Whether we like it or not, adversity is
part of life. Overcoming adversity is one of the biggest
hurdles we face. As Havelock Ellis wrote, "Pain and death are part of
life. To reject them is to reject life itself."
Problems, large and small, present
themselves to us throughout our whole existence. Regardless of how
sharp, clever, or happy-go-lucky we are, we will encounter struggle,
challenges, difficulties and at times, heart wrenching moments.
Is this meant to be a negative, cynical assessment of
what we have to look forward to?
Not at all!
In fact, thank goodness for adversity! Learning to deal
with and overcoming adversity is what makes us who we are. Every
challenge and every difficulty we successfully confront in life serves
to strengthen our will, confidence and ability to conquer future
obstacles. Herodotus, the Greek philosopher, said, "Adversity has the
effect of drawing out strength and qualities of a man that would have
lain dormant in its absence."
When you respond positively and constructively to your
biggest challenges, the qualities of strength, courage,
character and perseverance emerge from deep inside of you.
Of course, since we are human, it is very easy to get
caught up in the self pity, unfairness of life, or 'why me?' trap. When
we do, we fail to recognize the opportunities for wisdom and growth
that accompany adversity. However, as soon we allow ourselves to think
more clearly, we are able to let go of self-defeating and unproductive
thoughts and get down to the business of dealing with what's before
The Tips For Overcoming Adversity
1. Be aware of, and accept that
adversity is inevitable in life. As has already been pointed out,
adversity is part of life. To avoid or resist it will only make it
persist. Everywhere you look in the world there is unmistakable
struggle. There are floods, tsunamis, wars, and calamities of all
types. Even within your own circle of family and friends there is
death, loss and tragedy. Although pain is inevitable, suffering is
optional. So what do you do?
2. Build your internal resources.
Before adversity hits, work on cultivating emotional strength, courage
and discipline. When you make yourself aware that
certain difficulties are inevitable, you can prepare yourself mentally
for confronting adversity head-on. It would be no different than a
warrior going to battle. He (or she) prepares himself physically and
mentally for any possibility. He knows it could be ugly, daunting, and
grueling, but he is equipped. More often than not, when you're prepared
for the worst, the worst never happens, or it's much less severe than
Another invaluable inner resource is faith.
Faith that everything will work out; faith that there is always light
at the end of the tunnel, and faith that "this too shall pass."
Everything in life has its place and purpose.
3. Build your external resources.
Build a support system of family and friends. When the
going gets tough, we all need encouragement and support. We need
someone to talk to; someone to help ease
the burden. You would be surprised to discover how often a friend has
had a similar experience and can help guide you through the difficult
time. Even just knowing a friend is there when you need them can be
4. That which does not kill you
doesn't always make you stronger. Sorry Nietzsche!
While I agree with Nietzsche, in principle, that what does not kill
you will make you stronger, I do not necessarily agree with him in
practice. For instance, if you do not have enough built-up resilience
or experience in dealing with difficulty, adversity can crush you. On
the other hand, if do you have sufficient resilience, then indeed it
will make you stronger. How so, you ask? Resilience like any muscle is
built up gradually and exponentially with repeated exposure to
obstacles. If you lack practice in confronting obstacles (as when you
choose to avoid them), one traumatic event can take you down.
To underscore this point, developmental research has
shown that traumatized children are more, rather than less, likely to
be traumatized again. Likewise, those who grow up in tough
neighborhoods become weaker, not stronger, and are more likely to
struggle in life.
5. Take inspiration and learn from others who have
dealt successfully with adversity. There are many inspiring
stories of people who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. They
triumphed over their adversities to live successful, productive lives
instead of surrendering to it.
Here are some examples:
Helen Keller: Lost her sight
and hearing due to a mysterious fever when she was only 18 months old.
She overcame her deafness and blindness to become a strong, educated
woman who spoke about, and promoted, women's rights.
Winston Churchill: Overcame a stuttering
problem and poor performance in school to become Prime Minister of the
United Kingdom and one of the most influential political leaders of the
twentieth century. He was also known for his powerful and rousing
Wilma Rudolph: The Olympian born prematurely,
the 20th of 22 children. She overcame double pneumonia, scarlet fever
and polio to become winner of three Gold medals in track at the 1960
Rome Olympic Games.
Lance Armstrong: Overcame
testicular cancer which spread to the brain and lungs (he was told
he had only a 40% chance of survival) to come back and win the Tour de
France seven more times!
Lance has since admitted to taking steroids during his cycling career,
however, he did still battle cancer and overcame immense odds. It's
unfortunate that his career was not as exemplary as his will to
J.K. Rowling: Born to a poor
family; left a bad marriage with a young baby to live on government
assistance; wrote her first Harry Potter book and was turned down by
most publishers until Bloomsbury Publishing picked it up. Need I say
Determination, resilience, and persistence
enabled all of these great people to push past their adversities and
prevail. If they could do it, surely the rest of us can summon the
strength and courage to do overcome our adversities!
Points to Consider
✓ The difficult times in life help us appreciate
when things are going smoothly.
✓ Look for the learning opportunities in every
✓ Decide whether you will allow your experience to
make, or break you. Depending upon how you choose to perceive it, it
could go either way.
✓ Be prepared to accept the worst, should it occur.
When you have prepared yourself mentally for the worst, it rarely ever
happens, and if it does, it seems less so because you are better
equipped to handle it.
✓ Cultivate faith, courage and resilience. The more
of these qualities you arm yourself with, the lesser the impact of the
✓ Remind yourself that adversity is part of life.
To Accept adversity, helps you overcome it.
Overcoming adversity is one of our main challenges in life. When we
resolve to confront and overcome it, we become expert at dealing with
it and consequently triumph over our day-to-day struggles.