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Jim's Gems: Overcoming Adversity

June 17, 2014
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Everyone faces difficult times at some point in his or her life. No one is exempt from these challenges. For some, adversity seems to come in waves, with one hardship or misfortune following another. These times can change our lives and challenge our belief systems.


What makes an event a challenge or an adversity is different for each of us. While one person might see opportunity in the loss of a job, many others might find this event very stressful.


A friend of mine recently experienced deaths of three close family members within a short period of time. Added to that was a serious life-threatening injury to a sibling who did survive. To pull through, our friend used quiet time for reflection: to find inner strength and to focus on positive thinking and visualization of her sibling’s full recovery.


Life-changing situations often happen when we experience job loss, death, serious injury or another traumatic event. We as humans are unique in how we deal with hardship and adversity. It lies at our inner core, but it’s not really a trait, so it can be enhanced or learned with persistence.


Little more than a decade ago last week, medical doctors had given me an almost certain death sentence. When told I had essentially a five percent chance of surviving five years, my inner self was determined not to accept the dire outcome.


How did I overcome this devastating prediction? There are many people who’ve done the same thing, so my story isn’t necessarily unique, but let’s talk about how to overcome adversity.


When adversity strikes, whether it be through the loss of a job, or when you take a big hit that really knocks you off your feet, there are a number of things you can do to overcome.


Some of the more important things that will affect how fast you get up again include the following: how good your support network (family, friends, doctors, etc.) is; how solid your self-esteem is; the extent to which you believe that you can control your own destiny; and your experiences at overcoming adversity in the past.


If you want to shorten the time it takes to get back on your feet, try positive visualization. Ask yourself how it will look when you no longer have your current problems. Spend time visualizing yourself in that picture and imagining how good you'll feel when you overcome this obstacle. Do it over and over, day after day, week after week.

In addition, make a list of your strengths, past accomplishments and future goals, and add to this list on a daily basis. Review your goals continuously and focus on the positive – never give in to fear or allow negative thoughts to prevail!


Set and prioritize a few immediate goals to improve your situation and to remain focused on the positive. Write a detailed plan of action for the top three short-term goals and three longer-termed goals. For me, this included things like surviving surgery, getting out of the hospital, getting back to work (which took 12 months), and working a 40-hour week. Focusing on achieving milestones can be a powerful ally.


While positive thinking and visualization are definitely needed to prevent fear and doubt from taking root, the third element is persistence. Persistence is the ability to overcome obstacles and deal with difficult, life-changing events. It determines our capacity to create and execute plans. Persistence is about never giving up or accepting defeat. Certainly, we all get knocked down, but don’t stay down. Get up, dust yourself off, and take another step forward, then another step. You can do it, just like countless others have done before.

 

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