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.
Adversities are normal. Everyone goes through some challenges and difficulties in life. Sometimes, life can really get you down. However, you always have the choice to whether let yourself down or pick yourself up.
Please read my blog on 5 Tips on Conquering Adversities
Hope this will also help.
i have an intelligent, worldly friend who has overcome severe emotional abuse and manipulation over the past 15 years and has emerged as a strong, fiercely independent woman. First, she has amazing resiliency – she is able to identify and learn from her mistakes so as not to repeat them, and she toughs her way through each brick wall she comes up against with an optimism I find inspiring. Second, she has developed an abundance of caution that causes her to think through the possible implications of every action, both positive and negative, before she acts. She also has three sons who are her world, even though she is separated from them. This speaks volumes about focus and prioritization: everything she does is motivated by the intent to improve their lives, to regain some parental control so she can give them the love and nurture they need, as well as guide them along the right path to becoming happy, emotionally healthy men with integrity. In my own life, although I don’t believe I’ve faced tremendous adversity, I have had challenges that seemed overwhelming at the time. I’m a planner, so developing a plan of action (even if only in my head) helps me to overcome feelings of helplessness. Focusing on a point beyond the immediate issues – a time when things will be better, trying to rationalize that everything happens for a reason, realizing what I can control vs. what’s out of my control, and then letting go of as much of the negative emotions/stress as I can, as well as relentless optimism, have been my saviors.
Looking back on difficult times and situations, I see a pattern to my attempts at survival. I hold my nose, pull on my wellies and wade into the problem. Without a plan and without all the information needed to develop the plan, I open myself up to the current issues. Wading, I gather information about the pain, difficulty, or impasse. After kicking up some mud and other things floating or stuck in the muck, I begin to formulate my next steps. Of note, I am in the issue without a plan initially. Purposely I forge ahead picking up cues, why, what, when and how along the wandering wade. Time and again, I have said to my nervous system on the verge of failing; “They can’t keep you in the dentist chair forever. Sooner or later, the paper bib is released, another appointment is made and you get to leave the chair.” Armed with my self talk about the ups and downs that make up time, I can withstand the chilliest of forays. Experience has taught me to be patient and allow solutions to bubble up from the accumulated information. Rather than planning out my approach to some condition, I feel its dimensions, texture and viscosity. That is the platform on which I build solutions. As in a decent recipe; “if necessary, repeat until the mixture is set”.