Embrace Your Pain

The following guest post was written by Nick at A Young Pro. Nick is a recent college graduate trying to find his way in the crazy corporate world. He is a happy husband, a proud father, and he blogs about Career, Personal Finance, and Millennial Life. As a 20something edging ever closer to becoming a 30something (full disclosure: I’m 28), I can’t help but engage in increasingly frequent bouts of self-reflection. I consider my late 20s to be a perfect time to analyze both what I have done well, and what I have done not-so-well to this point in my life.

No Train No Gain Sign

One concept that I have become intrigued by lately is “growth”. In my early “adult” life I struggled to grow. I moved away from my parent’s home when I was 18 years old to attend college, only to move back home when I was 18 ½ years old, having flunked my first semester resulting in a lost scholarship. I spent the next several years working low-paying jobs, living with my parents, not growing at all. I was in a holding pattern and I didn’t know how to break out of it. I’d like to think that my situation is not all that uncommon. I believe many young people struggle to learn how to move on to the next phase of their lives. I want to teach you an important concept I recently learned. Something that can help you learn from the struggles of your early adult life and grow into the next phase of your life.

I have been reading a book lately entitled “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth”, written by John C. Maxwell. As I reflect back on my early adulthood, one law in particular sticks out to me. It is law #8, entitled “The Law of Pain”. The Law of Pain states that “good management of bad experiences leads to great growth”. I didn’t realize it at the time but back then I had a lot of pain points, and instead of growing from them, my pain points were holding me back. Here are some of them:

  • The Pain of Accountability – I didn’t know how to take responsibility for my actions. I had a sense of entitlement about certain things and that caused me to fail most of my classes in college.
  • The Pain of Hard Work – I knew how to work, I just didn’t know that I knew how to work.
  • The Pain of Identity – My lack of self-awareness caused me to engage in activities for the wrong reasons (such as attending college). Because I often lacked the proper motivation, success was much harder to come by.
  • The Pain of Financial Incompetence – In my early 20s I had very little knowledge of personal finance. This caused me to get myself into debt, which I would have to claw my way out of eventually.

I could list more pain points, but I’m sure you get the point by now. I would even wager that many of you have similar items on your list as well. Mr. Maxwell points out three universal truths about bad experiences (pain). First, “everyone experiences them”. Second, “no one likes them”. Third, “few people make bad experiences positive experiences”.

The third point is what I really want to focus on here. Early on, I didn’t know how to learn from my mistakes. Mr. Maxwell seems to think that is more common than actually knowing how to learn from mistakes. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t. If you are a 20something reading this blog there is a good chance that you are more self-aware than most of your peers; there is also a good chance that you frequently make mistakes (I hear the same can be said for 30somethings, 40somethings, and beyond). Can you imagine the power of harnessing those mistakes and turning them into your largest growth opportunities? If you are like me this concept gets you pretty excited. So how do we do that? Luckily Mr. Maxwell has some advice on the matter.

  1. Choose a Positive Life Stance – I’m a big believer in the power of positive thinking. I can’t explain it, but good things happen when you have a positive attitude. If you learn to be positive through the bad experiences, clarity on what may have caused those situations comes much easier. I have found that a positive attitude helps me to recognize the lesson in my bad experiences.
  2. Embrace and Develop Your Creativity – I have a feeling Rebecca is a big believer in this one. Mr. Maxwell states “The people who make the most of bad experiences are the ones who find creative ways to meet them”.
  3. Embrace the Value of Bad Experiences – Growing as a result of bad experiences is a choice. You must decide that you are going to learn from your bad experiences.
  4. Make Good Changes After Bad Experiences – Once you have learned a lesson from your bad experience you must apply that lesson to your life and change your behavior.
  5. Take Responsibility for Your Life – Another personal favorite. No one is in charge of your growth but you. You decide you need/want to grow. You find the lessons to learn from your experiences. You make the changes in your life.

I leave you with this final quotation from Mr. Maxwell:

No matter what you have gone through in your life—or what you are currently going through—you have the opportunity to grow from it. It’s sometimes very difficult to see the opportunity in the midst of the pain, but it is there. You must be willing to not only look for it, but pursue it.

So get out there, face your pain, grow, and prosper!

We need pain to grow. (Photo credit: Peter Kudlacz)