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
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
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
When you respond positively and constructively to your biggest
challenges, the qualities of strength,
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
are able to let go of self-defeating and unproductive thoughts and get down to the business of dealing
with what's before us.
The Tips For Overcoming Adversity
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
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 anticipated.
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 most comforting.
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
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
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
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,
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 speeches.
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
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 more?
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 adverse situation.
✓ 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 adversity.
✓ 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