We have all heard of the concept of turning pain into purpose. But in practice, it can truly be one of the hardest things we as humans endure. So, what are some actionable, practical ways we can do this?


Based on Leah’s experience losing her father suddenly, tune into this episode to hear what worked for her as she processed her own painful experience. These five practical tips will be applicable to any painful situation you may have experienced that you desire to reframe in a positive light and find purpose.


In this episode, you’ll hear:


  • Five steps to go from debilitating pain to reframing pain into an opportunity to pursue your purpose.


  • What Leah personally struggled with through her journey through grief.


  • A simple universal law that can reframe all pain within your own life.
Tune in to this weeks episode to hear my favorite tips on turning pain into passion
Podcast Episode  

Facebook Live Replay 

Transcript of Episode

Leah Gervais:

Hey visionaries. Welcome back to the Your Biggest Vision Show. I’m your host, Leah, and I love doing these live episodes with you guys every Monday. As you can see, if you’re watching this, I am in a hotel in Washington. I am not actually at my desk in New York where you typically will see the background. I was able to take kind of a spontaneous trip down here, which is just such a wonderful reminder of how wonderful it is to be self employed and to work for yourself and not have to ask for time off and not have to schedule things around and really be able to do things on your own time. So that is where I am. That is why you don’t see my typical background. But no matter where I am, I’m still here for you at 10:00 AM on Mondays to do this because I love doing this live with you guys every week. 


So today’s topic is pretty personal and it’s going to come very much from a personal experience or a few of them that have happened to me, but I really hope that they’re helpful to you. It’s something that’s really near to my heart. And so I just knew I needed to talk more about it because I think it can be easy to brush over this topic without really going deep into that. But that doesn’t really help anyone. So I wanted to have a really honest conversation about it with you today. And that topic is the concept of turning pain or problems or trauma into purpose. And I have five very actionable steps for you that I believe you can apply to any type of pain you might be going through no matter how big or how small. So whether you’ve gone through something really traumatic or you’re just going through a difficult time, I think that these tips might be what you need to hear today. 


I want to go into this by saying what I’m sure is relatively obvious but I want to be thoughtful and remind everyone that I am not a therapist. I am not a psychologist, I am not a doctor and if you are struggling with mental health or you have experienced some sort of trauma, then it is probably a good idea to work with a medical professional as you get through this and I am in no way trying to replace anything like that. What I want to share is how I was able to transfer a lot of the pain I went through in grief. When I suddenly lost my dad last year, he died very, very suddenly and it was horrible. And I don’t want anyone to think that I didn’t have grief or haven’t had a whole lot of pain because it couldn’t be further from the truth, but I was able to consciously decide that I was going to make his death mean something and I was going to change who I was because of it and an honor of him and it was very painful and it still is a lot of the time. 


But there were some very clear cut things I did that I think helped me do this and make this decision in an empowered way, um, that I want to share with you today because I didn’t really feel like I had a lot of the guidance at the time. I felt like a lot of people were pitying me, which I don’t blame them for.That doesn’t upset me in any way. But to some extent that only helped me so much. I didn’t really want people to feel sorry for me. I wanted to be able to help myself and to be able to pick myself back up again. And these are some of the ways I found in which it worked for me. So I’m hoping that they will work for you as well. 


So if you’re going through any sort of trauma, grief, anger, sadness, pain, the first thing I think is essential to try to transform it and what it means in your life is to get to a place of intense self love and self acceptance. And when I was researching this episode, and this also is primarily based off of my experience losing my dad, but I also work with one of my amazing clients, works with a lot of women who have undergone divorce in a really traumatic way. And working with her and hearing her experience with these women showed me how many parallels there are between divorce, grief, loss, trauma, you know, any of these really unexpected life changing events. So that’s kind of where I’m gathering some of this information and a lot of these obstacles that we face can really do a huge number on our self confidence if we’re laid off at work, if we go through a terrible breakup. I thank God I’ve never been divorced and you know, I don’t want to pretend that I understand that, but something like that, losing someone in your life, a lot of it can really make you feel like you’ve lost a sense of your own self worth. 


And I’m sure that there is tons of psychology behind why that happens. I know from my experience, I was so angry when my dad passed away and I didn’t want to be mad at him because I only wanted to think of him in such a loving light, but I needed to be angry at someone. So I got really angry at myself and I also felt a lot of guilt, which I think is very natural when people go through loss because you wonder what you could have done differently or if you could have influenced the situation to go a different way. Long story short, my guilt was off the charts and for months I just felt like I couldn’t do anything right. And it’s because my sense of self confidence and self worth had really been taken such a hit on, it had really been damaged so much. 


And I do think that this is a common trait for people that go through any sort of shock or piece of pain. They feel like they’re not good enough or that this wouldn’t have happened to them or that they deserve to have this happen to them or that if they did something different, maybe this wouldn’t have happened to them. Maybe you guys are resonating with this a little bit. If you’re listening to this and you have something in mind that you’ve gone through or you’re going through, hopefully you can start to see that maybe some of this self doubt that you have been feeling or the lower sense of self worth is a result of the challenge that you’re facing. It’s not necessarily true. In fact, it’s often not true at all, but it can be very hard for us to separate the two when we’re already feeling emotionally depleted and we’re already feeling exhausted from having to emotionally adjust to a new situation. 


So without getting too sidetracked, the point is, I took a really big hit to my own self confidence when my Dad passed away for reasons that I could go on forever, but the short version is that I experienced a lot of guilt. I went through all sorts of internal games with myself believing that maybe I didn’t deserve to have a dad. Maybe if I would’ve done something different, he wouldn’t have passed away in this way. Maybe I had manifested this loss in my life. All these really twisted things and I have never felt so down about myself in my life. I never felt so little belief in myself or in my own abilities to do anything. And as you can imagine, if you are trying to reframe a painful circumstance in your life to be something powerful and positive, you need to feel confident in yourself in order to move in that direction. 


It’s going to be really hard to move forward or to pursue a goal or to pursue a dream or to make a big change if you don’t have that belief in yourself that you can do it or that you’re worthy of doing it. And I really didn’t. And so maybe you are needing to get to this place first before you really transform things in a dramatic way. Maybe you first just needed to get back to the place of believing in yourself and knowing your worth and knowing that whatever circumstance has happened to you does not define you and that you do get a define your own sense of self worth and own sense of value. And what I had to do to get myself back to that place. I did a lot of things, but some of the things I really distinctly remember doing was I downloaded a youtube video of 30 minutes of self worth affirmations and self love affirmations and in the mornings every morning for months, I listened to that the whole way through. I would listen to it at the gym. I listened to it while I was working. I would listen to it while I was meditating or stretching. 


I just was really trying to convince my brain that I wasn’t as worthless as I was feeling after I had gone through so much loss. And so that’s something that worked well for me. This is also another place where a therapist could be a good resource for you if you’re feeling like your self confidence is low. Coaching could be really helpful for you. Coaches are very much about empowerment. I actually have an amazing client who works with females, uh, on their own empowerment. So if anyone’s looking for, you know, under better understanding of their own self confidence, reach out to me. I’d love to introduce you to her. Those can be good exercises, really getting to the root of why you like yourself to begin with and focusing on that. 


It can be really deep stuff. And frankly, I don’t think this stuff’s ever done. I think especially for entrepreneurs who are constantly putting ourselves in the face of rejection, then having, you know, go to exercises to help you get your sense of self worth up and remembering that your sense of self worth is never determined by a client how much money you’re making, how much money you’re not making your own success, any of that. Just as it’s not dependent on outside circumstances that are beyond your control, which a lot of times these traumatic things are, sometimes we feel like we could have done things differently and maybe some of the time that’s the truth. But more often than not, life is gonna throw you curveballs and even if you could’ve done something differently, that does not mean you get to lower your own sense of self worth. 


So this has been kind of a long explanation, but the point I’m trying to get at here is the first step to finding your own sense of empowerment and being able to transform something that’s painful into a story of purpose is to get to a place of really believing in yourself and owning your sense of self worth and knowing that you are deserving of whatever goal you want to go after or whatever way you want to repurpose this pain. 


The second actionable step that would be helpful here is to make some decisions and this will be easier when you do feel like you’re in a more powerful place. So what this eventually is going to try to get you at is a place where you are deciding what you want to come out of your pain or your grief or your loss or your defeat. 


You know, maybe you didn’t get into a school that you really wanted to, maybe you didn’t get into law school and that was always your plan. I’m thinking of… the example I’m thinking of is in parks and rec. I don’t know if there’s any other parks and rec lands out there. But I literally love that show and I always think of the moment when Andy doesn’t get into the police academy and that was sort of his dream and he feels really deflated and defeated. And Chris Trager says, you know, how we deal with tragedy defines who we are. And so maybe you have a similar situation like that. Maybe you worked really hard for something and it didn’t work out. All of these types of very real life scenarios fall into what I’m trying to share with you here today and so the next step here is to decide what you want to make of this and when I got to this place, when I finally felt like I was confident enough to make some decisions and I could go on and on about how powerful decisions are, you guys would probably heard me talk about it, but when I was going through my grief and I wanted to make some decisions, eventually I got to the place where I decided that I was going to transform my business out of my grief and for me that meant in the short term a lot of things. 


In the short term it meant I was going to leave my nine to five job and go all in on my own journey. It also meant that I was going to hit six figures before I turned 26. Bigger picture, it meant that I was going to include my dad in my business and maybe write a book about him one day and really think of him as my business partner. You know, even now, I still think of him that way. I still think about how he kind of gives me advice or maybe the little signs he’s sending me as I’m trying to make decisions. But the point is I got to the place where I made a decision that my grief was going to be channeled into me pursuing my purpose and me doing it in a really intense way, in a way that no longer operated from a fear based place. 


And this made me realize how often I was operating out of fear before my Dad passed away. I thought I was going all in on my business, but I was so concerned about what other people thought of me. What other people, you know, were they laughing at me? Were they making fun of me? What if I spent all my money and I didn’t make it back? What if this didn’t really work? What if I was an imposter? All these things were dictating my decisions and it’s not that all of that just went away when I decided otherwise, but I decided not to make decisions from a fear based place anymore. However, if you are hearing this and you’re thinking, okay, I want to get to the place where I decide that my pain is going to equate to something bigger in my life or you know.


A good example is my client that I mentioned, she went through a painful divorce and she decided eventually that she never wanted women to feel the way she felt during that time. So she went back to school, she got her life coaching certificate certificate and she now has made it her life’s mission to run her company, supporting women going through divorce. So she made a decision eventually that this painful thing was going to have a positive result in her life. If you are not feeling ready to make that decision, if you are not quite feeling strong enough to make some sort of big transformation, which I did not for a long time, I want this to be really clear. You guys, after my dad passed away, I couldn’t get out of bed for months, I can do anything. And I started this by making very little decisions each day so that I got better at making decisions. And the key here, it goes hand in hand with my first tip about getting your self confidence up. But it’s about making decisions and owning them. 


You don’t look back, you don’t question what you could have done differently. You don’t wonder if it was the right or wrong decision. You decide, the end. And it can start with little things. Like I’m deciding that I’m going to the gym right now. I’m deciding that I’m not going to drink alcohol this weekend. I’m deciding that I am going to… anything. I’m going to go to the grocery store, I’m deciding that I’m going to go to bed before 10:00 PM. So start with little things to build up your own self trust and to build up your power of decision and really seeing how amazing it is that when you make a decision and you commit, there is nothing you can’t do. And I think what’s so great about learning this and proving to yourself that this is the case, is that you no longer freak out about every decision because you start realizing that maybe in the past you used to overanalyze your decisions and you used to think that if you made the wrong decision, something bad would happen and you’d always regret it and wish you did the other decision. 


But the truth is if you have a bunch of options, instead of stressing yourself out about which one will be the best one, you start learning that you will be successful no matter what you decide so long as you go all in on that decision. Does that make sense? So if you have like a fork in the road and you historically have spent time and time again debating which prong will be the better fit, you’ll start to learn that there is no better prong, there is no better choice. What happens is you commit to one of them and go all in and you’ll be successful. It never mattered which choice you made. It only mattered how you made that choice. And that’s where these decisions get really powerful, so start getting more comfortable with your decisions and start making them more often and then start deciding how you are going to make this a powerful part of your life. 


How you are going to handle this, how you are going to come out of this, how you’re going to look back on this and decide what kind of person am I going to be looking back at this? Am I going to be someone that crumbled? Am I going to be someone that was angry for years? Am I going to be someone that never asked for help? Or am I going to be someone that was vulnerable and admitted she was struggling and and built better relationships because she was honest and tried to go into this with a loving, open heart with everyone involved and tried to forgive whoever may have harmed you or hurt you, try to forgive yourself and find strength and power on the other side. I know that that is what I decided I wanted out of this and I’m imagining that’s what you want to, and it all comes from the decision that that’s who you’re going to be during this. 


Next tip is to shed some of your own pressure. So something I really commonly see and something I experienced during this time was feeling like I was making decisions, feeling like I was confident that I could start moving in a positive direction, but feeling like there was a lot of pressure to do so and still feeling really burdened with how I was emotionally exhausted and confused about how to handle this and feeling like I really needed to do my dad proud by coming out of this strong, that’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself to make someone who you loved more than anyone in the world, who’s your parent, proud and never be able to see them again. I’m going to get emotional… 


But, it’s a lot of pressure to put pressure on yourself of trying to please someone who will never be able to tell you again that he’s proud of you and I had to start realizing that I was putting too much on my shoulders, more than I could carry. And my guess is that almost anyone of you listening to this is doing the same thing to yourself in one sense or another. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t gone through grief or anything like that. Even if the challenge that you’re resonating with here is something like my business isn’t taking off as quickly as I want it to or my business is taking off, but I’ve spent a lot of money on it or I really want to quit my nine to five job, but I’m just not there yet. Or I’m feeling unconfident about where I am. 


Like those are all struggles to you guys. You didn’t get the client or whatever. Even if it’s just something like that. My guess is that you are putting way too much pressure on yourself to succeed or to match up with someone else’s definition of success or to be parallel as someone else or on the same page as someone else and that is way too much pressure. There is no way that you’ll ever be able to know how anyone else got to their chapter, so you have to stay in your own. There is no way to know if you’re doing anything right or wrong. You know you don’t have X-Ray Vision to know how things will turn out. So if you are putting too much pressure on yourself, which I’m guessing that you probably are, this is a good reminder to try to shed some of that. 


There’s a few ways you can do this. Some people will, you know, really get a lot of comfort by simply just reaching out for help more often. Whether that means you need to be more open with your family or your friends about how much pressure you’re feeling and see if they can help you out or you need to join a group program so you can be around other entrepreneurs and receive their support when you’re pressuring yourself too much. Or something that worked for me and that I still had to work on a lot is channeling my religious beliefs and understanding that we are never alone in this world. There is God, there is the universe, whatever way it really makes sense to you. But we aren’t meant to put the burden of how everything is going to work on ourselves. And in fact it’s a moot point to do so because we, there are so many things out of our control, no matter if we freak out about it or not. 


So you might as well, except that there’s always going to be things that will happen in ways we’re not sure of. There’s a million different factors to why things do or don’t work out. Why put the pressure on yourself of having everything worked out the right way when you already don’t have that power to begin with. And so for me, it’s really helped to remember that, especially in my moments of intense grief when I feel like I can’t breathe and I don’t know how I’ll be happy again. I remember that. I don’t need to figure that out. I’m not alone in having to have all the answers about grief. God is there with me too. And he can take off some of that burden. And this happens to me in other senses sometimes when I feel a lot of pressure about my own goals or when I was feeling a lot of pressure to hit six figures because I had decided that that’s what I wanted to do. 


Remembering that there’s a million factors that go into something like that, a lot of which I can do things about, a lot more of which I can’t. So releasing myself of this pressure to put it all on my shoulders to make that happen really helped me become more emotionally strong. Because it helped me realize I don’t need to be putting so much of these outcomes on myself. So my guess is that you could be taking a little bit of pressure off yourself and I encourage you to do so.


The fourth tip I have for turning something painful into something powerful and lasting is really understanding the law of polarity, which is a universal law. And this law is not as Wu-wu as it sounds. Bear with me for a second. It’s basically that everything exists within two polar opposites. We all instinctively know this to be true. There could not be something hot in less cold existed as well. We could not all feel happy all the time if we didn’t feel sad at some point we have to have the contrast in order for one or the other to exist. Now, how does this manifest within the sense of pain and managing your pain? Well, it’s reminding you that if you are going through something painful, it’s because you had something pretty amazing to begin with. So for me, it’s remembering that the reason that my grief is so debilitating some of the time, and I’m so heartbroken still over a year later, is because I had an amazing freaking Dad. I believe I had the best dad in the world, and that does make it so much more painful for him to be gone. But it’s because he was so great that the pain is so intense now. 


If I didn’t have the relationship I had with him, if he wasn’t really there for me, if we didn’t, we weren’t best friends, then this probably still would hurt. But I don’t think it would hurt in this hugely intense way. So if you’re going through something painful, understanding this law will help you remember that it’s usually because you had something so amazing to begin with. Whether that is, you know, I don’t want to frame it in always the sense of loss. Like if you’re going through a divorce, maybe yes, you had a really amazing marriage at some point, and that’s why this is painful. Or if you’re going through losing a job, then it’s painful because you had a great job. But sometimes it’s not about loss also. And I want to be clear about that. So for example, in a business context, then what you can do is think about how if you’re not reaching a goal or if you didn’t make as much money as you wanted to or if someone laughed at you, it’s pretty damn amazing that you had such sky-high goals to begin with. 


It’s pretty amazing that you wanted to hit a high income. It’s pretty amazing that you put yourself out there. It’s pretty amazing that you believed in yourself enough to even try to do this. So that’s where this law can really always remind you of, I hate the phrase silver lining, so it’s not quite that, but it’s just a reminder of the world that we live in and the world have two opposites. That will always be the case. And in fact, it’s a good reminder for us moving forward that, you know, when we have good things in our life, I don’t want to sound pessimistic at all, but the needle always can move to the other side where it turns into something painful. It’s just going back to the old saying that the price of love can be lost, but we still all go love. We still wouldn’t go in to try to find love or try to get married or try to find a soulmate because of the risk of loss. 


We know it’s there, we know it’s scary. We know that our hearts can get broken, but it is always worth feeling the good. And you know, I really had to wrap my head around that with my dad. What I have given absolutely anything for this, not to have happened, definitely. But would I trade any of it? No. because he’s still my dad and he was such a great dad and that is something that will never be taken away from me. So understanding this law in the sense of your pain will help remind you of how badass you are to begin with, how blessed you probably were and how blessed you can be again, because all it is is a really intensified version of the ups and downs that we all go through and it’s just two really powerful things existing in one. It’s one really amazing thing and then one really painful thing and unfortunately you might be in the midst of experiencing something really painful about something amazing. And also the fun part is this pain can go back to that amazing. This law goes both ways and it’s always there. It always is working. It’s just up to us to try to understand it and I hope that this was helpful in explaining it. 


Okay. The final actionable tip I have for turning your pain into something powerful and purposeful is to find people that you look up to who have gone through similar points of pain. So this was something that was really hard for me at first. I have to say I have had really incredible relatives who have gone through pain and they were very, very incredible to me. And I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through some of those nights without them. And not all of them had particularly… well I just didn’t have that much in common with a lot of them other than this piece of loss. 


So I really started looking for women that were in their twenties and thirties that have lost a parent, which I know is kind of bizarre. But I wanted to find people that had kind of done what I’ve wanted to do or done what I’ve now done that had gone through similar pain points because I wanted to know what was possible. I remember just talking to my therapist and my grief counselor and she did help me in a lot of ways, but a lot of the time I just felt like she was trying to make me feel okay about how sad I was and I appreciate that because she wasn’t trying to make me feel like my feelings weren’t valid or anything, but I really struggled to communicate with her how much I wanted to be really successful and I didn’t want my success to stop because of how much pain I was going through and I didn’t want to just halt my life and she kind of would just be like, well, be gentle with yourself, don’t do things too quickly. 


And again, I see where she was coming from, but she didn’t really gave me, give me that sense of hope that I was going to be able to achieve all my dreams still, even with what I thought now was a huge disability. I felt like I was at a huge loss because of how much pain I was going through. And I just felt like anyone else who might have been trying to achieve similar goals as I was, was going to have a heck of a lot easier time doing it because they just were more emotionally stable than I was. You know, I had so many days where I couldn’t function. Now I see that thinking is kind of flawed, but it did lead me to really seek out people that had done what I wanted to do, achieved what I wanted to achieve and had gone through loss. 


And so someone who I looked up through to more than anyone at that time, was a woman named Alexa Von Tobel. Some of you may know how obsessed I am with her. I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of interviewing her on my podcast last month, but she, uh, is the founder of LearnVest and she was on NPRs how I built that podcast, sharing her story. And she’s shared in that episode that her dad passed away when she was little, when she was in high school. She was one of three kids as well. You know, I wasn’t quite as young. I was 25 when my dad passed, but I still really felt like I looked up to her so much. I always had, she was such an empowering founder and such a smart business woman and just so driven. So seeing what she had done, even knowing that she had literally gone through the same thing I did. 


I mean I listened to that NPR episode more times than I can count just because I felt like I was seeing exactly what I wanted to happen in my own life. I also really turned to, even though she didn’t even know it until last week when I told her, cause I also interviewed her on my podcast, Nicole Lapin, who I’ve always been a really big fan of, and her dad passed away when she was 11 again, much younger, but I always really looked up to Nicole and her career and how she was one of the youngest anchors ever at CNN and how she was able to build a really great personal brand and knowing that she did it without a father. I hate that I had it in common with her and my heart goes out to her and I hope that it’s very clear that, I mean no disrespect to any of the people I was looking up to because I hate that they had to go through this and I never would wish it on anyone. 


I’m just trying to share some of the things that helped me when I felt really alone and felt like no one really understood what I was going through and that maybe I was kidding myself with wanting to go so full throttle on my business when I did after so much loss. But seeing that other women had done it and they had done it successfully made me believe that I could and I did. And so if you’re going through a challenge, look for people that have gone through similar challenges and, or look for people that have, accomplish similar things to what you want to accomplish. And maybe if they went through a different challenge, maybe you don’t need to have gone through the same challenge, but just knowing that you can overcome very intense pain and you still can be successful and no one’s path is pretty. 


And I often found the more I opened up about my dad, the more I realized, you know, everyone has gone through some, some sort of intense loss or pain point or is that some sort of, you know, debilitating place. But they’ve still managed to endure it. And having that connection with people also gave me a ton of strengths. So find the people you look up to, take hope in their story, know that you can do it too. And if you feel so inclined and you want to share, reach out to them and tell them that you look up to them because you are experiencing something painful and you are trying to get through it in the way they did. And you’ll be amazed at how much people want to help you and want to connect with you. And it’s just another reminder that you’re never in this alone and you should never feel alone. 


Even though I know that’s easier said than done. Because I still feel alone a lot honestly with the loss of my dad. But, there are people that want to help you. You can do this, you can turn your pain into purpose. You can become a better version of yourself because of something terrible that happened to you. And I knew he might not even want to hear that right now. You might want to punch me through the computer. I know when people said you’ll be stronger because of this. I wanted to basically say, screw you. I don’t want to be stronger. I want my dad. That’s not helpful to me. Like I don’t care about being strong. I don’t care about having this great story. I want my dad. So if you are there, I get that you are not alone. And I know what that’s like and I’m not in any way trying to talk you out of it. 


I’m just trying to share with you in case you’re at a point where you are ready to not just get back to as okay as you were before this painful thing happened. But to get even better and to channel yourself to be an even higher version of yourself and to, you know, truthfully just embrace, the circumstances and make the most of them. And it’s not fun you guys, but you can do it and you’re never alone in doing it. And you are going to be superhuman, you know, after the fact. So I hope you guys found this helpful no matter what sort of pain you might be resonating with at this point and if you ever need it at a later point in life. You know, my heart is always going out to you for whatever you’re going through. And I hope that this helps you find solace and the inner strength and the reminder that you’re not alone and that you totally, totally are more powerful than you think. 


You are so much more powerful than you know, and you have a strength within you that you probably can’t even believe. And so this is our chance in our opportunity to bring that to life no matter what. Let’s make this an amazing week you guys. I will talk to you all very soon. I hope you enjoyed this. Let me know what your biggest takeaway was and let me know if there was one of the points in particular that you want to take with you, uh, in the comments below. Um, or always email me at help@urbantwentysomething.com and I’ll talk to y’all soon. Thanks for tuning in.

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