From Jobless to Greatness: How to Turn Pain Into Purpose

Rebuild your identity and discover your true calling after job loss.

Posted Jul 30, 2020

Unsplash/Austin Chan
Source: Unsplash/Austin Chan

Much of the discourse around the recent job loss, which has capped 40 million, revolves around the financial strain on individuals, and for obvious reasons. However, the implications can be far more damaging. In a culture that values career over all else, a job loss can mean a loss of self-worth. This presents an opportunity to dismantle your attachment to your career because you are not your work. You are so much more.

When I worked in corporate, I shrouded myself in my high-power career. When that was gone, rebuilding my self-worth became the new task. And in a culture that values career over passion, doing so was an arduous journey.

It turns out that our brains are hardwired to avoid discomfort. And when life throws us something like a pandemic, we will do anything to avoid an emotional breakdown. Enter social media, TV, alcohol, food, and [insert your comfort zone enabler here]. You know the expression, "You can run, but you can't hide?" We can't outrun our emotions forever. COVID-19 may have fast-tracked that inevitable outcome for many of us. 

If you have unexpectedly lost your job and sense of identity, you have the power to rediscover who you are and your real purpose. Below are ways to bounce back better than ever:

  1. Accept what you cannot change. It is the first step to personal freedom. COVID-19 and its tidal wave of collateral damage are largely out of our control. Accepting our present reality, no matter how painful, allows us to take action. Acceptance says, "I accept that I have lost my job. And it's within my power to explore other passions." Complacency, on the other hand, neutralizes your capacity to change. Complacency says, "I have lost my job. I wonder what time the liquor store closes."
  2. Reflect and record. Set a timer for two minutes, close your eyes, and let whatever thoughts, feelings, or sensations surface. Observe them without judgment. Then, spend the next few minutes reflecting on what came up for you by putting pen to paper. Writing has the unique power to unearth thoughts and feelings that we otherwise may not be able to access. For me, this exercise revealed the most authentic parts of myself—my inner child and innate curiosity—I had left behind due to attachment to work.
  3. Be the grateful observer. First and foremost, your pain has a purpose. Choose to let it direct you to ultimate bliss and self-discovery. Knowing what freedom and happiness lie ahead, how can one not feel grateful for adversity? Whenever it starts feeling overwhelming—when your self-judgment appears—say to yourself, "I am grateful for this moment because I choose to go toward my best life." Remember that sadness, anger, and resentment are all human emotions.
  4. Get curious. This is where it gets fun. In Costa Rica, there were no networking luncheons. Nobody asked me what I did for a living. They wanted to know me. So, I had no choice but to discover who I was. It was not easy. Some days were unpleasant, to put it lightly. Being in a foreign environment nurtures curiosity. As a result, I tapped into my childlike tendencies. And life suddenly took on a whole new meaning. It was fun! I liked myself! No frills. No suits. No recognition. Just me. In a tree.
  5. Your values are gospel. Write down all your values. This excellent guide will help you do so methodically and thoughtfully. Knowing precisely what is essential will help us narrow down the careers that align with those core values. Then, write down all the reasons why you will not go back to your former life, no matter what. This step kept me steady in moments when I struggled to stay the course as an entrepreneur. The more you can do to reinforce your convictions, especially when you are struggling, the more likely you will be successful in your ambitions.

When we embrace pain, we release the power it has over us. We turn it into fuel to unlocking our most authentic selves. So, the next time that familiar and uncomfortable feeling shows up, choose to feel it. Choose reflection. Choose yourself. Using the steps above takes you on an incredible journey to the professional life of which you have always dreamt.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our related post, "Your Passion vs. The Template."

Radical Sabbatical, the Amazon Kindle bestseller by Laura Berger and Glen Tibaldeo, is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com.