Do you see adversity as something that can help you or hinder you?
Adversity is one of the most powerful forces in life and many times, it is the situations in life that give us the most pain that leads to the most significant growth.
Think about how true these hardships are for the plants and trees around us:
Without these obstacles, a plant’s root system will struggle to grow deeply. Those deep roots are necessary to help them survive the next drought or wind storm.
Similarly, in humans, I believe that adversity does not build character but actually reveals it. Hard times can bring out your best qualities or it can reveal your cracks that can use some repair. Ultimately, adversity is a wonderful tool for self-improvement.
How you chose to deal with adversity depends on your mindset. In life, things can either happen to you or for you. Your mindset matters and we’re going to look at a few important lessons on how to overcome adversity.
1. Changing Perspective
Your perspective on adversity changes how your mind will process it.
Have you ever noticed that when you decide to buy a new red car, you suddenly start seeing red cars all over?
This is no coincidence. Your mind is constantly scanning everything in your world and actually edits most information out and only serves up the information it thinks you should have.
So, when you start focusing on red cars, you will start seeing them everywhere. It’s not that the red cars were not there before. Your mind just wasn’t bringing them into your view.
When we choose to believe in abundance in the face of adversity, even in the worst cases of unfortunate circumstances, it can help foster inner growth and greatness.
This is no easy task, however. I have seen people from all walks of life face adversity and unfortunately, the most common response is to try to make it go away. We are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, and adversity can create some of the deepest pain in our lives.
But if you truly want to succeed in whatever your mind is set on accomplishing, I invite you to flip your perspective.
2. Learning from Challenges
The challenges you face in life are not indicators that you aren’t talented, qualified or special enough to attain your goals.
Challenges are simply new pieces of the necessary information, in disguise.
I say “necessary” because these challenges will help you to learn more about yourself, and therefore how you can better accomplish your goals.
In 2003, I was stepping into a crosswalk in Manhattan when I was hit by a speeding driver in a stolen SUV. I vividly remember flying through the air and thinking about my 4 children (all under the age of 5; my two sets of twins). After I came to, I was told that my pelvis was crushed into over 40 pieces. I was told there was a very good chance I would never walk again.
The moment I knew I was badly hurt (this is weird, but it is true), I was so very grateful that it had been me who was injured and not my sister and niece who were also with me that day of our accident.
I knew in my heart that whatever my fate would be, I could handle it. I couldn’t let this adversity crush me, because my children needed me, and I saw my example navigating to my new normal as an opportunity to be a role model.
I am not quite sure why I was able to have so much grace and calm at that moment. But that sense of graceful calm would need to be called upon countless times over the next three years as I had 11 surgeries to help rebuild my body.
Looking back, I know that it was my mindset that got me through. I had many moments of deep grief, anger, and sadness that struck me at times while my body healed. I had a husband who could not be there for me emotionally, and I had to figure out to soothe myself during this emotionally difficult time.
3. Choosing Your Response
As I continued to heal over time, I decided to make a choice. This accident could forever scar and define my life, or it could make me stronger for future difficult situations.
I choose to see my accident as a stepping stone. This stepping stone would be used to build a better path for myself and those around me. But in order to do so, I knew that I couldn’t let my grief keep me down. I needed to stay in the moment and take it one day at a time. In the end, despite how painful the situation was, it helped me know myself better—I grew a deep love and appreciation for myself.
I now look back on that period of my life as being so valuable. I learned so much and I am actually thankful it happened. It helped me understand how fragile and fleeting life is. I now get to live the rest of my life knowing how valuable that experience was because it shaped me into who I am today. It also allowed me to build a deep sense of emotional fortitude. I know now that I can face anything in my path with grace and grit.
My accident taught me many lessons, but one of the most important was that a person’s response to adversity is like a muscle or a root—it develops with use, over time. With every difficult situation we face, adversity helps root us down to make us stronger and more grounded for the road ahead.
Being successful in life is not about getting to the point where there are no challenges—because that is impossible—but rather, becoming comfortable as you navigate the numerous and inevitable changes that come with building something new.
It’s not about avoiding the storms, but learning how to weather them and come out on the other side a little tougher than before. Andrew Jackson also felt that adversity helped him on his journey when he said, “I was born for the storm, and a calm does not suit me.”
So, the next time you are admiring someone who is successful, remember all that you cannot see: the years (or decades) of extreme challenges that somebody goes through in order to develop something truly great.
In the words of Henry Ford, "When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.