Adversity is part of life. All of us will face adverse situations (e.g. sickness, death of a loved one, accidents, etc.) at some point in our lives. Some people face horrific adversity through a catastrophic illness, major trauma such as being raped or a painful divorce. Others only have a moderate amount of adversity they’ve had to deal with throughout life. However, none of us are immune to the pitfalls of life.
When I read stories of ordinary people or well-known figures who triumph over situations that might destroy others who are less resilient , I often wonder if these people are somehow inherently different from others, stronger or simply won the genetic lottery where courage is concerned.
Take the story of Sen. John McCain. Shot down in his fighter plane over a lake in Vietnam he broke both arms and a leg. His captors not only beat him and bayoneted him but didn’t treat his wounds for days until they found out his father was an Admiral in the Navy. Despite this, he was beaten, starved and tortured weekly by his captors—for 5 1/2 years. He even turned down an early release due to his father’s position because he didn’t believe he should be released until ALL prisoners were released.
How did he survive such horrendous conditions? Many men were broken to the point of dying in the prison due to the trauma they faced. Why did McCain not only NOT die but came out of the experience stronger and successful. He’s been serving in Congress since 1982.
There are people actually studying this trait called “resiliency”. What separates people who can bounce back from adversity easier than others. Whether or not you have a stronger “resiliency” gene or not, here are 3 ways to strengthen yourself to face lifes hardships when they come up:
1. Recognize that adversity is a normal part of life. First rule: life isn’t fair so stop asking “why me?”. Awareness and acceptance of the situation is the first order of business and can make you more resourceful in dealing with the situation.
2. Ask yourself questions. “What’s good about this?”. “How can I learn from this?”. I learned a long time ago that the quality of life is about the quality of questions I ask myself (thank you Tony Robbins). We all have a “chatterbox” inside of us—a little voice that’s constantly talking and evaluating everything pertaining to us. Use it and and ask positive questions.
3. “Reframe” the situation. Reframing is a technique from the neurolinguistic programming field. It’s putting a different “frame” around the picture (adversity) that is positive or serves you. It’s a very effective tool while going through a difficult situation.
4. Realize there is a lesson and a blessing in each adverse situation. This is usually discovered in hindsight but I’ve found it to be very true. Sometimes I have to dig to find the blessing in the scenario but it’s always there.
Recognize that adversity does not have to be as traumatic as being a prisoner of war, or having to cut your own arm off to survive. Adversity hits each one of us in some form throughout our lives in the form of seemingly (but nonetheless devastating) small ways such as a spouse who wakes up one day and out of the blue wants a divorce or you’re suddenly fired through down-sizing at your company.
As I point out,(as have countless authors and speakers through the ages) in my keynote speeches, it’s not what happens to you in life that matters, it’s what you do about what happens to you that will determine whether you you’ll be a victor or a victim.