“It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.” — Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Adversity is a common theme in life. As much as we all would love to sail through life unblemished by strife, it isn’t realistic. Jobs change, relationships end, illness strikes and we are left having to pick up the pieces and adapt.
You cannot control adversity, but what you can control is your reaction to it. This was a difficult concept for me to understand, and it isn’t a quick fix – it’s a lesson I learn again and again each time life throws me another test.
It’s so easy to be a victim when we’re faced with a troubling situation, but being a victim won’t help you. It’s natural to feel sorry for yourself in the moment, and then it’s time to let that go for a different perspective.
Say you lose your job, for example. The situation was out of your control: you were laid off. Maybe your first instinct is to feel victimized and start thinking things like, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never find another job.” If you stick with that thought process then you likely won’t find another job, because you’re letting defeat take over and those negative thoughts will soon become your identity.
Now, imagine the same scenario, but this time your thoughts follow a different pattern. You’re upset, but then the positive thoughts start pouring in: “It was out of my control,” “I can apply this experience to a new job,” “This is a chance to find an even better place of work.” An optimistic attitude will open up so many more opportunities than negativity ever could.
I know that might seem like common sense to you, and that’s wonderful if you’re naturally a person who is optimistic while facing hard times. It wasn’t that easy for me. My immediate response to adversity was to take it personally, to let negativity permeate my mind with lies. Lies that I wasn’t strong or capable enough to fix the situation, lies that things would never get better, that I would always be unhappy.
Eventually I came to fear adversity even when none was to be found. Small stressors in my life piled onto me like heavy winter coats until I felt smothered. Clearly something needed to change – that’s when I saw the quote by Uchtdorf. I realized if I didn’t change my attitude soon, then my life’s story would be full of bitterness and negativity.
Here are 5 ways to change your attitude and overcome adversity:
Reflect on the experience
Take some time to process your feelings. I like to free-write in a notebook and then weed out any illogical thoughts or negativity I’m telling myself and replace them with realistic solutions. You can learn a lot from yourself by spending 10 minutes writing down your thoughts.
Surround yourself with positive people
Support is crucial, especially when you’re going through a rough patch. The last thing you need is to be around anyone negative. Spend time with friends who listen to you, who are compassionate and optimistic, and then make sure you offer them the same support in return.
Ask for help
There are some hurdles in life that we need help getting over. I’m a firm believer in seeking professional therapy for those hardships. A good therapist will be able to act as a guide in navigating your specific circumstances and set you back on track.
View difficulties as challenges, not setbacks
When something goes wrong, don’t automatically label it as a failure; it’s a chance to reevaluate, to become stronger. Something incredible could be getting ready to blossom from a seed of rejection.
Accept that adversity is a part of life
You won’t ever be able to completely escape adversity in your life, and those who are willing to accept that fact are better equipped to overcome. If you resist or try to ignore difficulties, it will only continue or get worse.
Only you can control how you will deal with struggles. Adversity is inevitable, but conquering and overcoming is a choice. What will you choose to do?