5 Steps to Overcoming Adversity (Article)

How do you handle adversity?

Dear companion,

None of us are strangers to adversity. You may be experiencing a lay-off, divorce, serious illness, or a terrifying depression. Perhaps you lost a friend or loved one. Maybe you carry a deep hurt that no one knows about. Or, you could be feeling completely stuck in your professional practice. The truth is that humanity is plagued by difficulty, conflict, confusion, and adversity. Your situation is real, and I’m here to acknowledge it— not minimize your pain. How can we overcome this adversity and move forward with dignity?

There are 5 steps in the journey to learning to overcome adversity. As you read on, take your situation and imagine applying each step to your specific context.

1. Have your “momentary” pity party – get it out 

At first, it’s okay to sulk, shut down, or cry. Stay in bed for a day. Get away from the immediate situation by taking a long drive to a city a few hours away. Turn off your cell phone for a day and watch your favorite movies. Replay the situation and feel horrible about it. The key is this: have a great pity party, whatever that means to you, but promise yourself to make it intense and brief. Then, make a commitment to stand up tall once you are finished. Also, never do anything that will hurt yourself or others. And yes, it’s normal and healthy to feel emotional.

2. Assess and “own” the part of the situation that you do have control over

Now that you have given your heart and emotions proper attention, turn to your brain. Think very honestly about your role in the situation. It may be very small or very large, but almost always we contribute to both our successes and troubles in life. Maybe you were wronged by a person who you knew in your gut you shouldn’t have trusted. Perhaps you could be more punctual or receptive to feedback. Whatever your part, own it. Truly own it. Maybe it’s not something you did, but something you didn’t do that could have helped the situation? As much as we like to think about and replay the part of the situation that we have no control over, stop. Within your little circle of influence, assess and “own” any personal contribution to the adversity and learn from it. You will be better because of it.

3. Write down and commit to a realistic and measurable action plan for moving forward that includes the likelihood of the worst-case scenario happening 

Getting through adversity requires proper planning and implementation, not wishful thinking. Thus, find the time and space to sit down and write. List out all the possible outcomes in your situation. Rank them from best to worst. Then, plan very carefully and in detail as if the worst-case scenario will occur. This is not pessimism; it’s being a wise-realist. In the event that your nightmare comes true, you are ready and prepared to tackle it with strength and wisdom. If anything better than your worst-case scenario occurs, then you will be relieved, thankful, and ready to move towards resolution. And never, ever, even in planning for the worst-case scenario, do you stop engaging in hopeful activity like prayer, meditation, or connecting with your beliefs and values.

4. Take stock of all the blessings you have in life– adopt this new mindset– and give big thanks 

Now, to bring life to your heart, mind, and plan, it’s critical to dig deep and find gratefulness by counting all the blessings in your life. Start as far back as you can remember. What good has come your way? In what ways can you say, ‘I’m blessed’. Yes, there is always someone in a worse or better position than you. But, take a moment to look over the fence on the side that points to “I’m doing well in this area of my life”. Perhaps you have musical talent, or know how to be a good listener. Maybe you are a good writer or make a delicious soup that bring life to the sick. Perhaps you have endless energy and bring life to a party. God made you special. I’m telling you—you are beautifully and wonderfully made. You are worthy.

5. Trust the process – You are not alone and the entire human race can relate to you

You are not alone. You may feel alone during times of adversity, but know that you are running a marathon in the lane of life. This is not a sprint. To the right and left of you, in front and behind you, people are moving along experiencing very similar adversities. Together, we acknowledge that life is hard, unfair, but also we acknowledge that living life well is a testament to the beauty and courage of people who pick themselves and others up and move forward. So, trust the process of life. Things come, things go, but your integrity and sense of purpose is something you hold dearly in your hands. Things happen to you in life—but you decide how you respond and who you become in the process. We all do. Take comfort in knowing that your experience is simply proof of your humanity. You belong and fit in with the rest of us.

In conclusion, circumstances must not dictate our joy and peace. Fulfillment comes from knowing who we are. Strength comes from being able to successfully endure life’s adversity with poise, integrity, a well-planned response, and hope. You’ve got this.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

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