How Do You Deal With Adversity?

By Linda Adams, President of GTI

In response to a reporter’s question after an exciting, rough-and-tumble, come-from-behind, must-win playoff game last week, Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns said: “That could have discouraged us, but it didn’t.”  Those words stuck with me because they apply to our lives–each day, each moment.  When faced with adversity, the team chose not to quit, but instead to rise to the challenge.

For each of us, unexpected, challenging situations, issues and problems are par for the course, and probably occur on the average of 25 times every day.  They run the gamut from minor to major, i.e., you have an argument with your co-worker, teenager or partner; you don’t receive an important return e-mail from a customer; one of your key people arrives late on a very busy day; your speech doesn’t receive the reaction you hoped for; you’re not selected for an assignment you really wanted, the list goes on….

As I said in the last article, taking responsibility is a key to creating the life you want.  That requires a shift from external to internal control–a sense that you can rely on yourself, can trust your own judgment, can empower yourself.  Along with taking responsibility for your life comes the understanding and acceptance that adversity is an integral and significant part of life.  Isn’t it interesting that so often we are surprised by adversity, almost like if we are doing all the “right” things, then we won’t have so many problems and struggles–an attitude of “Life should be easier.”  So accepting that adversity is a normal part of life is an important shift in our thinking.

You have a choice of how to deal with adversity–how to respond to and deal with the challenges that you face each day.  You either see them as obstacles or as opportunities.  You either let them get you down or decide to overcome them.

Taking responsibility for your life helps you to adopt a posture of confidence and resilience and to feel that you are capable of dealing with each challenge that presents itself to you–you see each one as a situation to be dealt with or problem to be solved, not as a drama or a catastrophe or a crisis.

Knowing that you have the skills it takes to deal with both your personal and interpersonal problems is a key factor in deciding to see them as opportunities and deal with them constructively.  When you can self-disclose honestly and clearly; when you can listen to others and to yourself with acceptance and empathy; when you can face your fears; when you can resolve conflicts so both people get their needs met; when you can set and achieve goals that really matter to you; you have many of the key tools needed to turn adversity into opportunities for learning and growth.  That can be liberating and exhilarating.