COPING WITH FAILURE

3 Steps to Move through Adversity

Smooth sailing is for sissies. Building anything worthwhile is always accompanied by adversity. Here's what to do when it hits.
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Adversity is not reserved for daytime soap operas and reality TV shows. Even the most fortunate have experienced adversity of some type: loss of job, health problems, failed relationships, disappointments at work, financial difficulties, death of loved ones, etc. I intentionally used the word move here because adversity has an uncanny knack of paralyzing you. Therefore, it is critical to keep moving through it. Otherwise, you will be stalled in the grip of your adversity.

As you build anything worthwhile, barriers will certainly appear. The key is to turn those stumbling blocks into stepping stones and move through adversity. Here are three steps you can take:

1. Take inventory. When you experience a significant setback, you tend to think that all is lost, but this is rarely the case. Once you have rationally and objectively assessed the negative ramifications of the situation, search for the positives and express your gratitude for them. An attitude of gratitude creates happier, more resilient people. In fact, more and more studies are showing that gratitude is the most common characteristic among the happiest people.

2. Convert turning points into learning points. Use your adversity as a time to pinpoint opportunities to improve, learn, grow, rebuild, or test your own character or faith. The road to victory is rarely smooth. There will be detours and barriers along the way. Winning leaders and teams choose to grow past their challenges rather than use them as excuses to stop or to lower their sights.

3. Plan for the future, but live for the present. Don't obsess about yesterday and don't be seduced by the promise that tomorrow all will be better. When you are in the midst of adversity, it's easy to say, "Once I get through this, then I will get back to my plan." With that mentality, you mortgage away your future by waiting until problems blow over and things get back to "normal." My favorite poem says it best:

Yesterday is history,

Tomorrow is a mystery,

Today is a gift,

That's why we call it the Present.

Those who have survived life's adversities will tell you that a survival experience is an invaluable gift, because in adversity, you get to know who you really are. There is a Tibetan saying, "Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength."

Sooner or later, you will face some form of adversity. Prepare your plan, your mind, and your team now for any challenges that might come in the future. Then, when adversity strikes, follow the three steps, keep moving, and write your victory story.

For more practical tips on how to get the best from yourself and others, see Orchestrating Attitude.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Aug 6, 2014

LEE COLAN | Columnist

Lee Colan is founder of the L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership adviser, presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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