothed?

When two people embark on a risk together, decision are driven by either the most fearless or most fearful member of the relationship. Fearless partners push their apprehensive counterparts forward. Fearful partners pull their more confident partners back. This dynamic push and pull generates creative tension in the relationship that forces either growth or stagnation. The symptoms most likely to appear when the risk is being negotiated represent both the eagerness for and the resistance to the consequences of change. When the more fearful partner is pulling, the relationship will be most affected by issues like resistance to change or fear of failure. When the more fearless partner is pushing, the relationship will be most influenced by feeling over-extended or “out on a limb.” Of course, both fearlessness and fearfulness have value, depending on what’s at stake.

Taking smart risks brings excitement and adventure to the life of a relationship. Much like driving a car, you are less likely to take a risk if your have passengers on board than if you are traveling alone. In relationships, risk-taking must account for the consequences on all parties involved. The resulting struggle has purpose – learning how to keep moving forward while honoring the pace of the team – useful pain.

Steve Ritter is the Founder & CEO of the Team Clock Institute and the Managing Director of the Midwest Institute & Center for Workplace Innovation. You can learn more about executive coaching opportunities at elmhurstcounseling.com/executive-coaching/

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.