Can crisis lead to personal growth? Only if you decide so. Here’s the technique I’ve used many times to transform pain into purpose.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
Situations that are out of our control create feelings of pain, loss or betrayal.
Traumas new and old devastate us and keep us stuck in unhealthy patterns.
Crisis strikes, and when it does, we often lose our way.
So how do you get through the hard times?
How do you handle hardship and come out the other side as a stronger, more resilient person?
How do you survive your most painful experiences?
For me, one simple technique opened my eyes – even in my most devastating moments – to light at the end of the tunnel.
Here’s how I take a crisis and turn it into the possibility for personal growth and life-changing purpose.
How Crisis Can Lead To Personal Growth
Understand What Happens In Crisis
When a crisis hits, it’s easy to get lost in overwhelm, or trapped inside of difficult or tragic experiences. It can feel like your whole world is literally spinning out of control. Like you’re falling down the rabbit hole, and you have no idea how to reorient yourself inside of the rapidly changing areas of your life.
You might feel numb or powerless or like you just can’t figure out what to do next.
What I’ve discovered through my own journey of loss, disappointments and trauma is: There’s a moment in every crisis when you begin to tell yourself a story.
I’m never going to be happy.
I’m not lovable.
People only hurt and betray me.
I’m being punished for my mistakes.
I deserve this misery.
You see, crises and traumas have this way of creating a new lens through which we can understand our lives. If we’re not careful, that lens can become critical and damaging. But most people don’t realize that the same lens can be intentional and positive, too.
In fact, it can be used to create a new, more hopeful story to guide you through the darkness … and into a new understanding of yourself, your relationships and the world.
Choose An Intentional Interpretation
When I found myself in a state of constant crisis, one of the things that really helped was making the decision to redesign my life – according to my own definition. That meant taking a deep and intentional look at each aspect of my life.
For example, I started to examine some past trauma and how it was showing up in my life today – wreaking havoc on my mind, heart, relationships, and results. One of the things I decided to face was my childhood relationship with my dad.
When I was little, I began telling myself the story that my dad didn’t love me, that I was unlovable. Over time, that story was solidified in my mind as a core belief. That core belief led to a marriage that was troubled and less than ideal. And the list can go on.
Until I decided enough was enough.
That’s when I discovered the power of intentional interpretation, a technique that allows you to take difficult situations or beliefs and reimagine them from a more empowered mindset.
Through this process, the difficult and strained relationship I experienced with my father became the foundation for what I didn’t want to repeat with my kids. I was able to take my relationship with my emotionally distanced father and turn it into a positive lesson that made me a better parent:
I was going to be a loving and present mother to my children.
With that simple reframe, I began to find gratitude for the relationship I had with my dad because it gave me the clarity to move forward with a life I could be proud of.
And I did it.
If you were to ask my kids today if I love them, they would probably tell you: Too much.
Plus, I now can look at my dad with empathy and navigate our current relationship on my terms.
Learning from my past trauma – and choosing an intentional way of interpreting my pain in the present – allowed me to grow into a loving mother and daughter.
So it wasn’t the last time I used intentional interpretation to get through a crisis.
Allow For A New Meaning
When a really big crisis happens, the life-shattering kind you think you’ll never get over, intentional interpretation can not only help you choose a new meaning, but it can also help you find a new purpose to carry you through.
For example, the loss of my son, Drew, was the most unimaginable pain I’ve ever experienced. How do you even begin to find a silver lining in that? How impossible, right?
Here’s what I discovered through my grief. Once I was ready to begin healing, I became grateful for the hurt I felt because I realized the depth of my pain was the mirror reflection of how much I loved him.
Once I realized that I could have an appreciation for the moments where I felt intense suffering because it confirmed that I had accomplished what I wanted to in motherhood: to love my children so enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, to make them such a part of my world that there would be no question in their minds or mine what they mean to me.
The pain I was feeling, however excruciating it was, became a reminder that I had loved Drew exactly the way I said I would. And so I would feel the pain – not shy away from it – and then feel it transition into gratitude as I remembered what else it meant: love.
Once again, the power of intentional interpretation saved my life.
But now I had to figure out what to do with that life.
Find Purpose On The Other Side
Learning to create a life of happiness out of my deepest pain took time. It took effort.
I had to make the decision that living my life, while bringing Drew’s memory along with me, was the greatest way for me to honor his life.
So I started speaking at schools about water safety. I shared Drew’s story whenever and wherever I could, knowing that it made the kind of impact that could save a life.
I wrote a book about my journey through grief, so that other parents wouldn’t feel so alone.
Eventually, I started speaking to groups all around the world, sharing the tools and mindsets that helped me move through my grief and recreate a life of joy after loss.
Today I coach people how to find their unique path through healing and into purpose, too.
Most importantly, I no longer live inside of my grief.
Are there still bad days? Of course. But they don’t last the way they used to, and they’re colored by the gratitude I feel for having 4½ years with my rambunctious Drewby.
My grief has transformed into a state of gratitude. And I hold the tools to reframe my sadness and refocus it into positive action, into a forward momentum that has given me fulfillment and peace.
And now I can see that both pain and purpose can come out of a crisis.
Make The Conscious Choice
Bad things can happen to good people. But good people can go on to become great because of their experiences.
That’s why I encourage you to learn about yourself, develop empathy for others’ struggles, lend a hand, or offer a shoulder to cry on. Look for a positive interpretation, and see where it leads you.
When a crisis hits, make the conscious choice to handle it, acknowledge it, and accept that it happened – but also decide what it’s going to mean in your life. Otherwise, your deepest fears and traumas will decide for you.
There’s an old saying that says, if you’re given a pile of manure, you can let it stink up a room, or you can use it to fertilize a garden. It might not be the most delicate analogy, but it makes it pretty clear – you have to decide what this crap is going to mean.
Are you going to stay in your suffering forever? Or are you going to plant seeds of hope and watch them grow into new perspectives, fresh purpose, and true fulfillment?
Focus on what’s still possible, and you might be surprised what grows in the place where pain once lived.
Can crisis lead to personal growth? Yes, and every bit of support helps. Learn about my community here.
Ready To Take Action?
Are you wondering: Can crisis lead to personal growth for you, too?
I’ve been working on this practice for over 20 years, and I’ve learned quite a few tools, techniques, and mindsets along the way.
I share all my best strategies for navigating life’s toughest moments inside of my membership community. You can even find a video course on this exact topic that includes everything you need for self-discovery and empowered action.
All you have to do is show up for the journey.