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Leadership Thought #231 – 7 Tips To Prevent and Minimize The Impact Of Adversity

October 19, 2011

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We all must learn how to navigate adversity.

No one is ever completely protected from the terrible things that can happen in life.  Each of us will have to deal with disappointment, loss, grief, and despair at some point.  All we can do is protect ourselves as best as we can through a reasonable approach to risk management and an ongoing commitment to personal growth and development.  There are obviously many things we can’t control in our external environments including the actions of others.  However, we can increase our internal capacity to manage whatever comes our way.

There are seven key things each of us can do to prevent and minimize the impact of adversity:

First, follow Shakespeare’s advice “to thine own self be true.” Very few people I know are self-reflective enough.  We all thrive in certain situations and struggle in others.  Our personalities and passions are suited for certain occupations and relationships and predestined to fail in others.  Life is hard enough without making it more difficult.  Try and set yourself up for success as often as possible.  It’s important to know when to say “yes” or “no.”

Second, invest in your strengths and manage your weaknesses.  Take those parts of you that make you special and proactively cultivate them through ongoing education and practical experience.  Mitigate those parts of you that hinder your potential by being open and honest with people about them and developing appropriate coping mechanisms. And, know when to ask for help.  When confronted with any major challenge, the best path is always through leveraging your strengths and the complementary strengths of others.

Third, make financial decisions that allow you some margin for error.  If your options are limited economically, you may be prone to acts of desperation and settle for less-than-ideal outcomes.  Living month to month becomes a draining existence and saps emotional and physical energy that could be better spent elsewhere.  Moreover, many solutions often cost money.

Fourth, stay up to date and well informed about those things which have a direct impact on you personally or professionally.  The sooner you recognize a bad trend or a major bump in the road coming the more able you will be to take corrective or preventative action.  Surprises will happen but they should be few and far between.

Fifth, tend to your health and wellbeing.  Stress takes its toll on the body and our ability to manage adversity and persevere is directly related to our lifestyle behaviors.  A fit body and balanced diet enhance your clarity of thought and increases your energy level.  Every day we make decisions that lead us towards better health or sickness – it really is a choice.

Sixth, allow yourself some downtime.  If you are constantly going at full throttle then eventually the engine will break down from overuse.  Hyperactivity can become a bad habit and after a while you begin to lose your sense of proportion.  Everything can’t and shouldn’t require the same level of intensity. All crises aren’t created equal.  It is no coincidence that “Type A” people have more heart attacks and other major health issues as they get older.    The body simply gets worn out and loses its capacity for resilience.

Finally, pick your peer groups carefully.  People will either elevate you or hold you back.  It’s never wise to aspire to be the smartest or most capable person in your professional or social circles.   You should constantly strive to upgrade the quality of the people you interact with.  Who else would you rather ask for advice or lean on for help than the best and brightest people you know?  At minimum you will make fewer and better mistakes.