Experiencing pain is an unavoidable part of life. No matter how hard you try to keep things on an even-keel, life will test your resolve over, and over, and over again.
And the worst part about pain is usually its timing. When things go wrong, they tend to go wrong all at once which leaves you feeling like you’re in the middle of a storm that’s never going to end.
It’s these moments where your true character is revealed. So if you find yourself in the depths of pain, realize that you can use what you’re experiencing to make yourself stronger.
In this article, we’ll discuss several ways to turn pain into power and come out of your struggles a stronger, better, and happier version of yourself.
How To Turn Pain Into Power (7 Tips)
Oftentimes, you don’t realize how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.
Overcoming pain is not something that you can achieve passively. You’re gonna have to stick your elbows out and display some grit. You’re gonna have to act decisively to make the best out of the hand that you’ve been dealt.
Because the longer that you sit there and wallow in self-pity, the harder it’s going to be to use that pain you’re experiencing to create a better future.
It’s okay to take some time to let yourself feel pain. But if you let it put a chokehold on your progress for months/years without finding a way to let it serve as a force for good, then you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.
Don’t give pain power over you that it doesn’t deserve. Instead, here’s seven different ways to turn pain into power when you feel like your back is against the wall.
#1: Let Yourself Feel The Pain (But Not For Too Long)
It’s completely fine to let yourself feel pain for a little, especially if you’ve gone through trauma that you know is going to leave some scars on your psyche:
- The death of a family member or close friend
- Getting a divorce after 20 years of marriage
- Having your personal reputation dragged through the mud by someone you’re close to
There’s certain events in life that are too painful to just brush off. And no matter how you act after experiencing them, they’re going to change the way that you think about life forever.
So before figuring out how you’re going to turn pain into power, take a step back and let yourself feel whatever you need to feel.
If you need to get angry at the world, get angry at the world. If you need to cry, shed as many tears as you need to. If you need to vent, then vent your heart out to that person who’s always there for.
Take a week or two and do what you need to do to process what you’ve been through. And once you’ve taken the time you need, commit to coming out of this experience even stronger than before.
#2: Turn Pain Into Power By Learning From It
When we go through something painful, it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons why we experience pain in the first place.
We experience pain so that we can learn, adapt, and grow — there’s always lessons to be learned when we’re going through hard times.
However, you can’t learn from pain if your mindset prevents it. If you carry your pain around with you and never reflect on it, then anger and resentment will blind you to the fact that pain is the best teacher you’ll ever have.
Now obviously, the way you learn from pain is going to depend on the circumstances that surround it.
There’s nothing you can do to prevent losing loved ones. No matter how good you are at your job, there’s nothing you can do to prevent losing your job because your company goes out of business.
Some forms of pain are simply outside of your control. And as you’re taking time to process this pain, think about how you can manage it and use it as a motivator for positive change
- What bad habits do I need to be aware of in order to avoid self-sabotage?
- Is there anything that I can do to turn this pain into a force for good in my own life?
- What areas of my life is this pain causing me to re-think? Where is it telling me to refocus my energy?
Even though losing a family member is outside of your control, the pain that springs from it may help you realize that every moment with your friends and loved ones is precious. As a result, you can use it as a force for positive change by spending more time with them going forward.
Even if you’re going through struggles that aren’t your fault, you can turn pain into power by taking something away from the experience.
On the other hand though, there are hardships we experience that are at least partially due to our own actions.
If you’ve been fired from your job because your company is cutting back on staff, you can blame the company or realize you didn’t do enough as an employee to make yourself indispensable.
If you’re the one who’s going through a divorce, you can place the blame on your partner or adopt responsibility for the ways in which you contributed to the split.
Self-inflicted pain requires self-reflection. When you’re at least partially responsible for finding yourself in a shitty situation, the only way to turn pain into power is to reflect on your mistakes and analyze what you could have done better.
- Were there any specific decisions that played a role in getting me here?
- What bad habits did I repeat daily that led to my current situation?
- What good habits did I fail to adopt that may have prevented this situation?
If you ask yourself hard-hitting self-reflection questions like these, you may not like the answers you get. However, these answers tell you exactly which character flaws that you need to address.
You’ll never win the game of life by running from the truth. If you’ve made some mistakes that have contributed to your struggles, turn pain into power by looking inward and analyzing what you could have done to prevent it.
#3: Surround Yourself With Positive People Who Tell The Truth
When you’re trying to overcome struggles in life, it’s important to have people around you that facilitate this goal.
Ever heard the saying that you’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with?
Well that philosophy becomes even more true when you’re struggling. Because think about it, the people that you’re leaning on during periods of hardship have also endured painful experiences before.
This means that they’re viewing your situation through a lens that’s colored by their own life experiences. If they’re the type of person who handles pain by playing the victim and blaming everything except themselves, what do you think they’re going to encourage you to do?
If the pain is self-inflicted, they’re going to encourage your attempts to shift blame because it aligns with their worldview. If the pain isn’t self-inflicted, they’ll encourage your attempts to feel sorry for yourself and not take anything positive from the experience.
The bottom line is that in order to turn pain into power, you need people around you who share these two traits:
- They’re generally positive people who try to see the good in everything
- They have the strength to call you out on your bullshit if need be.
You need positivity because it will help you see the good in any given situation, but you also need someone who can give you a reality check when you’re not taking any responsibility.
If you get fired from your job, having someone who joins you in bashing your company without forcing you to look inward does absolutely nothing for you.
The person you want in your corner is the one who forces you to look in the mirror. You want the person who’s gonna say, “Sure, it’s awful that your company let you go. But honestly, what could you have done to prevent this from happening?”
People like that will make overcoming your pain far easier. People who encourage you to adopt the victim mentality are just throwing dirt in the hole you’re already in.
#4: Counter Pain With Positive Habits
When you encounter pain, the only way out is through. Once you’ve let yourself feel the pain for a few days or weeks, sitting with pain becomes unproductive.
If you’re going to bounce back, you need to do it quickly. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to turn pain into power.
So no matter how painful whatever it is you’re going through right now, here’s a simple shift that you are capable of making:
Identify 1-2 positive habits that you can start implementing tomorrow that will actively improve your situation.
Don’t waste one more second in self-pity and get to work. When forming new habits during a period of struggle, don’t aim for the stars.
Your willpower and motivation are likely already at rock-bottom, so don’t make things harder on yourself by setting unrealistic expectations.
If you’ve decided that you’re going to start journaling and meditating every day, don’t set a goal to meditate for 20 minutes and journal for 15 minutes.
Instead, opt for smaller targets like 3-5 minutes each.
If you’ve decided that you’re going to start getting back in shape, don’t force yourself to stick to a strict regimen of lifting weights for an hour per day, 5 days per week.
Instead, opt for a smaller target of 5 minutes every single day.
Because at the start of your journey to turning pain into power, consistency beats intensity every single time.
Master showing up each day and getting the reps in. It will seem like those small habits are insignificant, but you’ll recognize their importance when you’re doing 2-5x those initial targets 60-90 days down the road.
And when these habits become ingrained into your daily life, the positive changes you experience will help you get unstuck and feel like yourself again.
6-12 months down the line, you’ll find yourself in a much better place simply because you decided that tiny forward momentum was better than self-pity and stagnation.
#5: Use Self-Talk To Avoid Self-Sabotage
Oftentimes people look at others who are feeling lost in life and say, “How in the world could they let themselves go like that? How did it get this bad?”
What they don’t realize is that they can easily find themselves in a similar predicament due to self-sabotage.
So keep in mind that if you’re enduring pain and it feels like things can’t get any worse, you’ve never been more wrong in your life.
Unless you’re going through something extraordinarily horrific that very few people in the world have experienced, there’s always room for things to get worse.
One of the most frequent ways this happens during periods of struggle is through self-sabotage — a phenomenon where we deal with pain by increasing the frequency and intensity of our bad habits.
Self-sabotage is a way to temporarily escape pain through instant gratification. For example, if someone has a bad habit of overeating and then they experience a death in the family, they might accelerate this by eating 5,000 calories per day as opposed to 4,000.
Self-sabotage can also trigger seemingly dormant bad habits to reappear. If someone who quit smoking years ago experiences a death in the family, their brain will remember that they used to deal with stress by smoking.
A few months later, they may find themselves back to smoking a pack per day. The unfortunate thing about self-sabotage is that it’s perfectly aligned with our brain’s natural tendency to seek the path of least resistance.
So how can you combat self-sabotage and avoid making things even worse?
In my experience, one of the best ways is through self-talk. When you’re looking to escape from pain, your brain is essentially thinking, “I need an outlet. Where can I get instant gratification? I want it and I want it now! Now!”
Strategic self-talk allows the rational part of your brain to come alive and interrupt your brain’s immediate desires — it helps you turn pain into power by tilting the odds in your favor.
Before you implement self-talk, it’s important for you to identify the specific habits that trigger self-sabotage. Once you’re clear on which behaviors you need to stop, then you can use specific phrases/questions to re-frame your mindset in moments of turmoil.
When you find yourself tempted to engage in a self-sabotaging behavior, be sure to stop in your tracks and say things like this:
- “Do I really want to do what I’m about to do, or is it just an escape?”
- “You don’t need this. This temptation you’re experiencing is just your brain’s attempt to make things worse.”
- “Remember what happens when you engage in this habit! It feels good in the moment, but you always feel terrible after it. Is that what you want to experience again?”
If you actually ask yourself these rational questions, you’ll get rational answers. These rational thoughts will serve as an opposing force to your brain’s irrational desires, and it might just be enough to prevent self-sabotage.
Now remember, you’re not going to win 100% of the time. Especially at the start, it’s likely you’ll lose more often than you win in these moments.
However, as you get better at implementing self-talk when you’re tempted to do something that you know you shouldn’t do, you’ll start to win that internal debate more often than you lose it.
#6: Turn Pain Into Power By Focusing On Your Future
Another strategy for turning pain into power is to use it as an opportunity to re-focus on your long term vision for your life.
Pain can cause this vision to get a little muddy, and rightfully so. However, you don’t want to let pain erase this vision only to realize months/years later that you haven’t made positive strides towards achieving it.
Instead, use your period of reflection to get clear about your future goals. Use the pain to help you realize what’s missing from your life, and then carefully craft a plan for filling the gaps.
Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect. It can change (and probably will) as you progress through life, but that’s okay as long as you have something to aim at.
So if you’re feeling unfulfilled, think about your life five years from now and determine what that ideally looks like:
- What personal demons will you have overcome by then?
- What type of work will you be doing?
- What kinds of friends will you be surrounded with?
- How much time will you be spending with the people you care about?
- What kinds of habits will you be engaging in to maintain your mental, spiritual, and emotional health?
Take as long as you need to paint this picture for yourself. And then, as always, you’ll need to bring it back to your daily habits:
- What 1-2 positive habits can I start tomorrow that will move me towards this ideal future?
Giving yourself compelling reasons to turn pain into power by re-defining your ideal life will make it less likely for pain to maintain its stranglehold on your future goals.
#7: Seek Professional Help
If you’ve been trying your best to turn pain into power and nothing seems to be working, then it might be time to enlist the help of a trained professional.
There’s no doubt that you’re perfectly capable of overcoming hard times in life. However, having someone who can guide you every step of the way is an invaluable resource, especially when they have years of experience helping people just like you.
Don’t judge yourself for needing extra support. Going to therapy or counseling doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re strong enough to admit that you need help.
Most people deny themselves the help that they need for the sole purpose of “toughing it out on their own.”
Well, “toughing it out” simply doesn’t work for everyone. If you truly feel like you need the guidance of a professional to overcome your current struggles, then don’t hesitate for one second.
Turning pain into power is a difficult task. The good news is that if anyone else has overcome what you’re going through, then there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.
Now is the time for you to go out and take action. Attempt 1-2 of the strategies provided in this article, give yourself enough time to see results, and then evaluate your progress.
You may find that one works better than the other, but as always the bottom line is this — the only thing that matters is that you make forward progress each day.
It’s what all great comeback stories are made of.