Turn your pain to gain – Sustaining motivation during tough times!

Behind any lifestyle change is the motivation to do so. When you are looking to change an addictive or compulsory lifestyle or behavior where the chance of relapse is likely… is motivation enough? If it is, how can we sustain that motivation?

In REAL LIFE’s curriculum, the very first thing we cover is the motivation to change and thrive in life. We begin by creating a stable foundation to build on. This is made out of sobriety, family, work, community, and faith—we call them our Pillars of Thriving.

After you’ve been on the path of recovery for a while, you may see your life coming together. You might have better family relationships or have a good paying job. What happens when things get tough? When life shows up? You have to figure out how to stay motivated even more!

Where does that motivation come from when something like the coronavirus pandemic happens? You were let go from your good paying job and now you are stuck in the house with family irritating each other. It sucks. And it’s completely normal to have lost your motivation… and also way too easy to give in to old habits.

I’m assuming it’s fair to say that, as human beings, we are likely to feel this internal void, or emptiness, and it is uncomfortable because we don’t know what it is and how to fix it. So in that, we look for instant gratification and temporary highs to fill or numb this emptiness. It’s never enough.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.”
-Viktor Frankl-

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who is best known for his memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning. He shared his experience at Auschwitz and how looking for  meaning in his suffering helped him survive (Cuncic, 2019; Frankl, 1966).

He explained that through misery and suffering “the motivation for living comes from finding meaning,” coming from a man who, again, survived the Holocaust (Elsegood et al., 2018; Hart & Singh, 2009; Shrum, 2004).

To refresh, motivation is defined as, “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” And that emptiness mentioned before is our deep sense for meaning… our life purpose.

So, by identifying meaning in the misery, you can use it to survive and thrive, ultimately fueling your passion and making you stronger in doing so.

You turn your pain to gain.

We’ve established the importance of meaning in motivation, especially for those in recovery wanting to sustain that progress long-term and continue to build on that to stay on the Pathway to Thriving. BUT, how do you find meaningful motivation?

It starts with that stable foundation talked about in the beginning through the Pillars of Thriving. It is our hope that within that foundation you begin to identify your strengths, skills, and interests.

It’s also a mix of passion, mission, profession, and vocation. In other words what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at (Becoming Better, 2020; Elsegood et al., 2018)

If you are interested in finding lifelong motivation with purpose and meaning, here are some questions you could ask yourself:

  • What do you value? What is important to you?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What do you love to talk about?
  • What makes you lose track of time?
  • When you were a child, what did you dream of doing when you grew up?
  • What would you be doing if money wasn’t an issue?
  • Who inspires you? Why?

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
-C.S. Lewis-


Becoming Better (2020). Ikigai. Retrieved from https://becomingbetter.org/ikigai/

Cuncic, A. (2019). An overview of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy. Verywell Mind. Dotdash Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/an-overview-of-victor-frankl-s-logotherapy-4159308

Elsegood, K. J., Anderson, L., & Newton, R. (2018). Introducing the recovery inspiration group: Promoting hope for recovery with inspirational recovery stories. Advances in Dual Diagnosis, 11, 4. Emerald Publishing Limited. DOI 10.1108/ADD-03-2018-0004

Frankl, V. (1966). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. U.S.A.

Hart, K. & Singh, T. (2009). An existential model of flourishing subsequent to treatment for addiction: The importance of living a meaningful and spiritual life. Illness, Crisis, & Loss, 17:2, 125-147. DOI 10.2190/IL.17.2.d

Shrum, H. (2004). No longer theory: Correctional practices that work. Journal of Correctional Education, 55(3), 225–235.