In February 2003, the U.S. Army deployed J. R. Martinez to Iraq as an Infantryman. Wounded two months later in car bomb, he suffered severe burns over 34% of his body.
Martinez underwent more than 33 surgeries before beginning a new career as a motivational speaker, winning the 2011 fall season of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” and serving as the Grand Marshall of the 2012 Rose Parade.
As powerful as his story is, aren’t we’re all just a little relieved that the trauma didn’t happen to us? Whenever our peace is disturbed by adversity, isn’t our first reaction always something like, “What would I do if it happened to me?”
When the going gets tough, we tend to seek out those people—and things—that give us the strength to be our best self. When faced with adversity, we yearn for the feeling that we’ve turned our lives around and are headed for better days.
Looking for the upside takes our mind off the down times. A positive attitude allows us forget, even for a while, the hardships that face us in many areas of our life. Those times of contentment and happiness are wonderful. We need to spend time with them so when times are harder, we can remember the strength they gave us. But to expect those times to last is not realistic.
Here is the ugly truth: We learn very little by being happy and content. We learn everything by being engaged with the realities of life, especially when it’s hard, confusing, and difficult.
Sometimes things must change so you can change (click to tweet). Maybe you need to break a little so you can peek inside to see the powerful side of yourself. Mistakes must be made so wisdom is earned. Overcoming heartache allows you to follow your heart again.
What are the stories that motivate us? They’re the stories of people who were beaten down by circumstances and defied the odds by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps to achieve the impossible. That’s why we love old western movies and Rocky Balboa—and yes, J.R. Martinez.
The best motivational speakers are those who have been in the trenches and dug down, inside themselves, to find an inner strength that they didn’t know existed. These transformations remind us that we can find our best self too—it just needs to be teased out.
The unpleasant bits of acid that reality drops into our life every now and then are exactly what we need in order for that best self to thrive and build a strong mind. The new science of post-traumatic growth is proving that in the wake of adversity, many people not only recover, they rebound.
How can you gird yourself and prepare for future down times? There are many ways, but here are four simple and positive approaches:
1. Create a benchmark for choosing friends: Ask questions about which friends you choose to spend time with. Surround yourself with people who believe in you: Share your struggles, dreams, and goals but only with people who can help you be your best self.
- Will spending time with this person drag me down or lift me up?
- Will they make me want to be a better person?
- Will they help make me a happier person? Successful? Stronger?
- Will they help me achieve my most important goals?
2. Revisit the past: Take an honest look at what you did correctly and how it changed the course of your life. Conversely, honestly evaluate where you could have done things differently. Next time you will, but only if you know what needs to be changed.
3. Think differently: The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective. So many times in life the only thing you have control over is your attitude. No matter what happens, you control how you react to your circumstances. Choose reactions that bring happiness, forgiveness, and love.
4. Lead your own life: You are capable of pursuing your own dreams and do not let other talk you out of it. Do not give up before you try—be stronger than that (click to tweet). Swim upstream if you have to, but pursue the things in life that move you. Let others argue over the small things, let others cry over the small wounds, let others leave their future to someone else’s hands—but not you.
“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!”
—Aragorn, Lord of the Rings
Like you, I don’t go looking for adversity and hardship, but if I didn’t encounter them I wouldn’t be learning the lessons I’m learning about developing a strong mind to overcome future obstacles—because guess what . . . they are going to show up.
Live Your Strong!
How do you prepare for adversity? What tips do you have for others in the midst of adversity?
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LaRaeQuy
Read my book ““Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.