Why a Painful Experience Can Be a Great Teacher…

By , November 20, 2013 9:50 pm

“Pain prompts us to face who we are and where we are. What we do with that experience defines who we become.”

~ John C. Maxwell, Author

Throughout my working life I’ve been helping people face their problems, challenges and mistakes. I coach individuals how to grow through them. I believe that people thrive when they are able to face their problems and screw-ups in a way that shifts any bad experience, and uses it as a catalyst for change and future success. I have witnessed many profound shifts.

We all have painful moments in business (and in our personal lives, too) no matter how hard we try to avoid them. Honestly, if you’re taking risks and wanting to stand up and play a bigger game, then you can’t avoid painful experiences. It’s part of the journey on the rollercoaster ride of success!

No one enjoys being in the middle of a bad experience. It hurts emotionally, and sometimes physically, when things go wrong. We re-live the experience moment by moment, replaying it in our mind in the hope that we can somehow change the outcome, go back and say things differently, or change our behavior in the past.

But, as you know – it’s not possible…

How do you respond when you say the wrong thing or drop the ball?

Do you get angry or frustrated with yourself? Shrink into yourself emotionally? Get upset and teary? Worry that everyone thinks you are a bad person? Do you think, ‘Who do I think I am?’ Or maybe you try to completely detach yourself from the situation and ignore it?

Whatever you are thinking, you can’t change the past.

However, you ALWAYS have a choice on how you move things forward. In other words, what you decide to do with the experience will define who you become as a result of it. Do you:

  1. Allow the pain to stop you in your tracks and you stay small licking your wounds and stay stuck re-living the moment over and over?
  2. Make a decision to work through the discomfort by facing the issue and dealing with it?

Here’s the thing…

Painful experiences increase our self-awareness – we get to know ourselves a little better. They enable us to reflect on who we are, where we are and what we need to change, or how we can move forward.

It helps you to define WHO you want to be at a deeper level.

So pain can be helpful and I’ve known many clients who have admitted that their biggest breakthroughs came in the middle of a painful experience, often when they felt like giving up. These experiences move us in a different direction. You get to decide which way to go: will they limit you or lead you forward?

Challenging times are often pivotal points in our growth. If you want to grow and develop then you have to learn to manage these experiences along with the good ones.

Here’s how to grow through pain…

1. EVERYONE has them – Knowing this helps! Negative things will happen; we’ll say the wrong thing in the moment, even though we had good intentions. Life is full of good and bad experiences; some you have control over and others you don’t. It’s how you manage them both that count because you can’t avoid them. Manage your expectations and know that it happens sometimes. It’s not fun in the moment, but if you can handle it well and turn it around, it may become a great story to tell afterwards.

2. Make it a positive experience – Most people react to bad experiences – they don’t handle them well. Change your frame of reference for the situation and how you look at it. It’s easy to make judgments and assumptions or blame others. Maybe you can’t change what has happened, but you can change your attitude towards it. Look at what you have learned about yourself and how you can apply these lessons moving forward. Bad experiences are portals for learning – choose to see them and use their gift as an opportunity for growth.

3. Take responsibility – Accept that you’ve screwed up or could have done things better. Don’t listen to your ‘victim’ story: woe is me or start wallowing in self-pity – this isn’t serving you! It’s easy to cling on to the negativity as it intensifies in your head. Instead, accept the situation and be kind to yourself. Let it go. Make good what you can and take forward motion knowing that your intention was good…You get to choose how this changes you.

Whatever you are experiencing in life just now… remember that you always have the opportunity to grow from it. The seed of growth is always there, you just have to look for it.

Your bad experiences can be a catalyst for unlocking your creativity. Assess the situation and manage your experience by deciding to make some positive changes. It’s all part of the process of life!

 

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