Adversity is something nobody can elude forever. Whether you’re a risk-taker or someone who likes to play things safe, life will inevitably throw challenges in your direction.
That could be something in your professional life (maybe you missed out on a promotion or you lost your job after years of dedicated service). It could also be something in your personal life (maybe you were the victim of a traumatic crime or someone close to you just died).
Often, people experience a sense of injustice or hopelessness when something bad happens to them. We wonder “why did this happen to me?” or “how will I cope?”
Whilst it’s important to work through the emotions that these episodes provoke, it’s also important not to wallow in self-pity and despair.
The first step to turning adversity into opportunity is acceptance. You need to accept the reality of what has happened, and accept the fact that this isn’t something you can go back and change. Reliving past events and allowing yourself to become consumed with disappointment, anger, guilt or regret is not a healthy process.
You should never deny the reality of what has happened or the emotions this has stirred, but rather than worrying about what you could have done differently, you should start thinking about what changes you want to make moving forward. At the same time, you should accept that there are things beyond your control, and allow yourself to let go of any fear of the difficulties you might face in the future. Otherwise, you will end up living in a state of paralysis.
When adversity strikes, people often feel like victims, and this becomes a kind of archetypal role that they assume. People like to be able to find someone to blame when things go wrong in their lives, and find some sort of transient comfort in the notion of their own innocence or misfortune. Ultimately, however, this is not a constructive way to approach the situation.
In some cases, such as the death of a loved one from natural causes, there really is no-one to blame. In others, such as losing a job, you may be able to identify someone who could have treated you differently, but focusing on that person won’t get you anywhere.
Whilst the situation may be something you could never have prevented, the way you respond to it is something you can take responsibility for. The way in which you handle negative experiences is up to you, and once you realise that, you will be empowered to find positive ways of channelling your energy.
Recognising what you have learnt
If you have managed to accept the unpleasant experiences you have endured, and you have taken responsibility for the way you react, it’s important to stop and reflect on the ways in which that journey has affected you. Has it made you a stronger person, better prepared to take on challenges in future? Are you wiser now, more comfortable with your place in the world? Perhaps you will even be able to pass on the insights you have gained to others facing adversity of their own.
Identifying new goals
There is no better time to take stock of the direction in which your life is heading. If you lost your job, this is the time to be honest with yourself – were you 100% happy with your career path so far, or does your passion lie elsewhere? If you lost a parent to a preventable disease, you could use this to motivate yourself to live a healthier life. Or you might just be more grateful for the time you’ve got, and think of new things you want to achieve, places you want to see, or experiences you want to have.
Pursuing your dreams
Once you’ve set some new goals for yourself, remember how active you are in dictating your own destiny, and follow your dreams!