Life is not all rainbows and unicorns. Even rich and famous people go through adversity. We all go through tough times, but the difference between someone happy and successful and someone unhappy and unsuccessful is often in their ability to handle adversity.
There are many things beyond our control. But we have influence and control over how we react to difficult situations. You choose. Do you want to be an amalgamation of all your challenging experiences fused together? Or would you rather be defined by how you rise in the face of adversity?
This article will outline what adversity is and why it’s important not to succumb to it. It will suggest five ways to help you overcome adversity.
What is adversity?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines adversity as “a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune.”
This definition means adversity can be interpreted as many things.
Adversity can be acute; perhaps you sleep in and are late for work, creating a knock-on effect on your day.
Adversity can also be chronic.
- Enduring a divorce.
- Job loss.
We all lived through COVID-19; this pandemic caused adversity for most of us. While it had a different impact on all of us, not many of us were left unscathed. Yet, how we reacted to it was instrumental in our recovery.
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Why is it important to overcome adversity?
We will get nowhere if we give up whenever we experience hardship or difficulty.
Not all adversity is made equal; I appreciate this. Yet all adversity can bring about suffering, and there isn’t necessarily a “hierarchy of suffering,” as suggested by Dr. Edith Eger.
In her book, The Choice, Dr. Edith Eger discusses the idea of a “hierarchy of suffering.” She disputes it as a notion. Dr. Eger tells a tale about a client upset that her new car is the wrong shade of yellow. She recognizes that society may initially judge this as irrelevant, especially compared to others going through what we may perceive as more significant hardships.
Yet, Dr. Eger suggests that upset and hurt in these scenarios are often about more than we realize. Most likely, the emotion is more symbolic of disappointment in something else in life that hasn’t gone according to plan.
It is not our place to judge the adversity of another and decide whether it merits the individual’s anguish. And we also need to give ourselves grace if we get particularly emotional over something almost irrelevant. We may benefit from looking deeper into our emotions in times like these.
This study looks into the myriad of adversity nurses face daily. Nurses’ common adversity includes death, work overload, and feeling powerless about patient care. The article talks about the importance of resilience and how this enables nurses to avoid succumbing to adversity, which could have catastrophic mental and physical effects such as:
- Lack of concentration.
- Depressive sensation.
- Emotional exhaustion.
An interesting article in Forbes magazine suggests five ways experiencing adversity can increase our resilience. Their suggested five ways include:
- Increasing our empathy levels.
- Initiating post-traumatic growth.
- Boosting self-efficacy levels.
- Teaching us to find the good in a situation.
- Enabling us to reframe stressful situations.
Overcoming adversity is imperative to avoid physical and mental difficulties and help us enjoy life.
5 ways to overcome adversity
It’s your choice. You can crumble under the hardships of life, or you can learn how to build resilience and overcome adversity to boost your well-being and increase your happiness.
If you are ready to arm yourself, here are our five tips to overcome adversity.
1. Take responsibility for your actions
Stop making excuses. The person who knows and respects the difference between reasons and excuses will likely be resilient and powerful.
I used to work with someone who was perpetually late for work. Of course, they always gave the excuse that traffic was heavy. Yet, they never learned from this by starting their journey 10 minutes earlier. So while their excuse was heavy traffic, they were late for work because they didn’t allow themself enough time to get there.
Can you see the difference here?
Excuses are whimsical and don’t convince anyone. They paint us as superficial and unreliable. When we own our mishaps, we elevate ourselves into the position of someone accountable and honest.
As soon as you take responsibility for your actions, you become empowered.
2. Be flexible
How often have you experienced an avalanche of mishaps?
Sure, so one thing may have gone wrong. Yet, we may trigger a domino effect when we aren’t good at dealing with adversity.
Be prepared to amend the plan and be flexible.
By being flexible and fluid, we mitigate situations and prevent downward spirals to eventual catastrophe.
Just because things haven’t gone to plan is not a reason to give up hope and sit and cry. It may be the perfect time to reassess and reestablish goals. A quick recalibration, and it’s time to set off again. Stay flexible and responsive to new information coming in.
Remember Maya Angelou’s famous quote:
Do the best that you can until you know better. And when you know better, do better.
3. Practice a growth mindset
When you learn to develop a growth mindset, you will likely be a lion in the face of adversity.
We recently published an article about how to develop a growth mindset; you can find it here. In it, we suggested five ways to develop a growth mindset:
- Alter your mindset.
- Accept setbacks.
- Be curious.
- Embrace your authenticity.
- Build your self-confidence.
A growth mindset is synonymous with resilience. It encourages us to embrace change and think outside the box. It helps us use our fear and anxieties as opportunities for growth as opposed to allowing them to cause us to shrink away.
4. Put your trust in others
One of the hardest things to say is “help.”
We can’t do everything ourselves. We can’t possibly know all there is to know ourselves, which is precisely why the world is full of specialists and experts. We can’t be our own doctors, dentists, and teachers. We know this, yet some of us still think we can be our own therapists and coaches.
When we trust others and ask for their help, we do everything possible to overcome adversity. Asking for help is crucial in admitting we don’t have all the answers and may be struggling.
Struggling is perfectly normal. We all struggle. Only those unable to overcome adversity believe struggling is an individual journey.
Whether we seek professional help through a business mentor, life coach, or therapist, or ask for assistance from a trusted friend, the objectivity and perspective of a third party can often serve as the missing piece of the puzzle.
5. Laugh yourself to resilience
Look for humor in tough times. Even better, share your mishaps with others.
Yesterday, I sent out my template newsletter to my subscribers instead of the excellent (even if I say so myself) actual newsletter I’d spent so long perfecting. Oops. No reversing that. All I could do was laugh at myself and resend. No significant harm was done. Yes, I felt stupid. But we all make mistakes and do silly things.
I appreciate some situations don’t lend themselves to laughter perse. But laughter is an effective tool for dealing with dark thoughts and challenging times. During my service as a police officer, we used humor to help us cope with traumatic incidents. These situations weren’t funny, but we would cry if we didn’t laugh!
Laughter helps to boost morale and keep our spirits up. Laughter allows us to endure and persevere.
If you want to learn more, here's our article on how to laugh at yourself some more (and why it's so important!)
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Remember, you can’t change what has happened to you in the past, and you can’t control what will happen in the future, but you can control how you react to what life throws at you. When you learn how to overcome adversity, you equip yourself with the tools to stay standing through a storm.
Do you often face adversity? And do you consider yourself to be good at overcoming it? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!