Beyond sorrow there is awareness

 “Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker." 
You have most likely heard this phrase, written by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In English the quote is often translated to:
"What does not kill me makes me stronger."
What does stronger mean to you?

It can mean something negative. Like getting hardened, possibly less empathetic, maybe even bitter after surviving an ordeal of some kind.

It can also mean that you become better prepared for coming difficulties. 

One way to become better prepared, to become stronger, is to learn more about yourself.

If we see hardships as opportunities to learn, what can we learn about ourselves in times of sorrow?

We can become aware of desctructive behaviours we may have. Behaviours that are always in our way, but we do not see them when we feel alright. It is only in times of stress and sorrow they grow so big we suddenly see what others have noticed all the time.

For many years during my career as a leader in product development, people have told me to speak up, share more of my ideas, take more space and be more visible. It was never really clear to me what to do with that feedback.

Then I noticed my reaction in times of sorrow. When I am in pain, I hide. Like an animal licking its wounds before returning to the pack.

This is a behaviour of mine. Dealing with pain by withdrawing. The less obvious version of this behaviour is that I keep myself safe by not fully opening up and engaging with others as much as I could. That was a useful learning for me.

Maybe you are the complete opposite. Maybe you look for comfort outside yourself rather than inside of you. Maybe you overeat, drink too much alcohol or use pain killers when you grieve. Chances are you do some of this also in your normal life. Eating a bit too much of unhealthy foods, drinking a bit more than is good for you.

If you observe yourself when you are in pain, you will be able to understand yourself better. That understanding can be a stepping stone to making a change.

There is more to learn from times of hardship, something a lot more positive: Your life's purpose. 

There are things you do, no matter how tough life is. Things that are such a big part of you, that you do them no matter what.

For me, stories come to me all the time, regardless of how I feel.  They just come. I read and write also in times of sorrow. And I listen, and dance to music, both when I am happy and when I am sad.

What do you do, also when times are rough?
Maybe you paint, no matter what. Maybe you run or do gardening. Maybe you make or listen to music. Maybe you call your best friend regularly. Maybe you crunch numbers.

Whatever you "always" do, almost without thinking about it, is most likely connected to your life's purpose. Keep that something in your life!

I am not going to wish you a life without sorrow. Hardships come with the package, just as shadows only appear in sunlight.

But I do wish that you learn something each time you are in pain.  That way, you can live the quote by Friedrich Nietzsche and ensure that whatever does not kill you, will make you live a better life. 


  1. I know my strategies when sad (one song with Madonna), happy (dancing and singinf) or stressed (sweet candy och chocolate) I found out that boxing is a great way of clear your head. You cannot think of nothing but focusing on the moves and hooks :-)