When Your Reach Exceeds Your Grasp

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?” -Robert Browning 

I love this quote by Browning because it establishes the nobility of attempting something new or outlandish and then failing.

All too often we "beat ourselves up" emotionally if we set a lofty goal and don't achieve the success we hope. The need to manage disappointment is important in both large and small endeavors.  Failure is not the problem as much as the demoralization and self-shaming that can set in after it.  Eventually this can lead to a depressive unwillingness to embark on a new challenge because of the prediction that it will only result in another disappointment.

Browning's quote is a reminder that it is noble to strive for a goal that may not seem easily attainable. This is not a recommendation to be foolhardy or arrogant in the quest for the summit.  It is merely permission to practice perseverance to suceed, humility in defeat, and a sense of adventure and good humor about the entire business.

On reflection, it's hard for me to write much about this concept that Browning didn't capture in a few words.  This recognition is another example of Sigmund Freud's acknowledgement that "everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me."

Despite my conclusion that I don't have much to add, I'm writing this anyway as an example of the central point: I may not have grasped any new insight, but I reached for it!

Now it's your turn.


Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT is an Atlanta-based psychotherapist.  In addition to helping adults with a wide variety of individual and relationship concerns, he is frequently sought out by people who struggle with sexual behavior that conflicts with their values, commitments and sense of control and integrity.

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