Remember, when everything seems to be going against you, that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. – Henry Ford
As a man seeking even greater Success on the Far Side of Fifty I feel I have earned the right to create a blog post about overcoming adversity. Over the years I have suffered through economic down turns, job losses, relationship challenges, work issues, health problems, personal near death experiences, illnesses of children, death of loved ones, company failures and even a few natural disasters.
The fact that I have faced adversity doesn’t make me special; it makes be human. With life comes challenge; period.
Overall, so far, I have lived a pretty darn good life. As I look back upon my life I believe that a great deal of my happiness and personal success is due to my ability to positively cope with adversity. This weeks post will reveal many of the strategies I use to triumph in the face of challenge.
The challenge with adversity is that not many people react well to it. Challenges are inevitable, as are the negative reactions that go along with them. When faced with adversity it is normal and natural to feel angry, sad, depressed and anxious. People who have the tools to manage these negative reactions recover more quickly and fully from set backs. In fact, the better prepared people are to handle these setbacks the more likely they are to use adversity as a tool to springboard themselves into greater happiness and prosperity. Hopefully this post will provide you new tools that you can use to overcome any challenges you might be facing.
By and large I see life as a series of choices. Many of the choices we make are small and a few are monumental.
One of the biggest choices we can make in life is deciding how we are going to deal with the rough spots. And I meant it when I said “deciding.”
We all experience tough times, and we all have to make a choice. When faced with adversity we decide to be the hero or the victim. Hero’s rise to challenge and overcome adversity, victims avoid the challenge and fail in the face of adversity.
I know people who flourish despite suffering horrible personal loss, and I know of many, many other people who, despite having great health, relationships and careers have collapsed into depression and despair for no apparent reason what-so-ever.
A very dear friend of mine lost her husband and her only son. Since then she has chosen to live a life of sadness and solitude. She socializes very little, rarely goes out, and she doesn’t have a job or do charitable work. Television is her constant companion. She is living, but she doesn’t appear to have a have a life.
I am also acquainted with another lady who also tragically lost her only child and husband. This lady has gone on to remarry, build relationships with her new husbands adult children and has a great career and also does charity work. She is also active in the community and works out daily. Despite her great loss she tells me that she is happy most of the time.
Thinking of these two ladies who do you think is making the wisest choices?
Personally I don’t see the upside to wallowing in pain.
Over the years I have discovered many techniques that help me to be strong, resilient and productive regardless of any challenges I might be faced with. Following are some of my favorite strategies for overcoming adversity.
7 Keys to Overcoming Adversity
Realize that you have the power to choose your attitude.
This may sound trite and over simplistic, but it was the power to choose my attitude that allowed me to move through my sons diagnosis of juvenile arthritis. During the months that it took the doctors to figure out what was wrong my mind went through every conceivable diagnosis. I had no ideal if my son was facing a life threatening illness or a life altering one. During those months of uncertainty I decided that I would stand by my son’s side and support him both mentally and physically.
The decision to support his happiness as well as his physical wellness meant I had no room for being angry, sad or upset. I had to reach deep and find positive emotions that I could share with both my wife and my son.
Choosing to move through adversity isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is the only reasonable choice. The other, less appealing, alternative is to give in to adversity, which doesn’t seem like a choice at all to me.
Look for positive in the negative.
When my son was first diagnosed with juvenile arthritis I was truly devastated. Here was a previously healthy and active 16-year-old that had a disease that could literally ruin his life.
To top it off I felt terribly guilty. I felt bad because I was still healthy and strong and I felt worse because there was literally nothing I could do about it.
So instead of endlessly stewing about it I did the last thing a normal, sane person would do; I started making a list of the positive things that arthritis could do for my son.
I listed anything that could be considered as a good thing. I wrote that he would probably learn to move through live in a slower, more thoughtful fashion, and he has. I wrote that he would develop mental resiliency, and he has. I even wrote that he would develop a high pain tolerance and he did that too.
While I am still a long way from accepting that his arthritis is a good thing, I am happy to report that his arthritis is now in a controlled state and the he still has the benefits that arthritis has provided to him.
Have faith in your ability to thrive in the face of challenge.
As human beings we have tremendous abilities to overcome obstacles, challenges and setbacks. In fact it is only through challenge and adversity that we grow to find our inner strength and resiliency.
When faced with adversity it is important to remember the adversity won’t last forever, but the inner strength you acquire and the confidence that goes along with it will.
I always remind people to remember the quote “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”
Remember to focus on self-care.
A major reason that people struggle so much with adversity is that they forget to take good care of themselves. In times of trouble most people sleep less, exercise less, eat poorer diets, drink more alcohol and even spend more time alone.
During the trials that will find us we need to spend even more time, and more effort doing the things that keep us strong. We need to get our full eight hours of sleep, we need to focus on having a great diet, we need to spend more time than usual in the company of loved ones, and we have to drag ourselves off the couch and get some exercise.
During times of adversity take time to enjoy the things that you enjoy. Listen to happy music (one of my favorites is Happy by Pharrell), watch a funny movie, go to a comedy club or participate in a hobby you enjoy.
Our minds can only hold one emotion at a time. The stressful thoughts and feelings that accompany adversity can’t get a hold of us if we are feeling happy and relaxed. We simply can’t hold negative emotions when experiencing positive ones.
One of the very best ways to give yourself the lift you need during times of strife is to do something nice for other people. Doing something nice automatically makes us feel better about ourselves and the world around us.
I am also a firm believer in meditation and its ability to help us stay strong and positive during times of trouble.
My belief in meditation is backed up by many studies that prove meditation is effective in combatting the stress and anxiety that comes along with adversity. Check out a great article from Harvard Medical School HERE.
Practice daily gratitude.
Exposure to long periods of adversity can and will cause physical changes to your brain. Chronic exposure to cortisol (the hormone released during stress) can cause decreased attention span, a loss of concentration, and memory issues. In addition lengthy periods of exposure to adversity can actually cause our brains to become hard-wired to look for more adversity, and in a relatively short time we can start to see threats and adversity in places where it doesn’t really exist.
Stressed and unhappy can literally become your default mode if you allow it.
The intentional practice of daily gratitude will help reverse this process by strengthening the neural pathways in our brains that help us see the positive and beautiful things in life. Thinking of positive experiences allows us to relive that experience and will even cause the release of hormones such as serotonin which helps promote healing, health and happiness.
The practice of daily gratitude has been proven to increase happiness by 20% and, through a process known as neural plasticity, can cause permanent positive changes in our brains ability to see positive things in the world around us.
If you really want to dig deep and learn a lot more about gratitude check out THIS article from The University of California in Berkely. As a bonus it contains a link to a one hour radio broadcast that talks all about the science of gratitude.
Thank you for reading this weeks post called;
7 Keys to Overcoming Adversity
The great thing about incorporating the 7 Keys to Overcoming Adversity is that, aside from helping you overcome any personal challenges you might be personally facing in this moment, these actions will literally transform your life if you continue to use them during the times when you are not facing challenge.
These tips can help improve any aspect of your life and increase your general levels of happiness, resilience, productivity, inner peace and strength.
I would also like to leave you with another great quote:
Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the tree. – Thomas Monson
As always thank you so much for reading Success on the Far Side of Fifty.
Please feel free to drop me and email, leave a comment, or sign up to get Success on the Far Side of Fifty sent directly to your inbox.