Saturday, January 1, 2011

Facing the Ordeal – How Do you Relate to Adversity?

How we relate to adversity makes the difference between getting the life we want and wasting our talents.

Many people believe there is nothing good about adversity and their natural instinct is to either stay away or run away as fast as they can, or fight it with all their might. Naturally, they get little or nothing from the ordeal.

A smaller number of people see opportunity in adversity. They face adversity despite their fear and snatch the benefits from adversity’s jaws.

The Chinese term for adversity combines the words for danger and opportunity. Whether an adversity is a danger or an opportunity depends on our relationship with it i.e. whether we avoid, survive, cope with, manage or harness it.

Fear of public speaking is often cited to rank second only to the fear of death. We shall use the fear of public speaking to illustrate the relationships with adversity.

Avoiding — You see adversity as nothing but pain. You avoid pain by postponing, delegating, denying, ignoring, or sidestepping adversity. The things you have to do to avoid the adversity can drain your energy and sap your self esteem.

When required to make a speech, you make up excuses to avoid taking up the challenge. Every time the requirement is raised, you react with the same or a new excuse. You may succeed in avoiding the challenge but your self esteem cannot escape taking a beating.

Surviving — You see only the danger in adversity. You do what you must with what you have and nothing more. Adversity is something you "go through" - grin and bear it. Coming out alive, even with a bruised ego, is a major victory for you.

You made the speech because you have no way of avoiding it. Your speech was perfunctory with neither passion nor conviction. You only hoped to survive this and that this would be the last time you are required to do so.

Coping —  Similar to surviving except that the unavoidable adversity is repeated regularly instead of it being a one-off affair. You expend energy daily in the struggle to keep your nose above water. You can’t run from it, so you seek other forms of escape. To help cope with coping with adversity that won’t go away, some people take to smoking, drinking, shopping, whining, blaming, sabotaging others, and so on. Not all coping strategies are negative. Some people go trekking, work out in the gym, run marathons, write books, paint, or sing to get relief from adversity.

You are required to speak regularly. It is a risky, tiresome chore you perform competently without pleasure and get no value out of it.

Managing — You are in damage control mode, focused on keeping the potential dangers of adversity in check and not letting it overwhelm you. The adversity is still seen solely as something negative to be subdued and contained.

You may sign up for speech training and may even join a Toastmasters club. However you still see public speaking as a necessary evil that you have to endure and have to "fight through" with minimum damage to yourself.

HarnessingYou realise that it is a mistake to see only the negative side of adversity because it wraps the benefits inside. You use the adversity to get the gains you could never enjoy without it. You convert adversity into fuel that propels you to a place you could never get to without it. You seek out adversity for the energy and confidence boost just like climbers seeking mountains to climb. You turn adversity into stepping stones towards your goals. When adversity comes, you welcome and embrace it. You turn towards the adversity and draws energy from meeting it head on.

When asked to speak, you “take it on”. You seek out public speaking opportunities because it energises you and opens doors for you. If necessary, you sign up for speech training and join a Toastmasters club for the speaking opportunities they provide.

When Heroes meet adversity, they “take it on” and use it as steps to elevate themselves closer to their goal.

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