Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“Good fortune and bad are equally necessary…to meet the contingencies of this life” ~ French Proverb
I tried to find a word other than adversity but didn’t like the options so I’ll qualify myself by saying I can’t speak from experience when it comes to life-shattering adversities like the loss of a child, spouse or partner, a debilitating illness or financial ruin. Nor will I try.
But I can speak to the adversity most of us face as part of life; job loss, failed relationships, financial struggles and deferred dreams. These are setbacks that can happen any time—and to most of us they have.
I am also on a first-name basis with opportunity. Having had both, I’ve discovered one often leads to the other, though it’s hard to realize it in real time. Adversity and opportunity are two of life’s biggest handouts. They gift you with a richer sense of yourself, an appreciation for life and, in my case, a sharpened (some might say darker) sense of humor.
Adversity is a Teacher
Zig Ziglar advises us to make adversity our teacher not our undertaker. Some days this can feel like a thin line. When it’s happening, it feels isolating and incapacitating. If we didn’t see it coming, the sucker punch that delivers it stops us cold. My strongest memory during these times is one of inertia; the inability to do anything but sit with the pain.
Hardships have the ability to teach us what we are made of but I’m betting for most of us that teachable moment is recognized in hindsight. In the midst of hardship finding a good outcome is second to survival. “Hey, let’s treat ourselves to a bad experience life lesson,” said no one ever.
But we can deepen our awareness when we realize that the wheel of life is made of up disappointments, contradictions, limitations and regrets. In order to survive them we must learn to live through them. Stuff happens. Life throws everyone curveballs; it’s up to each of us to decide how we respond to the pitch.
Shaken, Not Deterred
Adversity is a universally unpleasant human experience. It takes us to places that strip away our confidence, self-worth and hope. It delivers unwanted and unexpected change into our lives—and the world we live in dishes out both. Everyone responds in their own way when circumstances deliver uninvited change.
It’s unrealistic to think we won’t experience the consequences of living in this imperfect world. It is possible to overcome adversity and most of us do it best with help and support along the way. This is the best time to lean on your faith, your friends, and the certainty that it will pass. People who turn difficulty into opportunity start by believing they are able to do so.
In the midst of it, find a place of peace and remember what is good. Read these inspirational words from my dear friend, author and fellow blogger Debbie Haddock Wallis, who reminds us that no matter what happens They Can’t Take My Joy.
Opportunity Doesn’t Always Knock
My parents didn’t believe in can’t. Being raised by two army soldiers comes with certain expectations, and “I can’t do it” wasn’t one of them. They taught me that adversity comes to everyone. No one escapes it and the world does not judge us by the adversity that befalls us: It waits to see how we will respond.
From them I learned that opportunity rarely shows up gift-wrapped. Dad was pretty clear about owning your potential and creating opportunities you could live yourself into. Every one of my siblings has demonstrated their ability to do this, proving my parents taught us well.
I also learned not to assess an opportunity by looking at what was missing. Imperfection doesn’t negate an opportunity but it can blind you to its value and your capacity to shape it. One of the hardest challenges we face is recognizing opportunity when it doesn’t meet our expectations.
Attitude Is Everything
According to SUCCESS magazine:
“One of the most important steps you can take towards achieving your greatest potential in life is to learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you.”
“We all have a choice. We can choose an inner dialogue of self-encouragement and self-motivation, or we can choose one of self-defeat and self-pity.”
The loudest and most influential voice you hear will always be your own. That inner voice works for or against you, depending on the power you give it. It can be optimistic or pessimistic; it can wear you down or raise you up. You own it.
Adversity and opportunity combine to make us who we are. The good, the bad, the failure and the success—even the missed opportunities—mold and shape us.
Life’s lessons weave us into the ever-changing and growing person we are, but let me add a caveat: Embrace the learning when and where it’s offered. Find the message and the meaning and allow it to speak to you. Acknowledge pain, disappointment and setbacks. Celebrate victories.
Learn from all of it and release it. When you hang on to it, it’s called baggage.
Travel lightly, and continue on your journey. Life happens.