Reflection, Pain, and Progress


Read time: 10 minutes


Management and pain

People can use all kinds of excuses and invent all kinds of activities to avoid something that is painful.

In management, many things will be painful. It is not a matter of IF, it is rather about WHEN. Setting your expectation for anything else is just wishful thinking.

Probably the most unpainful period in management is in the first couple of months of being nominated a manager for the first time. You have no idea what will come and how that will be experienced by you.

Once you start your accelerated growth in management, you will be in any of these three situations:

  • Will have painful decisions to make 
  • Will experience a situation or a circumstance as being painful
  • Or both

This probably is valid for many other jobs, but management will stretch you with its variety of situations and circumstances that involve risk, unknown, personal exposure and personal reputation at stake.

And sooner than you can imagine, you will learn to manage that pain. In fact, you will become so skilled in managing that pain, that any period without any of that “pain with which you are used to” will provide you with another type of pain: the pain of boredom and lack of excitement.

What is the type of pain I am talking about?

  • Feeling the embarrassment of not knowing obvious management stuff when all your peers know about it.
  • Feeling frustrated because you know you are right but do not know how to persuade your main sponsors.
  • Feeling judged by your former peers on every step you take just because they can judge you.
  • Feeling ashamed for not being able to persuade a senior colleague who is now reporting to you, about top decisions you have to enforce because you do not understand the logic behind it, too.
  • Feeling unfair that your former manager who supported you to advance in management is now debating with you in front of other managers, making you feel how immature still is your decision-making power.
  • Feeling challenged by your current senior manager every time you go to tell him what you have decided (and he starts questioning everything).
  • Feeling ridiculous in meetings with external stakeholders whenever you are “pushed” to network and you have no idea how to entertain interesting small talk and extend your own network.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by not being able to tell the naked truth neither up, nor down, for fear you will upset someone.


The wrong way to manage emotions

In the absence of a coach or a good mentor, you will learn the wrong way to manage your emotions.

Why? Because instead of listening to them and learning about yourself, you will start numbing them.

And how one can numb his emotions? You have at least a couple of alternatives.


The first is to avoid having pain in the first place. In this way, you will do anything that comes to your mind or on your way to the end of avoiding a perceived potential pain.

And here alternatives are endless. Just to name some:

  • You can throw yourself into deep work and be hugely productive for hours and hours, just to not make yourself available for that one significant discussion with your senior manager where you know you might end up feeling pain.
  • You may chase to explore a technical interesting idea you know your senior or a peer manager asked to, just to avoid being available for a meeting where you have been asked to be present, just because you will be the most junior person who has no understanding of the discussed topic.
  • You may choose to change the nature of the discussion for feedback with a senior person in your team whose attitude was disturbing for the entire team during the project, into a technical discussion, just for fear to break out on a difficult discussion you feel you will lose.
  • You may choose to downgrade the foreseen impact of risks you see on your area of expertise, just because you are not sure how that news will be received by your senior manager and how it will affect your image.
  • You may choose to play the victim of the negative impact produced by other organizational departments or functions on you, just to not have to surface problems in your area of management that you do not know how will affect your reputation.

And so and so … you get the idea.


This is the process where one can make the pain disappear if they will logically understand what happened. And because of that, they will try to find a logical explanation for every situation that created them discomfort or pain.

How does it work? You will start finding answers to questions such as:

  • Why do I feel bad when the people in my team yell at me (after 4 hours of overtime) about some wrong input data I received from the client? My colleagues for sure disrespect me.
  • Why do I feel like a fraud when they ask me for guidance? They know for sure the answer but are just testing my knowledge since I am new here as their manager. (When in fact they are only looking for guidance or input from you, but you do not know or have that information and feel bad to admit it.)
  • Why does my manager not listen to me? For sure he does not believe me and I need to explain to him again. (When in fact the manager might have just a headache and cannot concentrate on what I am telling him, especially with me raising my voice to repeat the same message).
  • Why do I feel so useless? I prefer being hands-on but my role requires me to be rather a facilitator than a decision-maker. That is why I keep others responsible for making me just waste precious time

In both cases, the manager will deprive himself of seeing or understanding correctly the reality. In both cases, his decision-making capacity will be impaired.

If in the first case, the manager would just avoid a face-to-face meeting with what he believes to be a situation in which he will feel some pain, in the second, the manager will avoid reality by creating their own version of reality which, even though is bad, it is less painful than the real REALITY.

Having worked directly with highly skilled senior managers and project managers, and being one of them, I realized that often very smart people create, without even being aware, extremely sophisticated ways to lie to themselves just to avoid emotional discomfort or pain.

So sophisticated in fact, that it becomes extremely difficult for them to see with clarity WHO THEY ARE beyond being someone who continuously finds himself fighting for something or against something and almost all the time entangled in a cloud of negativity or doubt.

This is the wrong way of managing their emotions. Because sooner than later, this manager falls their own victim. Without even knowing it. The price of avoiding the source of the main pain is to create to themselves additional pains, easier to handle in the short run but extremely toxic for themselves and their environments in the long run. Because it depletes the energy and motivation, of both them and the people around them.



There is also a better way of managing emotions. This is called self-reflection.

In engineering, many managers I know, especially the young ones, roll their eyes when they hear about self-reflection. And I often heard justifications such as there is no time, there is always something more important to do, people do not believe in this stuff why should I, it is boring to do this reflection.

Do you see how all these justifications fall in line with just doing something else but having the chance to meet with… the initial pain?

Yes, it is painful to accept you are just one human, as ordinary as the others. And admit that you do not know. And that you need support to grow. And that you are a work in progress. And that your current style is in no way appropriate for the job you were handed to run. And that you know so very little, for the time being. And that you have to accept to listen and to do exactly what you are told to do … in certain situations. And that you do not know yet how to discern. And that you need to learn to sit and accept yourself. And forgive yourself for just being a human who does errors.

And it is even painful to see that … when you accepted all your imperfections … YOU ARE STILL OK.

Because, at that point, you've just finished all excuses.

There is no way back. You are now aware of yourself. And you know from now on how to do it. YOU EXPERIENCED IT.

If you managed to get to this point in your management act, again, and again, and again, at least for 2-3 years, you learnt how to learn who you are.





Because you know now how to manage your mind. Congratulations! I am sure you are a mature manager, in spite of your age and your seniority. Or, maybe, due to them. Reflection is for you a mental muscle. When properly used, you discover there is no actual pain in employing it.

For the rest of us, the reality continues to be one:

Pain + Reflection = Progress.

I quote Ray Dalio here. And subscribe to it with my past and current personal experience.




You know that knowing is not enough. Not even willing is enough. It is in DOING you find your solutions.

Let’s have a conversation and see how can I be your best partner in this journey. My goal in 2023 is to help 50 senior leaders in reaching success in taking their leadership to the next level. Book your free 1:1 Strategy Call and create your transformational journey this year.


Alina Florea
Your High-Performance Coach



In management, many things will be painful.

Once you start your accelerated growth in management, you will be in any of these three situations:

  • Will have to take painful decisions 
  • Will experience a situation or a circumstance as being painful
  • Or both

This probably is valid for many other jobs, but management will stretch you with its variety of situations and circumstances that involve risk, unknown, personal exposure and personal reputation at stake.

 Avoiding and rationalizing are two wrong ways to manage emotions. Contrary to these, self-reflection will always give you the possibility to observe yourselves and learn your tendencies of thinking, feeling and behaving when under stress. This is why you can consider self-reflection as your gate towards more clarity and calmness.

It is only when you are able to see your operating script through self-reflection, you will find the inner resources to shift your perspective and enable yourself towards new performance.



If you are enjoying this newsletter, share it with one person. If you have questions, ask anything at [email protected]

If you're not getting value out of these tips, please consider unsubscribing. No hard feelings and you can at any time resubscribe.

 Thanks for choosing to be part of my world. See you next time!




Whenever you're ready, this is how I can support you: 

(FREE) Strategy session for your personal growth -  here

(FREE) Subscribe to the newsletter - The Thriving Mindset  - here

Take my 6-week online course Growth Mindset for New Managers. To be first informed about the next cohorts available, register here. 

Work 1-on-1 with me:

Build your executive mindset - here

Build a high performing management mindset - here 

Master your Resilience - here.


Inspiration is around the corner!

" The Thriving Mindset " gives you food for thought every Saturday.