Growth Through Pain

Trust Your StruggleHello all.  I think this little quote says it all.

When we have struggles, most of us want to escape them. Struggles often involve pain, and pain often brings suffering, so we want to get rid of it.

But here’s the thing: if you reflect carefully on your life, you may discover that most of your greatest growth came from your greatest pain – unless (as I wrote in a January blog post), you let that hardship crush you.

It’s one of life’s ironies, I think. When things go well, we don’t dig deep. We think, “I’m great. Life is great. Next!”  But when things go wrong, something else happens. Our instinct for self-preservation kicks in and we say to ourselves something like, “Wow, I really didn’t like that. That hurt. I’ve got to do something about it.”

What becomes important is what you do about it. If you are willing, I invite you to look for the lesson. Trust the struggle. There is learning and growth available to you, if you’re wiling to look.

I’m speaking from personal experience, of course. As you will have noticed if you’ve been reading my blog over recent years, I’ve had loads of struggle and difficulties. My road has been bumpy, stressful, deeply disappointing at times, painful, disheartening, enraging, and any of a number of other unpleasant descriptors. I wouldn’t wish it on people.

AND, now that I’m coming out the other side, I see more and more clearly how it was also the source of significant learning and growth for me, and I am stronger and more insightful as a result. In fact, I now have many insights that seem obvious or like common sense to me, whereas when I talk to people about them, I am often told that comment x, y, or z I made is a meaningful piece of wisdom – maybe something they have never considered before. I don’t say this to brag. I say this to encourage you to work through your struggles and pain, because I have seen (for myself and through others) that there is something wonderful to gain on the other side of the struggle if you’re willing to do the work to look for it.

As I said to a friend the other day, “If there are no valleys, there are no mountain tops either”. That’s the analogy I often remind myself of when I am “in the valley” and feeling discouraged. Without bad times, we don’t really know what good times are. It takes work to make your way to the top of the mountain, but it’s worth it. So don’t let yourself wallow in a dark valley.

Yes, there were times when being in the valley did crush my spirit and I regarded the mountain as an insurmountable obstacle.

But I decided not to stop there.  I started climbing. I hope you will too.



  1. Shuyi says:

    It is a very positive article. When we have struggles, it is normal to think that running away from it is much easier than facing it. I guess struggle sometimes means that something is wrong or someone has done something wrong, and people have a hard time admitting they’re “wrong”. It is like we open a file and we get stuck in the middle and believe this it’s the end of the filing drawer, so we close it and “move on”. We open another file, same thing happens, get stuck, close it, and open another one. After a while we realize that we opened a bunch of files but we never completed anything because the difficulty changed its format and kept coming back in every file that we opened. We were stuck on a treadmill that we didn’t know we were on. That is my problem too, just blaming the bad file and not facing my own problem. It is time to learn to work through the struggle to its end instead of letting it come back again and again.

    • Peter says:

      Hello Shuyi,
      Thank you for your lovely comment. I’m glad the blog post was useful to you! Don’t worry, you’ve got lots of company in the “repeating the same mistake over and over” category. It’s part of our learning path, and sometimes we humans learn very slowly!
      Thanks again,

  2. Veola says:

    Heya! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward
    to all your posts! Carry on the excellent work!

  3. William Kolb says:

    Peter, thanks for the insightful article.

    I’m going to lead a group discussion series (6-10 sessions) this summer on the growth that comes from suffering. I’m calling it “Listening to our pain: the path to growth.” One of the quotes I’m going to use as kind of a thesis is, “The greatest source of wisdom and compassion is suffering.” Question: can you recommend a book that would make a good text for the course?

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