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Leadership Thought #379 – How Do You Handle Adversity?

July 2, 2012

Free Big Waves Under Cloudy Sky Stock Photo

Adversity is a good teacher, especially when put in its proper context.

It’s amazing how many of us stress over trivial things.  It is as if we believe the world exists to make us happy and every small obstacle becomes a major annoyance.  We lose our sense of proportion and forget how fortunate we truly are that petty issues can even occupy our attention.  It is important not to forget that a sizable percentage of the world still struggles with basic life/survival issues.

It’s not a good thing when people who are blessed forget how truly blessed, they are.  This tends to weaken our character, make us less charitable towards others, and allows us to become more self-absorbed.  Adversity is part of life.  Thankfully, for those of us who are fortunate to live in relative wealth, we usually have the means to address our problems and live in communities that have built the capacity to solve problems in an expeditious manner.  Everyday life in America is much easier for the average person than it was just a few decades ago despite what we would nostalgically like to believe.

The storm that recently ripped through parts of the United States would have devastated poorer countries for months if not years to come.  Those of us who lost power will have it back on in just a few days and life will revert to normal.  Sure, the past weekend had its problems but after feeling sorry for myself for a few hours I ended up turning it into a nice weekend.  I don’t mean to downplay the negative impact I’m sure this has had on other families, especially those who are still without power.  However, I am hopeful they will be back on their feet quickly and their family, neighbors, communities, local government, and the power company will make this a priority.

Life is all about context and perspective. Having survived a few days of inconvenience, I am now sitting in my nice, air-conditioned house, writing this blog on my fancy computer, listening to music on my state-of-the-art sound system, drinking my favorite brand of Irish tea, while intermittently glancing at the beautiful view outside my window after having eaten a full breakfast.   Could life get much easier than this?  Sure, I have my problems but who doesn’t?

Past generations had to deal with much more adversity than we do today.  They had to deal with settling new territories, a civil war, world wars, the cold war, racial and gender discrimination, atrocious working conditions, economic collapses, massive unemployment, unconscionable infant mortality rates, and major health epidemics.  Somehow, they managed to confront their challenges head on and deal with the ensuing difficulties.  Failure was not an option.   They realized that adversity was a part of life and dealt with it accordingly.  They also never lost sight of the big picture, which was to stay resilient, keep their life curve upward sloping, and to grow through these experiences.  You can stand still, move backward, or go forward – it is up to you.