The Upside of Adversity

Is it just me or are we now living in a society that seems to indulge itself in easy. We glamourise talent, give our kids awards just for participating, want everything to come naturally and believe a good life is one that is all just smooth sailing.

But I don’t agree. When you seek out easy, you build no immunity to hardship. You only have to watch the nightly news to see you cannot control everything, that in life hardship occurs and you need to be able to deal with it.

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t read about a struggling veteran, homeless or without purpose in life. It’s not that I don’t think their struggle isn’t real. I know full well the obstacles they have faced. Mistakes on the battlefield, injury, divorce, separation from my children and financial hardship. I’ve faced them too.

The difference?
I focus on developing from a life of hardship and I simply refuse to let difficulty beat me.

Maybe its sheer stubbornness and tenacity. If I get knocked down nine times, I will get up ten.
Maybe it was engrained into me during my Special Forces training with a culture of not being afraid of failure and endless hours of deliberate practice.
Maybe it is my “post traumatic growth” the experts talk about.
Maybe I strive to make the most out of life because I have witnessed adversity firsthand?
Maybe it’s all of the above.

I know I have made mistakes that almost got me killed and I believe I have avoided death a few times. Saddling up and getting out there when you know it could kill you regardless of how good your performance is makes you accept the things outside your control. And while that includes accepting death, it also means valuing life. Fear for your life over a prolonged time period like a combat veteran does and you gain a calm awareness that allows you to fully commit to each day. You develop a drive and motivation to train, learn, gain experience and improve.

The point is,

In life, it’s not how you succeed, it’s how you fail.

No matter how skilled or seasoned or resilient, life will sometimes fight you and try to defeat you.
When you have setbacks or failures do not overreact.
Do not let them throw you off course and destroy your optimism.
Remove the emotion, step back and evaluate.
Find the lesson and learn from the experience.
Actively strive to improve yourself and your situation.
And have fun while you do it.
To quote one of my favourite sayings:
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” – Bruce Lee

Techniques to prepare your mindset.

The New Year period can be a potential flash point for difficulties and obstacles that can make your goals seem unattainable. However, while you can’t always control when and where your resilience might be tested; you can have your mindset and core skills ready to assist you in overcoming the resistance you may face on your journey towards your objectives.

Here are a few techniques to employ next time you feel mission success is compromised:

  • Manageable, realistic goals. Breaking the end state down into manageable, realistic tasks is the way to go. You may not be able to see your finish point from where you stand but you do need to be able to see your next checkpoint. So, break down your final goal into smaller, achievable measures.
  • Reconnect with why. Why is your goal important to you? There is nothing harder than negotiating an obstacle when you don’t really care for the destination. Your goals need to resonate with you. Focus on where you are going and why it is you want to be there. This is the driving force behind every step you take towards your goals and what will sustain you when the going gets tough.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.  In a world that loves complexity, always be moving towards simplicity. As the book by Richard Carlson suggests, don’t sweat the small stuff. Slow down and consider what is important. If you face an issue today you will not remember next week, it’s not an issue.
  • Face time with good people. When things get hard, sometimes all you might need is a small amount of assistance or positive encouragement to keep you on the right axis. So surround yourself with supportive and positive people who inspire and motivate you. Building good networks and encouraging relationships is imperative. Know and get comfortable in asking for assistance in the face of adversity. Lastly, think of your network as your team. You can overthrow governments with a high-level team.
  • Concentrate on you and don’t compare yourself to others. Like you, your life and goals are unique. They are a complex outcome of experiences and influences. In a world where most people have an online profile portraying a life they want you to believe, it’s easy to feel like you don’t fit in or you are lacking. Everyone has challenges & setbacks. Stop comparing yourself to online profiles, celebrity personalities and photo shopped pictures. Repeat positive affirmations or self-talk to reinforce positive beliefs and counter negative thoughts. Keep it real. Focus on you, your unique strengths, talents, abilities and how you can utilise these to thrive and evolve for the better. Don’t let self-doubt deviate you from your path.
  • Not everything has to be perfect all the time. If my operational experience in high threat environments has taught me anything, it is this. It is simply not realistic to wait for everything to be 100% perfect every time. The pursuit of constant perfection often leads to procrastination, doubt and failure to execute. When you are trying to set the conditions in a situation for success, you need to remain flexible. As they say, “roll with the punches” and remain comfortable in chaos. Adaptability is important. Break tasks down into manageable pieces, test & adjust as you go. Don’t let fear of failure or your need to be perfect all the time stop you from achieving the end state.
  • Be grateful for hardship and setbacks. Cultivate gratitude by regularly reflecting on and appreciating the things you are grateful for. Even in bad situations there are positives. Embrace challenges as opportunities for experience and learning will set up up for success. Instead of fearing challenges, view them as opportunities for growth. Rather than dwelling on failures, view them as valuable learning experiences. Analyze what went wrong, make necessary adjustments, and use these lessons to improve your future actions. A positive mindset sees setbacks as temporary obstacles and believes in the power of perseverance.
  • Take care of yourself. Your physical and mental health is important. Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, proper nutrition, and sufficient sleep. Physical and mental well-being play a crucial role in maintaining a positive mindset.

And remember when things go bad, as they absolutely will sometimes, start with breathing. Breathing is important for our mind. It gives us time to think and allows us to self-reflect and identify negative thought patterns, leading to the replacing them with positive ones.

Developing a positive mindset is a continuous process that requires consistent self-awareness. Be patient with yourself and remain committed to cultivating positivity in your thoughts and actions. You will achieve more and lead a happier more epic life.