Life is not easy. We all have to face severe challenges, including illness and loss. Sometimes these events can devastate an individual or even a whole family. At other times the process of overcoming the adversity can lead to personal growth and development. How we manage these challenges often determines how well we will live our lives.
Ann Arbor author and my friend, Jim Tobin, has made a career of writing biographies about people who have had to face extreme difficulties in their lives. His latest book, “The Man He Became”, chronicles how Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s response to the sudden onset of polio shaped him to become the greatest American leader of 20th century.
According to Tobin….
“The particular way in which Roosevelt came back from his illness, exhibited the essential habits of mind and action that he would deploy during the Great Depression and World War II: improvisation, experimentation, and perseverance in the face of enormous trouble. … The way he fought against his paralysis, trying one thing, then another when the first thing failed, and then a third, was perfectly reflected in his pragmatic response to the crises of his presidency.”
In my many experiences working with people who are trying to overcome the impact of severe adversity on their lives, I find Tobin’s statement particularly true. Those people who are able to call upon their “improvisation, experimentation, and perseverance” are able to shape their minds into believing that they can learn and even benefit from the experience of overcoming severe obstacles. Their faith in their ability to persevere propels them to achieve, even in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
Too often we live in fear of something terrible happening to us or our loved ones. We believe that we will be overwhelmed and unable to cope with life’s difficulties. We forget that we have all faced difficulties before, and in most circumstances have been able to find the resiliency necessary to keep going. It’s often the fear of tragedy, rather than tragedy itself, which makes us miserable.
As a way to overcome this fear, try this exercise:
- Think about people in your life who have demonstrated the ability to overcome extreme adversity. Reflect on how they have been able to achieve this. If you can, reach out to them and ask them what it is within them that has enabled them to persevere.
- Think about a time in your own life where you have faced distinct difficulties and overwhelming challenges, and yet some how you came out stronger for it. Ask yourself how you were able to achieve success at the time of adversity.
I would be very interested in hearing from you about how you and people in your life have overcome adversity. Please share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.
Author Jim Tobin will be our speaker at this month’s Leaders Connect Breakfast on October 17th. If you are interested in attending, please let me know by emailing me.