We love stories about underdogs who muster the mental toughness to beat the odds and emerge victorious. They provide encouragement that, we too, can pursue our passions and achieve success.
Somehow it’s easier when someone else endures the never-ending life struggle so we can live vicariously through their experiences, safely from our armchair.
A favorite inspirational story of mine is about a ruthless con-artist, liar, thief, and manipulator who was full of fear and anxieties. Divested of all earthly possessions, he runs from his father-in-law and into the waiting arms of a brother who hates him.
Homeless on a riverbank, he is attacked and the violence is so intense that he is left crippled for life. He faces darkness, loneliness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.
The ancient book of the Bible tells us the man’s name was Jacob and his riverbank opponent was an angel. The question that immediately surfaces is: “Why would God create such pain and adversity?”
The question is answered by Jacob himself, who was transformed through this experience. Jacob finally understood that in real life, naive optimism and the desire for glamour is a recipe for despair and discontent.
Jacob’s transformation earned him a new name— Israel, because he prevailed over his struggles and carved out a tranquil existence in the midst of life’s turbulence.
Struggles force us to find our deepest name.
Struggles are rarely easy, but if we have mental toughness, we will not give up. Like Jacob, we will be transformed because we will do what we all must do when confronted with adversity—confront our failures, hurts, and pain.
Tough times and adversity have transformational powers. This is confirmed by new research that suggests struggles are essential to developing resilience, and that mental toughness, like a muscle, cannot develop without exercise but it will break down if overworked.
Here are 4 things to keep in mind when going through tough times:
1. Face Adversity, Don’t Avoid It
The study cited above reflects how easy it is for you to take your good luck for granted. If you are not prepared for adversity when it comes, you have no tools with which to fight back. Not getting what you always want forces you to identify your core character strengths and personal values—information you might have otherwise over looked. Some things fall apart in life so that better things can fall together (click to tweet).
2. Expect the Deepest Pain To Empower You To Your Fullest Potential
It’s not a pleasant thought, but very often it is the stressful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Without pain, there would be no change. Just remember to learn from your pain and then release it.
3. Work Outside Your Comfort Zone
Don’t be reluctant to accept a new responsibility or challenge because you don’t think you’re ready. It’s OK to acknowledge that you need additional information, skill, or experience but remember that no one is 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Most opportunities in life force us to grow, both emotionally and intellectually. They force us out of our comfort zone, and so it’s natural to feel uncomfortable at first.
Significant opportunities for personal growth and success will come and go through your lifetime. If you’re looking to build resilience and overcome adversity, you will need to embrace moments of uncertainty even though you don’t feel 100% ready for them.
4. Embrace the Lesson
Everything happens for a reason. Things go wrong so you can learn to appreciate things when they go right (click to tweet). Learn to embrace the lesson each opportunity has to teach you so you can recognize the circumstances surrounding those lessons the next time they show up.
We can choose to resist our struggles, or we can uncover the truest and deepest part of ourselves in the midst of them. Mental toughness is learning to confront not only the adversaries from our environment, but also the ones inside us.
What tips can you offer someone who is going through struggles? How have your struggles shaped you to become a better person?
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