Zielschmerz: The Pain of Pursuing Your Dreams

Zielschmerz: The Pain of Pursuing Your Dreams

Want to this listen to this article instead? Tune in here.


I engage in more coaching conversations per week than the number of clients I have.

I do this because I’ve learned there’s a large delta between people who want to be coached and those who commit to it.

In other words, out of every ten people who say they are positively ready to be coached, only two will do the work.

Those who don’t move forward are not lazy or unambitious. A cursory look at other areas of their lives shows they are committed badasses. They also do not latch on to excuses like lack of time and resources. When they are in an exploratory coaching conversation with me, they know they are willing to put in the time, focus, and money to make the dream, the goal, and the change happen.

So what holds them back?

Why do so many of us stop dead in our tracks and prefer to stay “stuck” instead of making positive change?

I always had an intuition about the reason but couldn’t find the words for it.

Until I came across the perfect word—albeit in German! The word is Zielschmerz (pronounced “zeel-shmerts.”).

Zielschmerz, which has roots in two words: Ziel, meaning goal, and Schmerz, meaning pain, beautifully explains the dread of finally pursuing a lifelong dream. This dream requires you to put your true abilities out there to be tested on the open savannah, no longer protected inside the terrarium of hopes and delusions you started up in kindergarten and kept sealed as long as you could!

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig


In my article—Is Your Preparation a Disguise for Procrastination?—I explain the distinction between being in motion and being in action and share how most of us keep ourselves in motion to deny taking action. Zielschmerz is the bridge between motion and action.  

Having a discovery conversation with one or many coaches is motion

Listening to podcasts, reading self-growth books, and gaining certifications are motion.

Complaining to anyone who will listen to your latest drama is motion.

Writing in your journal about your hopes and dreams is motion.

There’s nothing wrong with motion, and it’s often a necessary first step. But when we pitch a tent and settle down in motion rather than move into action, Zielschmerz is often the fear holding us back.

I hope this insight frees those who have yet to move into action from adding insult to injury by judging yourselves.

Understanding Zielschmerz won’t change your life, but it might add a touch of understanding and compassion to your everyday thoughts.

Get instant access to my complimentary self-coaching program

The Life Vault equips you with the tools and practices to spark transformation in your personal and professional life including: Self Development, Career Growth, Leadership Abilities, Relationship Dynamics and Parenting Skills.

Raising Conscious Children: Balancing Growing Up and Waking Up

Why Do You Have to Be So Extreme?

Are You Fed Up Yet?

If Life Was a Spotify Playlist, What Would Be Your Soundtrack?

Fear: Friend or Foe?