Why It Is Important (Especially for Leaders) to Feel Their Fear and Pain

When we stop resisting pain, we will often start to notice that it is simply a sensation like other sensations—and that we can be with it instead of reacting to it.

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It is not uncommon for highly successful people to be driven by a motivation to escape feelings of fear and pain. Oftentimes the pain we’re avoiding has laid dormant and unfelt for a long time. Pain that in many cases, has driven us to excel. It’s usually emotional pain, sometimes traumatic pain. It might stem from not feeling seen or valued in the family we grew up in, or persistent worry about not being good enough. This can lead us to become driven to succeed under any circumstances, to work under the pressure of unforgiving, unexamined deadlines, to perpetually strive for the approval of our organizations and shareholders, constantly flooding our bodies with ever more stress hormones.

The pain and underlying fear of not being good enough can become powerful driving forces for throwing ourselves into constant work. 

In a recent talk on Mindful on Wall Street, Matt Harris, cofounder of the multi-billion dollar investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners, captured this sentiment when he said that from an early age, he felt that his “worth as a human being was very much predicated on how successful I was.” This…