Overcoming adversity is something we’ll all have to do in our lifetime. Job loss. Health loss. Financial loss. Loss of loved ones. All real adversities to which none of us are immune.
Of course, what is adversity to one person might not be adversity to the next. Everyone has a different threshold for stress and perception of what adversity is. What “overcoming adversity” looks like depends on the specific adversity we face too. But regardless of its shape, adversity will for sure make an appearance in all our lives.
What nobody predicted was the potential of facing them all at once.
That and the loss of the one thing we thought we’d always have: our freedom.
We are in unprecedented times. That is clear. Nobody received a handbook on “How to Deal with a Global Pandemic” at birth.
Many of us have already had our fair share of overcoming adversity. Adversity which taught us valuable lessons and equipped us with the necessary skills to face it again. It’s important now, more than ever, to remind ourselves of those lessons and skills learnt. So we can not only survive this crazy time, but thrive.
However, some will be facing adversity for the first time. With some questioning their ability to overcome what lies ahead. One thing is for sure – this is the first time any of us have experienced this. We’re ALL facing this new adversity and ALL of us are figuring it out as we go along.
What I learnt in overcoming adversity
My first experience of overcoming adversity was losing my job in the financial crisis in 2009. Not only did I lose my job but, with the market in crisis, there was no hope of me getting another one. It would be a year before I managed to find a job (part-time), and another year after that before I found a full-time one.
While it was a horrendous experience (nobody can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster of job loss in a job-scarce market), ultimately it was the making of me. It was the start of my journey to becoming the person, and the coach, I am today.
At the time I wasn’t conscious of “how” I was overcoming my adversity. But in hindsight, I realise there was a step-by-step process I followed which helped me go from crisis to clarity. From blindsided to bold action. For those doubting their ability to face and overcome adversity right now – I hope it helps.
5 Steps to Overcoming Adversity
The first step in overcoming any form of adversity is acceptance. While we may not want it or understand why it’s happening – it IS happening. The quicker we shift into acceptance, the quicker peace arrives.
How do we accept what we don’t like?
i. Creating our own internal sense of safety
Everyone moves into acceptance in their own way. But for me – creating my own internal sense of safety helped me transition there faster.
Fear stops us from accepting adversity. Almost as if accepting it means giving up. With “giving up” opening the door to even more adversity, or feelings of weakness and worthlessness. But acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. It means making peace with what is happening. Of what could happen. By choosing to believe that no matter what the outcome – we will survive it. There might be discomfort and pain – but we will be OK.
ii. Let go
In times of uncertainty, we naturally grasp to control what we can. But it’s when we choose to let go. Of our fears. Our future-based, worst-case scenario thinking. Our need to control anything and everything. When we lean back and surrender to what is. We realise we don’t need to be certain of what is happening “out there”. Because we can gain the certainty we crave “in here”. By having certainty in ourselves and our ability to deal with what lies ahead.
2) Make friends with your fear
Overcoming adversity is an interesting journey. On a conscious level, you want to be brave and strong. But with fear, doubt, anxiety, anger, denial and depression constantly fighting for your attention, it’s hard to hear what courage has to say.
Out of all the emotions – it’s our response to fear which will determine how we overcome adversity the most.
Remember – fear is an act of self-preservation. “If I scare you enough, you’ll do something to save yourself.” You will either “fight” and take action. “Flight” and run away. “Freeze” (think rabbit in headlights – “Fight and flight aren’t options. If I don’t move the predator will lose interest in me.”). Or ostrich – putting your head in the sand until the problem disappears. (Not an official response to stress. Just one I came up with after seeing how some of my friends respond to adversity.) If you naturally respond with “flight” but don’t see anywhere you can “flee” to, anxiety will be your companion until you find an exit. Or accept there isn’t one.
Fear is a natural human response and meant to be experienced. (What we resist, persists.)
When adversity strikes, we must make friends with our fear. That little voice in your head that says, “What if?”, “The end is nigh…”, “You can’t..”, “You shouldn’t…” and “Are you crazy?!”. Give it a name. Like Bob. Then thank Bob for trying to protect you, and say with love and compassion, “It’s OK Bob. I’ve got you.”
3) Constantly reassure and believe in yourself
We are stronger, more capable and resilient than we think. We must constantly remind ourselves of how competent and resourceful we are. Tell yourself you will get through this. You will always be OK. You have plenty of skills, knowledge, experience, love, support and learning ability. Everything you need to overcome the adversity you’re facing. Things might not change today or tomorrow. But every time you take a step – big or small – it’s a step towards overcoming. This phase of life will pass. Good things will come out of it. One day you will look back and think, “So, that’s why that happened.”
4) Evaluate and look for the opportunities
After fear leaves and acceptance arrives, the mind becomes clear. When the mind becomes clear we can start to ask ourselves questions which can help us find the answers we’re looking for. Instead of breaking down, we can now see the opportunities to break through.
Opportunities for personal, professional and spiritual growth.
To understand what is most important to us in life.
To learn from past choices and decisions, and decide what to do differently in the future.
To acknowledge and get clear on our skills, knowledge, experience and achievements.
To learn, develop and upskill.
To strengthen our resilience and resolve.
To build and solidify relationships. To experience a deeper love and connection. With others. With ourselves.
You might find once acceptance arrives, you will naturally ask yourself powerful questions. Questions that will help take you from crisis to clarity. Such questions could be:
- “Having gone through this, what have I learnt about what’s most important to me in life?”
- “If I could use this opportunity to turn my life around, what would I change?”
- “How do I want to make a difference to e.g. my family, my loved ones, people’s lives, the environment, global affairs politics etc.?”
- “How did I get here? What have I been prioritising until now? And if I want a different result, what do I need to prioritise instead?”
- “What comes naturally to me? What have people told me I’m really good at?”
- “What can I learn about myself and my life from all of this?”
- “What have I not tried already? What have I been avoiding? Who could help me here?”
By asking myself such questions, I got clear on what was most important to me (my family) and what I wanted to do with my life (make the world a better place). It took a while to make my purpose a reality, but eventually, I started my coaching and training business. On a mission to help as many people as possible to feel fulfilled and successful in all they do. Because when we feel good we can only do good things. And the world benefits from our goodness.
In overcoming my adversity, I was gifted with the ability to support others in overcoming theirs.
While being made redundant felt horrendous, it was one of the best things to happen to me. Not only because it was the catalyst to where I am today. But because it presented so many opportunities for learning and growth. Humility, gratitude, love, financial planning, emotional management, understanding what’s important to me were just some of the great lessons learned/relearned during that time.
5) Make a plan
We have zero control over what happens to us. But we do have control in what decisions and actions we take in response to it.
Once clear about what’s important to us. Who we want to be. How we want to live. The kinds of relationships we want to have. The way we want to contribute to this world. We can start to think about actions we can take to start our journey to getting there.
Actions that can help us:
- Love and connect deeply with our loved ones, and ourselves
- Learn how to be present and enjoy life NOW
- Generate income and create financial security or wealth
- Live with purpose
- Contribute in some way
- Prepare for and maximise our job search
- Grow as people, employees, business owners, parents, siblings, offspring, friends, leaders, colleagues
Create a vision for yourself. Your life. Your career. Your relationships. And start building a plan to get there.
(At this point, Bob might come back to say “Hello!”. Again, we simply have to remind Bob we will be OK. Take Bob by the hand and say, “I know you’re scared Bob. I get it. But now is the time to be bold. Let’s be bold together.” Give him a reassuring smile, and walk.)
What are 3 actions you could take today to start your journey to getting there?
My first action was to invest in a qualification. The second was to get a job. The third was to get professional help. And even though I had very little savings, I knew I had a choice. I could sit and wait for the market to turn. Not knowing when it would. Or I could believe in myself, and invest in myself and my future. So that’s what I did.
That doesn’t mean you HAVE to invest money in yourself to overcome adversity. There are plenty of free resources out there which could help you grow right now. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally as well as practically. If you have the funds to invest in yourself and get the help you need – great. If not, an investment of your time and energy in the free content, and speaking to as many people as you can, could be all you need to overcome the adversity you’re facing.
If I was to summarise what is required to overcome adversity, I would say two things. Blind faith that you will always be OK. No matter what happens to you or your loved ones, you will overcome it. Secondly a belief that you can learn, and can access, whatever you need to get you through tough times.
Remember – now is not the time to be a martyr. We don’t know it all, nor should we. Asking for help can not only get you to where you want to be more quickly, it can also help you feel loved and supported along the way.
You got this.