This is NOT a post about finding the "lesson" behind pain.
We've all probably had the experience of wanting to slap someone who tells you, "God only gives you a cross you can bear," or "there's always a silver lining," or "what's the lesson here?" None of that is truly helpful when you're in the grips of pain.
There are certain kinds of pain that only time and healing can make better. Perhaps it's the death of a loved one; or the void of a breakup; or the loss of a deeply cherished dream.
Rationally we know the hurt will eventually get better. But what to do when we're smack-dab in the middle of it? How can we cope with the pain?
I've never had a very good answer for this, other than "step up the self-care."
I've lately been doing some research on motivation and what moves us towards great things. Then yesterday I watched a video that brought it all together.
It has to do with purpose.
Cynthia Kersey is the Founder and CEO of the Unstoppable Foundation. I watched the recording of her presentation at Fabienne Fredrickson's Mindset Retreat last year.
Her presentation moved me and showed me a critical ingredient to finding BIG motivation AND to answering the question of what do we do in the face of pain?
Cynthia told the story of how shortly after quitting a successful career to write her book "Unstoppable", her marriage unexpectedly fell apart. She was devastated. In the midst of her pain, she spoke with her mentor who advised, "in the face of big pain you have to find an even bigger purpose."
This mentor happened to be the founder of Habitat for Humanity, and he said to her, "what if you sponsor a house?" Cynthia considered it. At $2,000/house it came nowhere near matching the depth of her pain. She pondered, how big would this need to be in order for the sense of purpose to exceed the pain? 10 houses?
One hundred houses was the number she arrived at. In other words, only when she considered the possibility of raising $200,000 to build 100 houses in Nepal, did she feel a purpose bigger than her pain. So she went for it. Within a year she had raised all of the money and traveled to Nepal with a small group to build the first 2 houses.
Cynthia is now onto more extraordinary things, having since then founded the Unstoppable Foundation which sponsors villages in Kenya.
Now, back to our pain and purpose.
This past week I've had many conversations with people experiencing varying degrees of sadness, despair and even grief over the presidential election. The emotions exceed the normal sadness of defeat of elections past. Many people felt personally affected by the various comments from the president-elect's campaign, and are having a hard time grappling with the idea of possible consequences for them personally.
The answer is not in hating those who saw in him a promise of change. The answer is also not going to be found in demonizing him, nor in "fighting" the government.
Find a purpose that is bigger than you. Perhaps it's in your immediate community, or perhaps it's like Cynthia getting behind big charitable work. I spoke with a friend today and she's going to engage in conversations with people who voted differently than her so there can be dialogue.
Whether it's the sadness of an election result you did not expect, or it's the grief of a loss in your life, what is a purpose that is bigger than your pain right now?
Regardless of what that is or who we voted for, it will put us all into motion towards creating more of the world that we collectively hope for.