Life is going to throw us some curve balls. There is no question about it. We are going to have to face some tough times. If you have lived more than a few years, then you have probably had to deal with some adversity in your life. How you handle adverse situations will determine a lot about how your life turns out.
Randy Pausch taught us a lot about adversity.
A great example of this is Randy Pausch. Randy could have curled up in a ball and given up when he learned that he had pancreatic cancer, but he didn’t. Instead, he decided to live out the days he had remaining with the best attitude he could muster. As a result, he made a difference for himself, his family, and millions of others that have watched, heard, and read his Last Lecture.
Randy inspired numerous people to achieve their dreams. What an incredible legacy to leave and he did it all in spite of the cancer that was killing him. What kinds of things helped Randy handle his adversity so well? Although Randy didn’t exactly put it in the same words, I think he would agree with the ideas below.
Survival skills to help you weather adversity.
Staying alive in an adventure survival situation depends on a number of factors, but researchers are discovering that a lot of it has to do with the way a person thinks. You have to be able to stay calm and think clearly despite the stress if you want to be a survivor instead of a statistic. These same skills will translate to help us handle other types of stressful situations.
Recently, I read a great article about Everyday Survival in National Geographic Adventure magazine. In this article, Laurence Gonzales points out that things like character, emotion, personality, thinking style, and ways of viewing the world contribute significantly to the way people survive to be rescued.
I ‘d like to highlight a few of the things mentioned in the article and how I think these can help us cope with any adversity in life.
1. Do the right next thing.
Survivors have to be able to break down complex situations into smaller, more manageable tasks. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! The smaller the steps you take in a difficult situation, the better. This allows you to build confidence and regain your composure. A little success can go a long way toward helping you to regain your senses. The article points out that even unassociated tasks can help restore more organized thinking. For instance, when a problem situation arises you might do a little house work. This will help you calm yourself and restore some order to your thinking. Once your brain is back on track you will make better decisions about your next move.
2. Deny denial.
One of the first stages of grief and other forms of adversity is usually denial. We refuse to accept that bad things are happening to us. This denial can be detrimental to a quick recovery. When we fail to accept our reality, we delay taking positive action to recover from the circumstances. My optimism makes me especially susceptible to this. I do not want to believe that bad things are happening. When my home was being threatened by a tornado, I didn’t want to believe it was going to hit us. If I had continued in this denial, then I might not have taken cover soon enough. We have to learn to recognize when we are denying the reality of our situation and move past it quickly.
3. Trust your instincts.
Our brains are able to gather and process a lot of information. In crucial moments, our bodies automatically adapt very rapidly prioritizing resources where they are likely to be needed to survive. In these moments, learn to trust your instincts. Listen to that small voice in the back of your head. Instead, we often let our emotions take over. We convince ourselves to do some really dumb things because of fear. Generally, we would be much better off to trust our instincts right from the beginning. Intuition can go a long way toward saving your skin and helping you to cope with adversity.
4. Know Plan B.
When attempting a risky undertaking, always have a bailout plan. In business, we call this an exit strategy. You should have this plan figured out before you need it. Define the parameters by which you will decide to bail, discuss it with any partners, and then stick to your plan. Once things get heated, you may get caught up in the momentum of the situation which usually seriously impairs judgement. In its simplest form, you can witness this by watching the television show Deal or No Deal. Contestants take unnecessary risks because they get carried away by their emotions and fail to follow logic. A well thought out bailout plan might save you from a catastrophe. This is why firemen encourage us to have fire drills!
5. Surrender, but don’t give up.
This is a way of saying, “Accept your situation, but don’t give up.” I have heard many people profess that in adverse conditions we should examine our situation, imagine the worst possible outcome, and then accept it, but don’t give in to it. By accepting the worst possible outcome, we can relax. In a survival or terminal illness situation, many learn to accept that they may die. Once they do, they find a sense of peace about it. They stop trying to control things they have no power over and focus on those actions they can take. This actually increases their chance of survival. It sounds almost contradictory, but by accepting your limitations, you diffuse the emotions that can work against you.
Adversity is tough, but you can survive!
In adverse situations, we need to calm ourselves down so we can think clearly and make good decisions. This is crucial. You can train yourself for the big event, but applying these ideas in smaller scenarios. Use these same techniques when difficult times occur at work. By doing this, you will build confidence and train yourself so that you automatically react in the right way in a more intense situation. This will significantly increase your chances of surviving anything life can throw at you!
How do you deal with adversity?