Your pain and where to put it (to work)

You have stretched your comfort zone, put yourself out there with all of who you are and your potentials for contribution. And it flopped. Nobody cared. Nobody understood. Or you faced outright opposition, criticism or outright ridicule.

This is not an easy move, and the pain of rejection stings like little else, and the more you were open and true to yourself, the deeper it hurts and all you want to do is crawl back inside and hope nobody saw you. Pain (I’m not talking about a sprained ankle) is a guide to something not going well, a warning signal, an invitation to look closer and to do something about it.

Situations like this are key, not only because they disrupt our flow, but because they are such useful pointers to something deeper. It hurts because the situation touched something you deeply and truly care about. Your values: Key principles, truths you hold about life, about humans, about business, family and what is right for you. Often these are not conscious until somebody steps on them, so this is a surefire way of (re)discovering what truly matters.

This is a key part of the learning curve. Refining your approach bit by bit is key to start making better decisions for yourself to align your life more and more with your values.

In situations like these where it gets uncomfortable, first of all take good care of yourself. If you have to actually crawl back inside for a bit, do that. If your integrity gets hurt, stick with it and identify what the line is that got crossed. And then, when you are able to, look at what happened. Take it bit by bit in installments you can handle. What was the “thing” that was hurting? What does it represent that is so important to you? How would you name it? Describe it? Does the pain have a “physical signature” that you recognize? Is there a symbol, metaphor for it? Was that always important in your life? How does “it” normally play out? How is it when it is disrupted? Is that something you recognize as a pattern?

And then start looking into how to make it better. What are things you can do now to make the situation less painful? What are other ways to feed the need you have to get more fulfillment? Can you let others help you? (Often we do get help offered and we don’t take it as we are too submerged in pain to see it. You probably won’t have to carry everything alone so don’t think you have to).

Capture your findings in a journal, sketchbook, scrapbook, music playlist or whatever medium works best for you. These are the things you care about the most. And then start taking concrete steps how to bring them out more in your life.

Pain, however strong it may be, is not your enemy. So, rather than fighting it, put your pain where it belongs. To work. For you.

2021 update: Want to do a more comprehensive exploration? Book out now on Amazon that will guide you step by step with a practical toolkit. Or just ping me.

(This book wouldn’t exist without pain and overcoming it. A lot of stuff that’s out there wouldn’t exist if it was inspired by pain and how to overcome it. It isn’t the only way to get to something, but it is a way. And by doing that it makes the load a bit lighter for others. Be brave and have courage. It will be worth it, some day, and not just for yourself.) 

Personal versus professional — really?

When I bring up the topic of values or decisions, often, something interesting happens. “Personal or professional”, I hear some of you say. This distinction seems to matter. For some, it the first thing needing clarification to be able to continue with the conversation. Just to make this clear: That is some strong segmentation going on there.

What is the good, the true and the beautiful, the beacon to orient yourself toward seems to be different depending on context. I talk to a lot of people about this, and what is noteworthy is, not everybody asks this. There seem to be clusters in who asks and who doesn’t. I do not have the exact numbers, but from my experience in the past years, hardly anybody in nonprofits asked this, and a very high number of people in high-pressure environments (financial services, consulting etc) asked this.

I am curious. Are what we consider our personal values not welcome? Or do we just not have these conversations, so we will never know? What do we observe in the leaders above us, how welcome this is? What sort of conversations would we need to have more of? And how can our values drive this?

Please share!


Slippery slopes

That feeling of discomfort the next day, that unease after the conversation… Ever had a “values hangover”? Knowing things were maybe not completely off track, but probably not really OK anymore? Life is messy, and often situations are not as perfectly clear-cut as our noble values suggest. Of course we would defend our values if they get violated, but how do we actually know that happened? Often, it is not the big blow-up, things slip in installments until you notice they are off, and then things are already pretty unstable.

For me, keeping tabs on this has something to do with how values are represented in my body. Where and how I am feeling them on a good day, and how this changes in difficult situations. A tightness in the throat, a knot in the stomach, things like that. They give me an indication when things start slipping – provided I actually take the time and space to check in with myself. This is very much a learning process, and often I catch things late, but I’d like to think as I practice, I catch them quicker. 

What is your strategy for this? What are examples where your values were challenged? What are warning signs you have identified when things are slipping? How did you start the conversations?