Has your life unfolded in a straight line? The truth is: it doesn’t, either at work or in life, for most people. In fact, a bit of adversity is necessary for growth. The resistance that comes with adversity can galvanise you and push you forward. It can help you make different decisions, raise your determination, or even change your game.

In his book, Happiness from the Inside Out: the art and science of fulfilment, Robert Mack says: “All great champions, most of whom are optimists, have become great because of – not in spite of – great adversity.”

Michael Jordan, a perennial optimist, once said, “I have missed more than 9 000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game’s winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Extreme adventurer and endurance swimmer, Lewis Pugh, supports the notion that the darkest hour is usually just before the dawn. In his quest to draw attention to the ruination of our planet, he has swum every ocean in the world, plumbed icy depths at the Poles, and conquered a glacial lake on Mount Everest, often subjecting his body to temperatures well below freezing and extreme muscle pain. He says, “Most battles are won in the eleventh hour. They are never won in the second hour, or the fifth hour or the tenth hour. They are won when you are absolutely exhausted and hungry and frozen cold. That’s the moment you have to keep on going – one stroke at a time. Quitting can very easily become a habit. And it’s a bad habit to get into.”

Advice for dealing with adversity

Whatever it is that you are doing, or are involved with that may feel tough right now, bear this in mind:

  • Witness your own journey of progress to get beyond the overwhelming feeling that ‘this is hard’, especially when the journey gets tough.
  • Remember that you make the path by walking on it, no-one can do it for you.
  • You can ask for support; this is a sign of wisdom not weakness, and be a specific as you can about what you need.
  • Sometimes there is no roadmap, you need courage to break new ground.
  • There will be times when you might fail because failure comes when you experiment and do hard things (especially for the first time).
  • There are times when you might feel like giving up. You would not be human if you didn’t!
  • Occasionally, give yourself permission to be pathetic – privately. Stomp your feet, punch a pillow, have a primal scream, or weep and wail to get it out of your system, and then pull yourself out of it and regain perspective again.

Be your own cheerleader – ring your own bell

Nobody said life would be easy or that everyone would be cheering us on from the side lines, all of the time.

You need to be your best cheerleader and ring your own bell from time to time. I have one on my desk for this very purpose. I ring my bell for small triumphs over adversity and major successes. They are all important as they symbolise progress and help me to push feelings of stuckness aside.

Change and resistance is sometimes exactly what we need. Without it there would be no need to learn anything new, or do anything differently.

You make the path by walking on it. Keep walking.

Nikki Bush
Human Potential and Parenting Expert helping you to win at work and life

Listen to my podcast, Adversity Is Necessary For Growth