Inspire Change Through Words

33 Copywriting & Messaging Principles For The Rising Personal Development Star


Personal Development Copywriting & Messaging Principle #7: Define Pain

Have you ever been so depressed you stopped eating? I have. I wrote about it in 2020. Here’s an excerpt:

Someone recently asked if I offer personal training services. Since I lack the education and credentials one needs for that I said, “no.”

But another person asked me the same question the following day. 


Because I posted a shirtless picture of myself at the beach on Instagram. 

Under the glistening sun, slathered in salty seawater, you could see my abs through what little fat still clings to my body. 

While knowing my physical appearance elicits that kind of response is appreciated and does a lot for my self-esteem, there’s a dark side to this I have to get honest about. 

Since the pandemic “started” in March, I’ve gone through two toxic breakups with someone. The first time, I took up jogging and light weight training via my kettlebell. 

I also fell into a deep depression, in which I stopped eating and needed meal replacement maintenance shakes to make sure I was nourished. 

In the months since, I’ve kept to a steady workout and diet regimen. 

But the second breakup happened several weeks ago. I again lost my appetite, and had trouble eating.

This led to a large reduction in water weight, which allowed my abs to peek through my skin. 

The months of torturous heartbreak and immobilizing depression behind the picture that people saw on social media weren’t visible—all they could see were the abs. 

Many marketers view pain in much the same way. 

We spend countless hours brainstorming and researching “pain points” around our products/services, falsely believing we are in the business of healing pain, when all we really do is help alleviate frustration (a mere symptom of pain). 

Walking in on your partner with another person, only to have them beg you not to leave, as confusion sets in and your body excretes trauma by way of sweat, is painful. 

Explaining to your child why being “so busy with work” caused you to forget picking them up from school is painful. 

Watching revenues for your business shrink, knowing you’ll have to let people go from their jobs, is painful. 

It’s arrogant for us to assume that we heal pain, and most marketing reflects this. 

Because we’re scared.

We are either too afraid to dig into what pains our markets the most, or we’re afraid to say it out loud.

In much the same way you’ll speak in dreams and nightmares, you’ll want to speak to pain in two ways:

1. Speak to pain in verbatim terms

2. Speak to hidden pain (the part we’re afraid to say out loud)

Remember, in removing the ego we allow the person we are helping to tell us their experience. When we do so, we can take note of their pain, and use their own words to communicate with others on a grand scale. This is a tried and true copywriting method, not only for personal development, but all marketing. 

To define pain in verbatim terms, all you have to do is listen to what your prospects are saying. This is the surface-level stuff. 

And listen up, Superstar, because this is incredibly important: your messaging will need to contain surface-level pain, especially at the surface level of contact with your market.

Whether that’s your website or a social media profile, the pain your prospects are in should be featured front and center.

Now STOP. 

Yes, I know that many people express what they believe to be pain, when it is merely a symptom of a larger underlying issue. 

Which has led to you chomping at the bit to explain to them what their real problem is. 

Resist this urge. Practice empathy and validation. Define the surface-level pain, and speak it back to your prospect verbatim, whether that’s in person, or on a grand scale. 

Take a moment to appreciate Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. 

Who was he speaking to? What pain was he defining? 

Perhaps someone who doesn’t have any friends. Someone who feels very alone, and is tired of people not listening to them. 

Did Dale Carnegie write a book called “You Have Low Self-Esteem & Bad Social Skills”? No. He spoke to the surface-level pain of his market, then spoke to the hidden pain within the book, along with solutions to the market's real problems.

Continued on my excerpt about pain: 

True pain lies deep within your market, and deep within you.

But if you’re afraid to dig, you won’t find that pain, and you’ll (successfully, perhaps) be selling a bottle of cream to someone who needs an MRI and physical therapy. 

When I posted my shirtless picture on Instagram, who knows what pain drove the two men who asked for advice—maybe they’ve been ashamed to ask a “real” trainer for help, so they sought it out from an average person who looks more like them.

And even though they wanted fitness tips, four close friends—clued into the actual pain I’ve been going through—asked if I was okay, and if I’d been eating. 

One even dropped food off for me. 

As marketers, we need to better understand the problems we’re trying to solve, because we are in the business of shifting the paradigms of people looking for relief, so they can see there is a solution to what keeps them up at night. 

And like Jung said, “There’s no coming to consciousness without pain.”   

Great change happens where great pain once held us back, but only if we do what’s necessary to arouse the burning desire that compels us to march towards a brand new vision for ourselves.

We’ll touch on speaking to hidden pain in part two. 

Example #1: Vivid Vision

For years I wrote dozens of Vivid Vision documents at Conscious Copy & Co. It was, and still is, one of their most in-demand offers. Our founder, Jennifer Hudye, came up with an incredible story hook for the sales page: 

The Document That Helped This Company Grow To $100M, Be Featured On Oprah, And Be Written Up In The Harvard Business Review… All In Only 3 Years

A wonderful, story-driven headline that uses curiosity to draw you in. Creative and simple. I love it. 

Except it didn’t speak of pain, or the benefits of the product that would alleviate pain. 

What we kept hearing over and over on sales calls was that businesses wanted to “align their team,” or “create focus & alignment.”

So the headline became:

Vivid Vision

The Remarkable Tool To 

Clarify, Communicate, And 

Align Your Team With 

Your Company’s Vision Of The Future

Not as sexy, but pulled right from the brains of the people we wanted to help, and much more effective.

Example #2: Joe Dispenza 

Many meditations offer abstract benefits such as calmness, presence, deep sleep, etc. 

Joe Dispenza, meditative transformation Supernova, speaks to the pain those he wishes to help may be feeling (or how the benefits alleviate said pain). If you go to his website right now, you can access the following: 

  • The Courageous Heart: By tuning in to love, joy, kindness, compassion, and gratitude, men can develop the courage to open their hearts – and begin to lead with love in every area of their lives.
  • Generating Joy: designed to help people who have lost the feeling of joy in their life. When you identify that you have defaulted into an unconscious program and have moved into a state of sadness, fear, or suffering, and can’t seem to find happiness and beauty in this gift called life, it’s time to make up your mind and change your energy.



Copywriting & Messaging Principle #8: Define Relief Through Vision

Relief from pain is what your market is seeking. But like you, they may believe it to be desire. Don't be fooled. Instead, define relief through the vision they have of their desired outcome.

Your cart

We value your privacy

We use cookies to customize your browsing experience, serve personalized ads or content, and analyze traffic to our site.