If there is one thing I am learning and gleaning from my own present adversity is that:
The only thing constant is change. No matter how tough your current situation of adversity, it is only a temporary learning curve.
Just as death and taxes are unavoidable in life, so is adversity. In fact, life is full of ups and downs, victories and struggles, and huge momentum shifts. We all know and accept that this is just how life is. Adversity is a large part of that experience as well. It’s a part of our lives that many of us would ideally like to fast-forward. However, adversity doesn’t need to be at all negative experiences. In fact, dealing with adversity can become very positive and nourishing that can lead to massive growth and development.
The problem with adversity is that most people never see it in a positive light. In fact, most see adversity as a sign that the entire world is against them; out to get them. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In many instances, adversity provides an opportunity to learn those tough lessons that help us improve our lives and circumstances going forward. However, in order to see adversity in this way, we must first acknowledge some truths that might initially be somewhat difficult to stomach.
The Truth About Adversity
It is often said that it’s not what happens to us but how we react to what happens that makes all the difference in the end.
When facing adversity it’s important to acknowledge that we always have the freedom to choose how we react in response to people, events, and circumstances. We can either respond very negatively or we can choose to respond optimistically and productive way that can potentially open doors that we weren’t aware of before.
To dig even deeper; all of us have the freedom to choose our own beliefs, words, thoughts, and the attitude we bring into every situation. In fact, we also have the freedom and right to choose the level of effort and determination to bring forth into every moment.
When you have a thought, this immediately triggers emotional reactions. Therefore, if you think/talk negatively, this will cause you to be stressed, fearful or overwhelmed. And this certainly has nothing to do with the situation, but rather everything to do with how you have interpreted the circumstances.
Given all of this, it’s clear that how we handle adversity has nothing to do with what happens to us, but rather everything to do with the “kind of person” we bring forward. As such, it’s absolutely paramount that we accept full responsibility for the role we play in each moment. You are after all in the driver’s seat. However, it is easy to forget this power when your first reaction is an emotional one.
With that in mind, it’s important to acknowledge that the only things that matter are:
How you see the obstacle you're being faced with…
How you react to the adversity…
How you maintain your composure while facing the adversity…
The narrative you tell yourself in what is happening…
It essentially always comes down to the narrative you tell yourself. In fact, it is the story that will either empower or deflate you emotionally; it is the story that will either help you move forward or hold you back; it is the story that will either open the doors or send you into the pits of despair. Adversity has absolutely everything to do with the narrative! The story you tell yourself is what effectively determines your next steps going forward.
When Adversity Strikes
When adversity strikes you must immediately make adjustments to any expectations you have been holding onto. All the plans you had in place may not be viable any longer. Holding onto these plans and expecting that there is only one path forward in reaching your goals will no longer effectively deal with the present circumstances. In fact, resistance at this stage will immediately create internal conflict. This forces you into a downward spiral into the pits of despair.
What you must do instead is immediately adjust any plans or expectations you had coming into the circumstances. To do this you will need to acknowledge that:
You fully accept what has happened without resistance…
Accept that some things are out of your personal control…
No matter how well you plan ahead, things often do not go according to plan. There will always be unexpected obstacles and setbacks that will completely derail your efforts.
This is not the time to whine and complain about the circumstances. Success is never a straight line. In fact, the route that gets you from the present to your desired goals will take many twists and turns. Very little may be under your direct control. Therefore, nothing is really predictable.
We must fully accept the fact that you are facing a “plot twist”. This plot twist is of course comes in the form of a setback that must now be dealt with. Now, of course, you could just completely remove yourself and do nothing. Yes, you most certainly could, but doing nothing changes nothing. Worse yet, doing nothing could actually make things worse. Keep that in mind when you’re frozen in time and too overwhelmed to deal with the issue.
Right now, right here, in the moment. This is your time and place to do something meaningful. It may mean that you will need to stretch yourself, to even act out of desperation in righting things. In fact, this state of desperation could be the catalyst that sparks your creativity and helps you move forward through this circumstance in an optimal way. However, this creativity will never come if your thought process about the problem BECOMES THE PROBLEM.
Just think about it. How you perceive the problem could, in fact, be the problem. If you see the setback as a negative experience then you are closing yourself from an alternate perspective. In fact, how you view the issue might be very different to how another person sees the same circumstance. And, because they see things differently than you, this allows them to react to the setback in a more optimal, beneficial way.
Now of course when it seems as though the world is conspiring against you, it’s difficult to think positively. This is true. You must therefore step back in order to calm your emotions.
Take a moment to remove yourself to take a few deep breaths and tell yourself:
I am calm and collected…
I can see things rationally…
I’ve not attached myself to a perceived outcome anymore…
I am open to the possibilities that may now exist…
I doing this, you acknowledge that you have full control of your mental and emotional faculties. Moreover, you acknowledge that you are open to possibilities that there might be something here that you weren’t expecting to potentially take advantage of.
This is, of course, is all very well and good. As such, if you’re having trouble opening yourself up to the possibilities, then reflect on the narrative you have created about these circumstances. Then, ask yourself:
What have I told myself about this?
Is it empowering or a hindrance to me?
If it is a hindrance and keeping you from seeing the situation in a more positive light, then immediately get to work on changing your thought process. Yes, I do mean literally make the changes. You need to change the thought process that will give yourself that empowerment that can help get you through this setback far more effectively. Only then will you see the problem in the most optimal light.
Now of course, when we’re emotionally wrapped up in a situation it’s difficult to genuinely change your thought process to an empowering story that can help deal with this situation most effectively. Changing our story requires a perspective shift. It requires you to shift how you think. With that in mind, you might find it helpful to think about your setback in the following ways:
Failure today might have saved me from a greater disaster tomorrow…
I haven’t chosen this, but I decide how it affects me…
When setbacks come, I must work twice as diligently…
Every situation is an opportunity for me to reach positively…
The challenge makes me a better person…
The obstacle is an advantage, not a hindrance…
What matters is what I do with what happens…
What impedes me, also empowers me…
My efforts will determine my results…
Obstacles are the fuel for my ambition…
This sucks, but I will come out even more competent on the other side of this…
These are just some of the ways you can think more optimally about your circumstances. In fact, thinking about your setback in this way will help you to effectively change the story you are telling yourself. And when you change your story, a world of possibilities opens up for you.
The final step of this process is, of course, to acknowledge that your setback is a problem that most certainly can be resolved. Once you acknowledge this you can then effectively work on solving this problem. Ask yourself:
What went wrong?
What is the problem here?
What can be done to improve the situation?
What am I potentially missing that could be of value?
The Value of Adversity?
Facing adversity is never fun, but as we’ve already discussed, of course, depends on how we view and react to the circumstances. But let’s come to acknowledge the fact that adversity sucks, will always suck, but it is a part of life and we must, therefore, learn to deal with it and make the most of what we are dealt with. In this context let’s take a look at the value of adversity.
To begin with, adversity often challenges us in new ways, helping us gain valuable experiences that we would not have been exposed to if we always played things safe. And of course, this is of value because new experiences help build and strengthen character, which effectively helps deal with even greater levels of future adversities. In other words, adversity actually provides an opportunity to develop mental strength and resilience. But there is more…
Adversity provides an opportunity to practice challenging one's self in new ways; to practice patience, humility and courage; to practice self-discipline; to practice becoming more resourceful and so much more. In fact, above all else, adversity provides the opportunity to grow, develop and learn from the experience in ways that you never planned or imagined.
What can I learn from this experience?
Given what I now know, how can I do better next time?
And of course, as you grow and learn to think about the adversity you face in more optimal ways, new paths open that can lead to breakthroughs and even new unexpected beginnings.
Yes, it is certainly possible that you may not be able to successfully overcome some of the problems faced. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have come to a dead-end. What seems like a dead-end might, in fact, be that perfect opportunity for a new beginning that can take you down a more advantageous path towards even bigger and better goals.
Breaking down new paths in this way does, however, require personal initiative, a little creativity, and tenacity on your part. In fact, you must stubbornly acknowledge to yourself that:
I refuse to allow this to break me…
The attitude you bring to every situation matters. In fact, it matters above all else. With the right attitude, you will be able to get through anything no matter how grim or dire your circumstances. And of course, your attitude reflects the thoughts you allow yourself to dwell upon consistently while working through the adversity. These thoughts, of course, manifest in internal dialogue and this internal dialogue often comes in the form of the questions you persistently ask yourself.
The questions you ask yourself either empowers you or weakens your resolve. Empowering questions will certainly help keep you focused on solutions that help move you forward while weakening questions are focused on blame, regret, excuses and complaining. For instance, questions such as:
Why does this always happen to me?
Why do I always make a mess of things?
Why didn’t I just do this earlier, then I wouldn’t be in this mess?
Why is it that I just can’t catch a break?
Why does it seem as though the universe is out to get me?
These are of course weakening questions that will get you absolutely nowhere. These are the types of questions you should avoid asking at all costs. Instead, you need to refocus your energies on asking more empowering questions that will move closer to the desired outcome. For instance, you could ask yourself:
What are the benefits of my situation?
What’s the value in experiencing this setback?
What’s the opportunity here that I could take advantage of?
How can I turn things around and take advantage of my situation?
How can this help me move forward in a better way?
The first set of questions will typically throw you into an endless loop that will keep you stuck, while the second set of questions will open doors to new opportunities and insights that will unlock new paths that you can take full advantage of. But even if all that happens is that you learn from the experience, then asking these questions will have definitely been worth the while.
Taking Positive Action
So far up to this point, we have been mentally preparing ourselves for moments of adversity that we will inevitably experience. However, it is now time to step up and tackle this problem head-on.
Staying Focused and Mindful
When dealing with adversity it is important to stay present and mindful. When we are, this naturally helps improve our focus, which subsequently allows us to gain more clarity about the possible options going forward.
In addition, it is also important that we stay objective. Don’t cling emotionally to a specific outcome, otherwise, you may see clearly. Moreover, it’s also wise to stay self-aware of your thoughts and the feelings you bring into the situation. These thoughts and feelings can either help you or easily mislead. Being self-aware will ensure that you always stay in control of your mental and emotional faculties.
All this essentially comes down to your ability to focus on how things really are and not on how you imagined or hoped them to be. This distinction is important to help you more effectively deal with the circumstances at hand.
Break Things Down
Facing adversity and setbacks can become rather overwhelming very quickly. These can often be unexpected circumstances that suddenly knock us off balance. While off balance we are unable to see things clearly and therefore cannot take decisive action that helps us move forward.
In order to get yourself “on-balance” again, you must take charge. One way to do this is to turn adversity into a problem.
Turning adversity into a problem is helpful because when you are dealing with a problem, you are in the midst of handling something that comes with a solution. This immediately puts you in a very different frame-of-mind. You are no longer at the mercy of circumstance, and you are no longer tempted to play the victim card. Instead, you are in the driver's seat; empowered to solve this problem because you now see it in its proper perspective.
Given this, it’s time to get a little intimate with your problem by asking:
How could I break this down into a problem?
How could I present this problem in the form of a question?
What process must I follow in order to solve this problem?
What specifically do I control concerning this problem?
What part of this problem should I tackle first?
How will I tackle this part of the problem?
What’s the first action step I must take?
These questions lay the foundations of the actions you will take that will help solve this problem. In this way, you are able to begin building the momentum you need to move through this problem successfully.
Taking Immediate Action
Now that you are in a frame-of-mind for solving a problem, it’s time to take immediate action that will help move you forward.
Of course, there might still be a lot of uncertainty that might very well not have all the answers you need at this stage to help you solve this problem. At least, not yet. But all these things are of course irrelevant.
Solutions to don’t often come during times of contemplation; although that is certainly a part of the process. Breakthrough insights often come while taking proactive action toward solving the problem. This happens because while you take action you gain new experiences. With new experiences, you gather more information and more information leads to unique insights that you never had previously. And then, of course, these insights lead to unique perspectives that can help find the answers you are searching for.
Even if along the way you make a plethora of mistakes? That is perfectly acceptable. Mistakes and even failed attempts will help to learn from the experience. Moreover, every wrong attempt you make essentially improves your chances of success because you now have a better idea of what doesn’t work, and this, gives you a clearer understanding of what potentially might work in the future.
Finding Heroes and Mentors
If you’re still struggling and don’t seem to be making progress, then it can be helpful to find heroes or mentors. At times a little guidance is all you need to make a breakthrough.
Heroes are typically role models who you look up to. You don’t necessarily know these people. You rather admire them from a distance. Mentors, on the other hand, are people you know who have a vast assortment of knowledge and experience because they have been through the same kind of adversity you are currently encountering and struggling with. These people can guide you through the next steps of your journey.
Finally, it is also wise to future-proof yourself against potential setbacks that may arise. Adversities you are likely to face in the weeks, months and years to come.
You will of course never have all the answers and you won't always know what could be hiding just around the corner. However, this does not mean that you cannot prepare yourself in advance.
You could, for instance, use Murphy’s Law as a guide for what could potentially go wrong. At the very least Murphy’s Law will help you keep your expectations in check and your mind open to the possibility of threats along the horizon. Ask yourself:
What if this happens?
What if I make that mistake?
What if this particular person lets me down?
What if I don’t understand how to do this?
What if I get rejected?
What if I am unable to…?
What if? Then I will… If not, then I’ll just… And if that doesn’t work then I can… Alternatively, I could…
These questions will not provide you with all the answers. However, they will pose very interesting scenarios that will force you to think about the direction you are moving in carefully and more meticulously.