While some of us may embrace our physical pain during a workout or marathon–most of us try to escape psychological/emotional pain.  Our defenses may be so efficient that we only detect our grief/shame/anger in a vague moodiness.  But an excruciating emotion has much to teach us, if we open our minds and hearts to hear.  If we do not listen to our emotional aches and pains, they can still influence us without our awareness.

After a recent speaking event, I felt the sting of failure.  Although I had felt prepared, the presentation hadn’t gone as I’d imagined.  I suddenly saw gaping holes in my knowledge and materials.  It was an excruciating discovery.  While the participants were satisfied, I was horrified.  I felt humiliated.

Can you remember the pain of falling below your own standards?  Were you able to learn from it and grow?  Were you able to explore the distressing truth or did you distract yourself, repress, blame, or turn away from your feeling?

I have many faults.  My enthusiasm can lead me astray.  But since I’m curious to know the truth about my inner and outer world, I’ll stay with the excruciating pain.  In this case, I learned that I’m pretty hard on myself and exaggerate my failings.  But I also learned important areas I could improve in my training.  Even if my feelings were extreme (my tendency), they cut through my imagined truth.  As I questioned my feelings of shame, I determined where I’d fallen short of my own standards.  As I began to plan improvements, I felt relieved and hopeful.

Team reflection:

Do members of our team courageously allow themselves to experience feelings of failure without blaming others, or rationalizing?  Can our team handle the pain of failure and learn from it?

Journal prompt:

Is there is a failure from the past haunting you?  Writing about your feelings can help exorcise the shame or guilt.  What happened? What did you learn from the experience?  Can you forgive yourself?

How tough are your standards at work?  How hard are you on yourself or others?

© 2010 lewis-barr all rights reserved

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