There are several ways people generally grow and mature. One is by learning through books and studies. History is a great teacher because we can clearly see the ramifications of how one action influenced another.
A second way is through the experiences of others. For example, he did that and it turned out bad; therefore, I will avoid doing it myself.
But the absolute best way for people to learn is through personal experience. While the reward of good decisions often creates a desire to repeat that action or activity, nothing quite compares to pain’s ability to enhance the quality of lessons learned.
In an editorial appearing in Southwest News Media, writer Renee Winick notes that today’s struggles often become tomorrow’s survival guides, success stories and cautionary tales.
That’s why its so sad to see people trying to impress others by showcasing how perfect their lives are all the time. While perfection may be an ideal to pursue, there generally isn’t a sharable lesson in doing something perfectly. In fact, I’d say it is hard for people to relate to perfection because they often see the ideal as unattainable in their own lives.
Too often people see the perfect outcome, but have no clue as to what it took to achieve that. Take Olympic gymnastics for instance. The judge awards a 16-year-old young woman a perfect 10 and people marvel at the feat.
What they don’t see is the decade of daily hard work, long hours, bloody blisters, falls, frustration, humiliating performances, trial and error it took for the young athlete to arrive on the world stage of Olympic competition.
Deep down, I think we relish stories of struggle because we all struggle with something ourselves.
When we see someone struggle and overcome a problem, it gives us hope that we can overcome it, too.
“Many struggles are just part of life’s journey that most everyone needs to work through at one time or another,” Renee wrote. “Once we’ve made it through, we’re often happy to share our experience with others.
“That’s because we’re proud to have survived that challenge and also hope that, by sharing our story, we can make the road a bit easier for others to travel,” she added.
Renee explained some of our struggles fall under the category of “self-inflicted pain.” I know that’s how I would classify most of the struggles I endured as an adult.
Yet, even when we are totally at fault, there are lessons involved. We learn not to do that again, and often don’t. But, when the pain is significant, we are often motivated to share our stories to help steer others down a different path.
It’s like using a megaphone to attract attention and then point people in a different direction.
For example, I saw my first Playboy magazine shortly after my 12th birthday. Nobody warned me not to go down that path. In fact, I was told it was normal and encouraged to pursue it. Decades later, after a porn addiction destroyed my relationships and thwarted many of my goals, I am more than willing to get in someone’s face and warn him about the dangers of sexual addition.
“Everyone has low moments, when things don’t go right or we don’t make the right choice. The key is to not dwell in the darkness of these moments, but, instead, to look for the purpose behind them,” Renee wrote.
“If we have a survival guide to share, a success story to cherish, or a cautionary tale to learn from, then we can find the light to help get us through. Find the purpose and find your light,” she added.
More importantly, we must shine our light to help others see where the path they are on will take them and, better yet, why the path headed in a different direction is a better choice.
What are the three most painful things that happened in your life, whether they were forced on you, or you inflicted them upon yourself? What lessons did you learn from the experience?
Answer those questions, and you have a purpose for your life.
There is always a lesson, even if the pain was imposed on you. My parents divorce when I was 8 years old was extraordinarily painful. But, rather than dwelling upon my pain and internalizing it to the point I shut out the world to pursue an addiction, the antidote would have been to build stronger relationships with others.
Whatever pain you have endured in your life can become a lifeline for someone else who is at his or her wits end trying to find a way out, through or around a similar situation.
You want a purpose for your life? Help a younger person avoid the pain you experienced or to overcome its effect so it doesn’t result in a lifelong trauma for that person.
Renee’s full editorial can be found at Southwest News Media.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.