Surviving Adversity

Jim Rohn, noted author and speaker, said that life presents an ongoing stream of opportunity mixed with adversity.  I was born to a child of the Great Depression, and I was gifted with superior intelligence mixed with bipolar depression.  I lived with this mix of opportunity and adversity unknowingly for 52 years.

Fortunately, my father taught me by example how to survive adversity, though he never learned the skill of thriving from opportunity.  Growing up during the depression will do that for you.

Some of life’s adversities are inborn, others are self-inflicted, some are inflicted by others, and still more are simply a function of societal trends.  I have experience with each of these types.  You might say I’m a pro at surviving adversity.

I admire those who can thrive from opportunity.  I’m still learning that one.  However, I can offer advice to those who suffer adversity, from whatever source.  The trick is not giving up no matter how bleak the picture.

Many of life’s results are determined by one’s point of view.  The experience of adversity, for example, can be termed failure, even epic failure.  In part, this is merely word play.  Seen more deeply, words or labels are often triggers for emotions, sometimes disabling emotions.

Did I fail, for instance, or am I a failure?  Or did I merely have a learning experience?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a famous essay called On Compensation.  While the text is dense, perhaps even difficult, I recommend reading it.  One of my take-aways from that essay is that one is paid from every situation, either in money, in experience, or both.  I taught my children this principle: “There is no such thing as uncompensated service.”

You see, point of view is a choice.  You get to pick your own.  How you see the world and your life’s experiences is fundamentally a matter of choice.

Some years ago, I received a fortune cookie “fortune” that read, “If you do not run your subconscious mind yourself, someone else will.”  I keep it as a reminder of the power of choice.  My power of choice.

An aphorism that’s now almost a platitude says it doesn’t matter how many times you fall but how many times you get up.  While true, it leaves unanswered several important questions:

  • Why should I get back up?
  • Where do I find the strength?
  • What’s my motivation?
  • Am I crazy to expect progress despite repeated failure?

Surviving adversity is itself a success experience.  “That didn’t kill me, therefore I must be stronger, at least in some small, but significant way.”  Or, more positively, “I learned some really great stuff from that experience that will serve me and others very well in the future.”

Perhaps I can improve my own point of view.  Each adversity is itself an opportunity.  And I’m thriving despite the adversity.  Maybe I’m a pro at thriving from opportunity?  I think that works.

Now, to get better at diminishing the self-inflicted type of adversity.  Fortunately, for me, most of those are belief errors.  And I’m fixing them.

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