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3 Ways To Prepare For Adversity

When the going gets tough, we tend to seek out those people—and things—that give us the strength to be our best self. We yearn for the feeling that we’ve turned our lives around and are headed for better days.

Looking for the upside takes our mind off the down times. A positive attitude allows us forget, even for a while, the hardships that face us in many areas of our life.

Those times of contentment and happiness are wonderful. We need to spend time with them so when times are harder, we can remember the strength they gave us. But to expect those times to last is not realistic.

Here is the ugly truth: We learn very little by being happy and content. We learn everything by being engaged with the realities of life, especially when it’s hard, confusing, and difficult.

What are the stories that motivate us? They’re the stories of people who were beaten down by circumstances and defied the odds by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps to achieve the impossible. That’s why we love old western movies and Rocky Balboa.

The best motivational speakers are those who have been in the trenches and dug down, inside themselves, to find an inner strength that they didn’t know existed. These transformations remind us that we can find our best self too—it just needs to be teased out.

The unpleasant bits of acid that reality drops into our life every now and then are exactly what we need in order for that best self to thrive. The new science of post-traumatic growth is proving that in the wake of adversity, most people not only recover, they rebound.

Former Army combat veteran J.R. Martinez embodies the built-in human capacity to flourish even in the most difficult circumstances. Wounded in Iraq and suffering from burns over more than 40 percent of his body, Martinez underwent more than 30 surgeries before beginning a new career as a motivational speaker and winning the 2011 fall season of ABC’s  “Dancing With the Stars.”

As powerful as his story is, aren’t we’re all just a little relieved that the trauma didn’t happen to us? Whenever our peace is disturbed by adversity, isn’t our first reaction always something like, “Why does this have to happen to me?”

When I was going through the FBI Academy at the age of twenty-five, one of the physical fitness requirements was to dive off a 25 foot diving board while holding an M16 rifle, and then swim to the other side of the pool with the gun. I had two problems: I was afraid of heights, and I couldn’t swim.

As my training class and instructors waited for me to jump, I seriously doubted that in real life I’d ever need to jump into a pool of water with a M16 while chasing a suspect. This was something I had to do, however, to graduate from the Academy, so I plunged in and bounced back up to the surface—still holding the gun—and then floundered until I made the other side.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized the swimming pool test had nothing to do with superior law enforcement techniques. Instead, it taught me that those who keep their back straight when confronted with uncomfortable challenges or conflict will inspire others around them. Everyone knew I was afraid of the jump, but it was something that I needed to do. Once I took the plunge, the by-product was two-fold. First, I earned respect from my classmates; and second, I learned that when the chips were down, I could achieve more than I dreamed possible.

How can you gird yourself and prepare for adversity and future down times? There are many ways, but here are three simple and positive approaches:

1. Surround yourself with people who believe in you

  • List 5 people who inspire you to be your best – and spend more time with them.
  • Spend time with colleagues who ask “Why not?” instead of “Why?”
  • Share your struggles, dreams, and goals but only with those who can help you be your best self.

2. Create a benchmark for choosing friends: Ask questions about which friends you choose to spend time with.

  • Will spending time with this person drag me down or lift me up?
  • Will they make me want to be a better person?
  • Will they help make me a happier person? Successful? Stronger?
  • Will they help me achieve my most important goals?

3. Revisit the past

  • Identify what you did correctly and how it changed the course of your life.
  • Evaluate how you could have done some things differently.
  • Understand that we repeat behavior – spot positive behaviors in your past that have brought out the best in you so you can repeat those behaviors in the future.
  • Ask trusted friends and colleagues to be honest and help pinpoint those times when you’re at your best . . . and yes—when you are not. The purpose is not to criticize, but to help you make better choices.

Like you, I don’t go looking for adversity and hardship, but if I didn’t encounter them I wouldn’t be learning the lessons I’m learning about developing a strong mind to overcome future obstacles—because guess what . . . they are going to show up.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all!

 

How do you prepare for adversity? What tips can you share on how to surround yourself with friends you can trust? How have you learned from your past?

 

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  • http://twitter.com/primal_zen PrimalZen

    I’ve learned that doing what other people want you to do is the wrong path. It seems easier. But the road less traveled, however bumpy, is the only way to find happiness.

    • LaRae Quy

      It’s strange, isn’t it, that the bumpier path is often the one that leads to the greatest discovery. I agree with you: doing what others want you to do is the wrong road to take. All best.

    • LaRae Quy

      It’s strange, isn’t it, that the bumpier path is often the one that leads to the greatest discovery. I agree with you: doing what others want you to do is the wrong road to take. All best.

    • LaRae Quy

      It’s strange, isn’t it, that the bumpier path is often the one that leads to the greatest discovery. I agree with you: doing what others want you to do is the wrong road to take. All best.

    • LaRae Quy

      It’s strange, isn’t it, that the bumpier path is often the one that leads to the greatest discovery. I agree with you: doing what others want you to do is the wrong road to take. All best.

      • Barbara @ www.therextras.com

         A frequent prompt for me to remember the tough times is in reflection and discernment as a parent of 2 – ages 19 and 22.  The thought of them experiencing some of what I did is near unbearable.  Do you have children LaRae?  Some words on allowing our children to walk the bumpier path, please. 

      • Barbara @ www.therextras.com

         A frequent prompt for me to remember the tough times is in reflection and discernment as a parent of 2 – ages 19 and 22.  The thought of them experiencing some of what I did is near unbearable.  Do you have children LaRae?  Some words on allowing our children to walk the bumpier path, please. 

  • Christine

    I think the biggest thing to getting where you want to go is believing in yourself. Create positive thoughts in your mind. You can do anything in life if you truly believe in yourself and know that you can do it.

    http://www.christineadnani.com/ 

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Hi Christine

      Positive thoughts are huge! This is why it’s important to have people around you to help bolster you when circumstances are really tough, but they need to be the RIGHT people. Start looking for them before adversity strikes because when you’re in the middle of a rough situation, you may not have the luxury of time to do it. If we keep a positive attitude about ourselves when faced with adversity, we can truly achieve whatever we want in life.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Hi Christine

      Positive thoughts are huge! This is why it’s important to have people around you to help bolster you when circumstances are really tough, but they need to be the RIGHT people. Start looking for them before adversity strikes because when you’re in the middle of a rough situation, you may not have the luxury of time to do it. If we keep a positive attitude about ourselves when faced with adversity, we can truly achieve whatever we want in life.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Hi Christine

      Positive thoughts are huge! This is why it’s important to have people around you to help bolster you when circumstances are really tough, but they need to be the RIGHT people. Start looking for them before adversity strikes because when you’re in the middle of a rough situation, you may not have the luxury of time to do it. If we keep a positive attitude about ourselves when faced with adversity, we can truly achieve whatever we want in life.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    Sometimes when things are tough I make a list of the hardest moments in my life and more often than not I find it serves as a reminder that this too shall pass.
    It also works as a tool that I can use to demonstrate that past experiences are the blocks I used to climb to where I am today.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Hi Jack,

      Thanks for sharing . . . it can be hard to “go back” and look at the hard times but they can be our best learning tools. By taking the time to tease out how I got through some of my toughest times, I not only can grow those strengths, I have the peace of mind of knowing that I can rely upon them in the future.

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  • http://www.clintcora.com Clint Cora

    I’ve suffered and thankfully survived adversity as well.  I think having heroes I worshipped and studied like crazy was a huge factor for me.  In my case, it was the late, great Bruce Lee who inspired me to believe that I was more capable than I previously believed.  Also, being aware of circumstances of many people who are not doing well but are doing the best they can puts things into perspective.  It makes me realize that perhaps my adversity is not as bad as what others have to go through day in and day out.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Hi Clint

      Most of the really compelling motivational speakers do have personal stories of overcoming obstacles. This is what makes their audience believe that somewhere, deep down, they too can find the courage and persevere. 

      Taking the time to look around at others is a huge point – thanks for bringing it up. We look to others to inspire us, and also to remind us that most of us have a lot to be thankful for.

      Have a great weekend!

  • Khaled

    I agree that surrounding yourself with positive people is a key.However,this can’t  be an available choice all the time.Here comes the power of  Believing in yourself and what you do.I have recently read a blog post about how being underestimated by others and facing challanges can be a source of power to fuel yourself to succeed.

  • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

    LaRae, aloha. To me the importance of having friends who lift you up rather than pull you down cannot be emphasized enough. We need people to talk with, who will question us and give us their thoughts/opinions after consideration.  We need people who will explore the pros and cons with us and with whom we will express our thoughts/concerns honestly.

    If people have established their core values then, LaRae, I believe it is easier for them to decide when encountering adversity.  If going through the adversity helps you to achieve or to enhance a core value, then that belief in the core value will help to overcome the adversity.

    Best wishes for a terrific week ahead. Until next time, aloha.  Janet

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Outstanding message and post! Your message is obviously hard-learned. We truly are sculpted by adversity yet rarely do we welcome it. I know the challenges of my youth have provided me with perspective about life. People ask why I smile all the time and I know it’s because I have seen struggles and know that life just isn’t so bad!

    My father also taught me to appreciate the positive. If I grow weary and complain he always points out gently what can be appreciated from the situation.

    BTW, JR Martinez was also an actor on the recently-cancelled show All My Children. I give that show a lot of credit for hiring him to play a leading role as a love interest for a major character. I’m sure his positive spirit has inspired many.

    Thanks for sharing these uplifting words and beautiful image!

  • Slim Fairview

    Q! This is too awesome for words. Thank you.  (You really do help me get through the rough patches.)

    My one thought:
    “Don’t tell me what I did right. Tell me what I did wrong.” –The Quotations of Slim Fairview.

    Slim

    PS.  I once walked out onto the low board at the pool. I walked back.  Maybe If I’d had  the M16 to give me a little courage… ;-)

    Slim

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