How To Overcome Adversity

October 14th, 2012 by LaRae Quy

I hated my first job. I had always thought of myself as mentally tough and able to overcome adversity, but I was not prepared for the challenges that faced me while looking for a new career in a weak economy.

After getting my bachelor’s degree, my first job out of college was working as a department manager in a large retail chain in Phoenix. I foolishly thought because I liked clothes that I would like working in the industry. I didn’t mind the hard work through the holidays, ridiculous work schedule, or poor pay. I did resent the ruthlessness with which management treated their people as disposable assets.

The economy was in a serious downturn. Changing jobs was difficult enough, but breaking into a new career proved to be full of challenges and adversity. Doors not only closed for me—they slammed shut. I was rejected for one job after another.

Months passed. I eventually went back to graduate school while still working full-time. When I learned that the FBI was coming onto campus to interview I thought, “Why not?” That one small step changed the course of my life.

It wasn’t until I was in the FBI Academy that I realized that I had overcome adversity to reach my goal of starting a new career. Once I became an agent in the field, there were lots more opportunities to overcome adversity—complex federal investigations can be tough to solve.

New research suggests that resilience to adversity in our life may be linked to how often we face it. The number of blows a person has taken may affect their mental toughness more than any other factor.

The study showed that the frequency of adversities faced by an individual in the past assists them in developing resilience to overcome adversity in the future. In essence, past experiences provide a way of predicting how a person will behave when faced with adversity in the future.

Some of the participants in the study had lived a charmed life and had faced little or no adversity in their life. The researchers found that they were not the ones most satisfied with their lives. Their sense of wellbeing was about the same as those who had suffered several memorable blows in life.

The participants who scored the highest in wellbeing were those reporting two to six stressful events.

This is what I learned about how to overcome adversity:

1. Confront The Negative

You can learn a great deal from your mistakes and failures if you aren’t too busy denying them. If you are continuing to ask the same questions of yourself for months or years, and still find yourself stuck in the same place, it’s not that you don’t know the answers—it’s more likely that you don’t like the answers. It takes courage to admit things need to change, and a lot more courage to accept responsibility for actually changing them. The most difficult step moving forward is usually the first step. Once you build momentum, you will find yourself in a spiral of positive changes, each one building on the other.

2. Make Changes, Not Excuses

Listen to your inner voice and not the competing opinions of everyone else. This is your life and yours alone. Let your dreams be bigger than your fears. Live by choice, not by chance.

3. 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.

4. Expect A Little Pain

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.

5. Move Into Your Discomfort 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 not feel comfortable 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.

6. Embrace The Lesson

Everything happens for a reason. Things go wrong so you can learn to appreciate things when they go right. 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.

Building a strong mind to overcome adversity is like building strong muscles—it weakens when not practiced enough.

What tips do you have to offer someone who is experiencing adversity?

© 2012 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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3 Responses to “How To Overcome Adversity”

  1. What a powerful blog post! It’s interesting how we tend to think adversity is a bad thing. But it most often turns out to be a blessing. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tim Weaver says:

    Great post! Thank you.

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