Emotional pain can fuel your greatest successes.
Divorce equals pain. A lot of pain.
It can also equal the biggest dose of motivation you’ve ever received in your life if you allow it to.
I know that people who are suffering through the pain now may think that is a bunch of bullshit.
However, as someone who has been through a divorce, and the end of a significant relationship in the last nine years, I have discovered through personal experience how suffering can be used as fuel to succeed.
Painful emotions can be a source of energy.
When a relationship ends, everything we think we know about ourselves is brought into question. Crippling self-doubt is our daily companion, as we search for ways to bring meaning into our lives again.
Grief delivers a body blow and shakes us to our very core. We feel desperate to have a purpose again.
When my marriage ended I had just started my teaching career. I poured my heart and soul into my students because I felt a sense of meaning and joy when I saw the outcome of my efforts.
I put in extremely long hours and pushed hard to learn all I could in the first two years as I honed my craft. Every time I saw one of my kids have an ‘aha’ moment in the classroom, my sense of self-efficacy rose another notch.
It felt like a blessed relief from the endless anguish and rumination that plagued me.
Two years post-divorce, I entered another relationship that lasted for four years and did not end well. Once again, I found myself hurting terribly and tasting the bitterness of failure. Grief came knocking again.
Before this relationship, I had dreamed of becoming a certified coach and starting my own business, but it had always seemed impossible for me to go back and study again as a single parent.
Where would I find the money?
How could I fit study in while working full time in a demanding career, looking after my kids, and running a household on my own?
Did I have what it took to run a business with no experience?
It was in this dark place of trying to recover, that I decided to bite the bullet and find a way to make it happen.
Even though I was terrified of the changes and sacrifices I would have to make, my drive to look for solutions outweighed my fears and excuses.
Not only did I complete my study and become certified, but I also rediscovered my love for writing, and am now a published writer and blogger for my coaching business.
I would never take back my suffering and pain if it meant having to give up these fulfilling parts of my life.
Would I have pushed myself to do as well and achieve as much as I have, had I still been in a relationship? I don’t think that I would have.
I put too much time and effort into nurturing my partners and not enough into my personal development.
Staring Down Fear
Over and over we are told that divorce is one of the worst things that can happen to us. We’re told that it damages our children, that we will never financially recover, and that the statistics for second marriage dissolution is between 70–80%.
I know all of these fear-inducing stats by heart because they were all I could think about when my marriage ended nine years ago. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can use the negatives to propel us into positive outcomes if we choose to.
Even though I was almost paralyzed with fear when the reality of separation smashed into me, I also knew in my heart that despite all attempts, there simply wasn’t any way my ex-husband and I were going to be able to make it until the end.
Somewhere in the fog of terror and despair, I was being propelled toward a better version of myself. I was hellbent on rebuilding a better life and turning this experience into one that would work out for me and my kids.
It felt as if a higher power was speaking directly to me.
The Dawn Wall
Two years ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called ‘The Dawn Wall’. This is the incredible story of elite rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson’s first ascent of one of the most challenging rock faces in the world.
The 19-day climb took six years in total to plan, prepare for and execute.
What made me resonate with this story on such a deep level, was the fact that Tommy had separated from his wife in the same year that he decided to start planning this incredible feat.
Would he have made this decision had he not been searching for something that would give him a sense of mastery and purpose over his life again?
In the film, Tommy talks about the overwhelming emotional torment that he felt after his marriage ended, and how that pain was what drove him to attempt a climb that he had considered to be far too dangerous and difficult in earlier years.
The climb was Herculean and pushed both men to their limits. Several times it looked as though they wouldn’t make it, but Tommy was like a man possessed.
He used a mental focus to push through his physical suffering, and to climb in a way that seemed to defy the laws of physics.
Today, Tommy is remarried and has two beautiful kids. He continues to be a world-class athlete and a committed family man.
What seemed like the worst thing to ever happen to him at the time, turned out to be the precise motivation he needed to push himself, and the climbing world, into the annals of history.
The end of a relationship, while painful, can be an opportunity for personal growth and achievements that may never be possible without the time and space we have to explore what we are truly capable of.
In your darkest times, lean into your pain and allow yourself to ask: what is possible now?
With the right mindset and some inner grit, you can harness your emotional pain and channel it into the motivation to achieve your greatest successes.