Learning is Driven by Feelings of Inadequacy

Inadequacy, self-doubt, failure: these feelings allow us to see that we could have performed a task more effectively. Without them, we have no reason to learn. Experts crave negative feedback because it allows them to see where they can improve.


But we must maintain a level of these feelings: not too much so that we feel like failures and are therefore paralyzed, and not so little that we are not to see able our failures and are therefore complacent.


This balance is both difficult and critical, and we regulate it using the thermometers of emotional awareness (labeling the emotion, managing it with appropriate strategies) and the learning tools and feedback (the functional approach). These resources allow us to bring the feeling under control when it becomes too much, such as when we have a major failure. It also allows us to seek out and even create the feeling when we become comfortable at a point of mastery.


Here are two questions to explore your current existence:

  • Where are you feeling too much inadequacy? Where do you think you cannot learn, and therefore cannot succeed?

  • Where do you feel too little inadequacy? Where do you think you are doing a good enough job that you don’t need to learn?

Each of us finds a natural balance of inadequacy, based on our unique personality and outlook. Where does your experience of this feeling take you in your personal and professional life, and do you have the tools you need to manage it?

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