Anyone who ever tried to accomplish anything will tell you that they’ve experienced adversity on their path.
Do you have goals you want to accomplish? You may get lucky enough to not experience much difficulty on your path. Or life may throw obstacle after obstacle at you. It may feel like the whole universe is trying to stop you. But it’s not. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
Maybe that’s not the problem, though. Instead, maybe the problem is a bad hand that life has dealt you. It could be tragedy or trauma, a chronic illness, a mental illness, or a great loss that you’re not prepared for. Sometimes facing adversity is staring down a terrible circumstance that you may not be able to fix. That happens too. Everyone is touched by loss, sooner or later.
Still, whatever you may be dealing with, there are ways to face your adversity and come out the other side.
Of course, it may not be perfect. Sometimes all you can do is survive the circumstances you find yourself in. But so long as you make it out the other side of your challenge, you can try to make the best of your situation.
How do you face adversity? Let’s look at 12 ways.
1. Accept the reality of what is.
The first kind may happen when you are initially confronted with a painful experience. That is your brain trying to prevent itself from being overwhelmed by the stress and anxiety of the situation.
The second kind of denial, willful denial, is more problematic. Willful denial is refusing to accept the reality of your new situation. This refusal to accept the problem causes small problems that can evolve into much bigger problems further down the road. For example, a serious medical issue can worsen the longer you ignore it. Addressing it immediately may give you a better chance of recovery.
Don’t run from adversity. Accept it. Look it straight in the eye and figure out what you need to do to get through it.
2. Keep an optimistic outlook.
People often mistake optimism for ignorant positivity.
“Oh, just think positively! It’ll be okay! It’ll all be okay!”
Okay. But what if it’s not? What if you face a long-term problem that isn’t likely to get better? If your loved one dies, they aren’t going to come back. If you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, that’s something you just have to live with.
Life is going to be hard sometimes. No one can avoid that. But what you can avoid is sinking into hopeless despair and staying there. Sometimes optimism focuses on the knowledge that you will survive a circumstance, though that isn’t always true either.
A terminal illness may have you facing down your mortality. In that case, the best optimism can do for you is allow you to focus on making the most out of the days that you still have ahead of you.
Optimism doesn’t have to deny reality. Instead, optimism is sometimes just making the best of a bad situation.
3. Look for the humor in the situation.
Humor is a powerful coping mechanism. It is so much easier to survive and overcome adversity when you can find humor in it.
This can be kind of hit or miss for some people. Though it is funny that this often comes from outsiders of a problem. “Don’t joke about that! That’s insensitive!” And then you’re sitting there like, “Dude, I’m the one going through it. Who are you to tell me whether or not I can laugh at my own problems?”
People are weird, man.
Granted, people can be jerks, and they may make light of a situation that you’re facing. So it’s okay to be upset by that if you are being laughed at. But if you’re able to do the laughing, embrace it. It’ll make it easier to process the emotions you’re experiencing.
4. Learn from others who have been through similar things.
Professional help is often an important part of the recovery process. Clinical knowledge is derived from years of study, peer-review, and rigorous testing among the people who can benefit from it. That’s a powerful thing, though it doesn’t always work out perfectly. Sometimes a problem can’t be solved, only made smaller.
But sometimes, clinical knowledge and support aren’t what you need. Sometimes you need support from other people who have walked the road you’re currently on. And rest assured, it doesn’t matter what adversity you are facing down; there are definitely people out there who have gone through it, too.
Look for support groups or communities of other people experiencing the problem you’re facing. They will be able to provide emotional support and wisdom that just doesn’t come from clinical knowledge.
5. Surround yourself with supportive people.
The people around you in your immediate circles can make your challenges much easier or harder.
After all, how can you reasonably expect to succeed when someone you love is telling you that you’re a piece of garbage who can’t possibly succeed? What hurdles can you clear in your mind when someone you care about is constantly telling you that you’re not smart enough? Not good enough?
To hell with those people. Everyone has a choice in life to be cruel or kind, and they choose cruelty. It’s better to be alone than around those people because their toxic mindset and abusiveness seep into your brain. They will have you questioning yourself. Maybe I’m not good enough? Maybe I don’t deserve to succeed. It’s not true, and they’re wrong. They’re just major a-holes.
Audit your circles. Cut out the people that fill your head with negativity and self-doubt. And if you can’t cut them out, utilize the Gray Rock Method to minimize the impact they have on you.
If you have people in your life who lift your spirits and make you feel good about yourself and better about your situation, spend more time with them. And find more people like them too.
Build a circle that’s based upon positivity, support, care, and mutual respect.
6. Look to past obstacles you’ve overcome.
Sometimes we need a reminder of our own strength and resilience. It can be helpful to look at past adversity that you’ve overcome to remind yourself that you are capable. You’ve survived every day you’ve had so far and have made it through.
Granted, you may have terrible experiences and trauma from surviving those things. Let’s not sugarcoat how terrible life and people can be at times. But you are still here. You are still living life. You are still able to find a way to overcome and thrive.
That’s a powerful thing because the alternative is death. And it’s pretty hard to make progress when you’re dead, so let’s not go down that route.
7. Look at adversity as a challenge to overcome.
Hopelessness is an easy mindset to fall into. It’s almost like quicksand. You accidentally step in it, and the next thing you know, you’re just trying to keep your head above the surface. Avoid that initial step by forcing hopelessness out of your train of thought.
The adversity that comes your way is a challenge to overcome. Don’t even waste time on “why me?” And to help you along that process, I’ll tell you “why you.” It’s because none of us are special. Terrible things will visit every single person on the planet. As bad as it is, this is the hand you’ve been dealt; now, you have to find a way to play it.
Look for support from supportive people or get help from professionals if you slip into that mindset. Counseling can be an excellent support pillar.
8. Adapt a problem-solving mindset.
Instead of focusing and dwelling on the adversity, look for solutions. By focusing on the obstacle as a problem to be solved, you remove a stark emotional component from the problem that may disrupt your path.
Many obstacles you’ll face in life do have solutions out there. They may be unpleasant solutions that you don’t want, but they are solutions nonetheless.
For example, let’s say you develop a mental illness. Only an idiot would want a mental illness. No one wants to be mentally ill. That means dealing with the mental health system, trying to find professionals that you can work well with, attending therapy, maybe taking medication, dealing with side effects, dealing with the direct effects of mental illness on your life, and trying to find a way to improve your quality of mind and life.
Does that all sound like a pain in the ass? It does because it is. But you either deal with it, or you get worse. There’s really no other option.
9. Don’t live in your emotions.
It’s okay to have negative emotions. Give yourself some freedom and love to feel the negative emotions that might be bubbling up. Maybe you do feel despair or hopelessness. It could be that you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps the problem you’re facing doesn’t have a real solution, and you just have to live with it.
It’s okay to cry, be frustrated, and scream it out in your car. Or in a walk-in refrigerator or freezer if you work in a place with one. They’re mostly airtight except for ductwork which makes them mostly soundproof to the outside. It’s an ideal place for a temporary meltdown before you get back to work.
That being said, let your emotions flow if you can. Feel what you need to feel, and then let it go. Avoid getting hung up on the emotion and circling around the thoughts that come with it. You’ll make it much harder to move on to something else by doing that.
10. Stay focused on your long-term goals.
A great way to get through temporary adversity is to stay focused on the big picture. Your long-term goals are the things that you’re building up to. Unfortunately, we often get bogged down in all the work that comes with accomplishing a long-term goal.
For example, maybe you want to go into a particular career, but you’re finding the schoolwork intensely hard. You want to do it. You want to do it so badly, but you just don’t think you can get through the classwork. Well, you can give up, or you can look for a solution. Most schools pay people to tutor those who are struggling.
Alternatively, learn to pivot. Pivoting is an important skill in finding happiness and success in life. It’s looking at a situation, realizing it’s not working, and determining your need to do something else. In other words, you pivot to a different path or approach.
Okay, maybe the classwork and career are out of your reach. Maybe there is a similar vocation where you can apply the knowledge you’ve already gained, so you pivot to that instead of staying on your current path.
11. Look for the lesson.
Every difficult experience you’ll have in life comes with a lesson. Now, before you roll your eyes, let me just say something: there is nothing positive or redeeming about terribly traumatic experiences.
People will often say “look for the lesson” in the context of terrible things. Straight up, sometimes the only lesson is that life can be terrible, and people can be evil. Don’t let ignorant people minimize terrible or traumatic things you’ve been through. They will if you let them.
But there are many lessons to be learned from things less serious than life-shattering trauma. A person faced with adversity is being challenged to find a way to grow and overcome that obstacle. No long-term goal goes directly from Point A to Success. It’s usually more like Point A to Point F, then back to Point C, up to Point M, then back around to Point G, and then holy crap, can I just get to the Success part?
Each point you visit, each step of the way will be full of valuable wisdom that you will likely not be able to acquire from a book. So look for the lesson when you can, especially when you pivot.
12. Amor Fati – Love your fate.
There’s a concept often associated with the philosophy of Stoicism called Amor Fati – Love your fate.
To love your fate is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself and your life. It means that you embrace and love everything that fate hands you in life.
Now, people typically associate love with bright and happy feelings. That’s part of love. However, the often-neglected part of love is when it needs to travel into dark territories.
Oh, your soulmate is diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer? That’s not going to be so bright and shiny if you intend to stand by that person you love. And then there’s just life itself. Everyone you love will eventually face their own mortality. You will have to decide to either work on or let go of setbacks, loss, tragedy, and deeply painful things.
To love your fate is to welcome all those things with a warm smile and a loving embrace, kiss them on the forehead, and find a way to deal with them. It’s not running or trying to avoid them. It’s standing firm, knowing you’ll get through it, and then finding your way.
Amor Fati is one of the most powerful tools for personal happiness and growth. Make no mistake, it’s hard when terrible things come your way. It requires a lot of emotional growth to get there. But once you can welcome the hand that fate deals you, no matter how terrible, it’s so much easier to face your obstacles in life and come through the other side.
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