Facing and embracing adversity seems like an odd and somewhat of an oxymoron. Doesn’t it?
The fact is that every day of our lives we face some form of adversity. That doesn’t mean we have a negative mindset, nor does it imply that we live with a negative mindset. That’s not what it means at all. Adversity surrounds us each day, but when we embrace things as they are, that doesn’t mean we like those circumstances. We want things to be better. Embracing adversity prevents us from increasing our own suffering. We are no longer trying to change what is out of our control.
Day to Day Adversity:
The Flat Tire Effect: Have you ever had a flat tire at a truly inconvenient time? Flat tires in general are inconvenient causing delays and at times making us feel unsafe. I suppose that depends on where you are when the tire goes flat. Regardless, The Flat Tire Effect can go one of two ways.
Option 1: You can let the puncture or deflated tire suck the air out of you by reacting to something that’s out of your control.
Option 2: You can be the plug that saves the day. You can decide to accept that having a flat tire is a bummer. It will likely cause delays but, with that acknowledgement, you can decide to lean into the positive.
Can the flat tire be fixed?
Can you do something meaningful with the extra time caused by the inconvenience?
The Check Engine Light Effect: This effect happens when you put the preventive effort into fixing whatever is wrong, yet the yellow light doesn’t go off. What a bummer.
Option 1: You can engage in all sorts of negative thinking patterns:
Why do you keep taking the car to that shop? They can’t fix anything.
Why do you keep investing money in this car? It’s time to get a new one.
Option 2: Embrace the check engine light for what it is. You still need to make logical and rational decisions about your car but detach those decisions from negative emotion. Try facts and gratitude instead.
Well, the check engine light is back on. I’ll need to have the car looked at again.
I’ve invested “x” to date in this car. I’ll need to evaluate the cost to fix the car vs. considering the purchase of a new or new to me car.
I’m thankful that the car has a check engine light. That tells me something is still wrong. It’s better that I don’t drive the vehicle when it’s unsafe.
The I’m Sick of It Effect: This effect happens when you wake up and don’t feel well or you wake up and are sick and tired of your circumstances. Perhaps you genuinely feel sick or you feel sick inside. Either way, The Sick of It Effect is a form of adversity that makes us sick of our circumstances.
You genuinely feel sick. Feeling sick is horrible. Our bodies are designed to work for us and when they don’t it’s yucky. We deal with fevers, nausea, vomiting, running noses, sinus issues, allergies and more. Many of us have chronic disorders, like diabetes, heart disease and chronic back pain. Others of us live with a prognosis that is difficult to bear. We may be fighting for our life. Sickness is a real adversity and one of the most difficult ones to embrace.
Option 1 & 2: Temporary Illness
Temporary illness — you can make yourself more miserable by allowing how you feel in the moment to ruin all aspects of your day.
Temporary illness — you can choose to be thankful for the medication that helps relieve your symptoms. You can rest in the knowledge that this Temporary Sick Effect is just that, temporary. You will get better.
Option 1 & 2: Chronic Disease or Poor Prognosis
Without a doubt chronic disease invades our life. We make choices about day to day living based off our energy, our state of immunosuppression or whether we can manage getting out of bed. The chronic aspect means we know we will likely be dealing with this adversity for the rest of our lives. What options do we have?
Option 1: Influence those around us. Live by example. Some of the bravest heroes I’ve ever met lived with a terrible, life threatening disease with such grace and honor. Those heroes are truly an inspiration and we all can draw strength from their courage.
We can choose to put our best foot forward and influence those who might very well walk in our shoes later. It’s hard to do. Yes, you may be sick and depleted, but you can be an example to others. I cannot speak to this specific scenario without sharing a personal example.
My father died from cancer and he was a hero throughout his diagnosis and decline. He showed me what it was like to be brave. He dealt with so much pain and did so in such a heroic fashion. Despite his pain he was a go-getter. I once picked him up at the hospital after he had survived a bought with pneumonia. I had a convertible and I was scared he would not be able to get in the back seat of my car. He wanted my mother to ride in the front seat and he had something to prove. He got out of his hospital bed to “show” me how he could bend all the way down to the floor without falling. That was his way of proving to me he could, in fact, get in my backseat. He was a trooper and he was incentivized. My Dad wanted to leave the hospital and go back to his home. Although leery about doing so, that day when I drove my Dad home in my convertible, I had never admired him more.
The point of my story is to show you what his spirit did for me. He influenced me more in that moment than any other moment I can remember. He had that kind of power when he weighed only 98 pounds. He was frail, very sick and he was living his last days out the best that he could.
Years later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Unlike my Dad, my prognosis was good, but he taught me an invaluable lesson. Hold your head high. Carry your diagnosis like a champion. Shine in the face of adversity and be a voice for others who aren’t as fortunate. Be a voice for those who will follow. My Dad was a key reason I was able to get through my diagnosis with a form of grace, dignity and courage.
Option 2: We can allow chronic disease or a terrible prognosis to be like that flat tire. A terrible or fatal diagnosis is deflating. But, we should all live our life to the fullest using what air is left. After all, when there is 1 flat tire, there are generally at least 3 more tires left full of air. You and I have something left to give and the way we live our life may inspire others beyond any scope that we can imagine.
The Adversity We Face Today: Coronavirus
Most of us know what optimism vs. pessimism is, but how many of us give a second thought to rational optimism?
If you are a rational optimist that means you lean towards optimism but are fully aware of reality. You don’t wear rose glasses and see visions of chocolate covered strawberries. You understand adversity you just make different choices. Rational optimist reacts to simple adversity, day to day challenges and unfortunately pandemics like Coronavirus a bit differently. They make a conscious decision to believe things will work out without minimizing or negating reality of the situation.
How is Coronavirus Affecting You and Society at Large?
1. Flat Tire Effect: For some the Coronavirus is inconvenient, interrupting our day to day lives and it makes us feel unsafe.
2. The Check Engine Light Effect: We’ve taken pre-cautions, both individually, as a community, a country and together united with other countries. Those pre-cautions don’t seem to matter, because that check engine light will not go off.
3. The I’m Sick of It Effect: We don’t want to quarantine or semi-quarantine ourselves. We just want things to be normal. We certainly don’t want to lose someone we love, let alone fall prey to the virus ourselves.
These feelings are normal and to be expected because 3 key areas of our lives are now under seize:
1. Emotional/Mental Effect — We are all concerned, and that concern impacts our emotional mind. Some of our concerns may encompass a state of anxiety or panic. Some deal with the emotional and mental toll a bit easier. No one is greater than the other. We are simply different. None of us like the impact that Coronavirus is having on us, our community or countries, but it is here among us and we have a choice as to how we respond.
2. Physical/Physiological Effect — The fact is some of us will be exposed to the virus and some of us will get sick. Others of us will escape the plight of Corona. How will we respond? If you are symptomatic, get help. If you are not symptomatic, practice hand washing, using sanitizer (if it’s available to you), keep your hands away from your face, keep your distance and understand that only those actions are under your control. We cannot control the virus. We can only try to mitigate its impact.
3. Economic Effect — Without a doubt we are and will be negatively impacted by the economic response. Businesses, schools, and industry to include cooperate, private, non-profit and the like will all be affected. None of them can function as they normally would. Business is not as usual. The stock market is fluctuating, up and down. Small business, larger organizations, manufacturing, and the logistics of getting our food, water and supplies to us are experiencing the jolt. That lightning bolt wasn’t expected and it seems as if storm might not end. But again, we have a choice as to how we respond when weathering the storm.
How do we choose a different response other than fear or anxiety?
Embrace the adversity. It may seem like these circumstances will last forever, but they will not. Accepting our current circumstances doesn’t mean we do not wish things were different. But wishing will not change our reality. Consider these tips when fueling your resilience to the Corona Virus Pandemic:
Realize this moment and this day is the one where you need to place your focus. I recently interviewed Jim Porter, CEO of stressstop.com for my TV show/podcast BOOM BABY BOOM. I cannot think of anyone better than Jim to offer advice. This is a paraphrased excerpt from the show:
Question: Jim, tell me about a time when you got on the other side of a very stressful time. What practices did you use to get you there?
Answer Paraphrased: “Years ago the economy plummeted, around 2008 or 2009. My business wasn’t as healthy as it had been. I was moving my products to a digital format and the customers not longer wanted paper, but they were not ready for a digital platform. Another time, shortly after Obama Care was instituted, some of my major clients, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, was reluctant to purchase. They did not know how the political policy changes would impact their business, so they just quit buying. Both times, I wasn’t sure if my business would make it.”
Jim’s Reaction/Tips — He asked himself daily, “Are you okay today.” If he answered yes, then he asked himself if he thought he would be okay this week. Next week, this month. One day at a time he answered yes and one day at a time he got through his adversity.
Today Jim’s clients include MIT, the House of Representatives, The Senate and many other high-profile companies, agencies, universities or government entities. Jim got on the other side of a two very stressful times.
The take- away: Let’s all get through this pandemic, one day at a time.
How do we choose a different response other than fear?
Help one another. Yes, we should keep a safe distance, but there are many ways to help one another safely. I’ve seen some of those examples on social media.
Free art classes for kids.
Websites offering free educational platforms for kids at home.
Software companies offering free premium versions to maximize working remotely
People offering to get groceries for someone in need.
Buses loading up meals for the food-under-served children who depend on school meals as a primary source of food.
We are strong. We experience many things out of our control and what really matters is recognizing that we don’t have control. Once we recognize that fact, we can choose our reaction. I’d like to remind us what ancient philosophy practiced. The famous Stoic philosophers-built resilience to adversity. How did they do this?
The ancient philosophers practiced journaling about and envisioning adversity. They did not do this because they were naturally negative, Debbie Downers or prime examples of Eeyore in action. Rather, they prepared themselves for the inevitable; the adversity they would face every day. They may not have had flat tires or check engine lights, but they were faced with adversity. They understood that each day would present with some sort of problem. This helped them to mentally prepare to sit with those problems when they arose. They did not fight what they could not control.
Ancient Stoics did not just journal about adversity, they took this a step farther. They deprived themselves of necessities, food and drink and more. They wanted to fully understand what real adversity felt like. I am in no way suggesting you deprive yourself, but I’m sure you can understand how that practice helped them build resilience to adversity.
Stoics, whether ancient or modern day ask themselves if they can control a situation. If a situation or circumstance is out of their control, they accept that. This pandemic, in large part is out of our control. We take precautions, but those precautions are primarily within our control.
We all share many of the same concerns and they are completely valid, but we must live our life as best we can during these circumstances.
My final tips, one of which I borrow from Jim:
1. “Do you have enough today, tomorrow this week, this month?”
2. Be grateful for today and what it offers you.
3. Be diligent about limiting your exposure and practice hand washing and safe distancing. Be smart about chosen exposure.
4. If fear starts to take over, remember fear stems from your fight or flight response. That’s your emotional brain taking the reins. You can calm that part of your brain by engaging your logical brain. Do a puzzle, read or listen to something other than the news. Practice deep breathing.
5. Journal about your experience. Write down your fears. Ask if they are real or imagined. Have they happened yet? Are you in control of what you fear the most? If not, should you be placing your focus there?
Remember you can decide to:
1. Plug the air seeping air out of the tire by recognizing flat tires happen, but they can be fixed. In other words, we all face inconveniences and adversity, but most of the time there’s a fix.
2. Focus on tires that are still in good shape. Focus on what you still have and how your life hasn’t changed.
3. Accept that the check engine light is still on, but that light let’s you know something is still wrong. With that knowledge you are prepared to do what is necessary to keep you and your family safe.
4. Through this circumstance, build a positive attitude regardless of what befalls you. Your influence on others could be immeasurable.
In closing, we may never know how our actions influence others. My Dad did not know that his choices and his reactions helped me get through my own battle, but they did. In that way, he lived long beyond his earthly life.
May your decisions, courage and reactions carry you and those around you to a higher level of impact. An impact of influence that is greater than you could have imagined.
To you and your family and friends all the best, today, tomorrow, this week and in the weeks ahead.
My wish for you:
May your flat tires be mere inconveniences.
May your check engine lights go out.
And may your sick of it circumstances return to normal very, very soon.
About the Author: Kimberly Sheldahl is a former executive, turned Kolbe Certified ™ Consultant who is also an Integrative Health Coach. She is passionate about the integration of productivity and well-being. She is the host of BOOM Baby BOOM, a T.V. show/podcast which will begin airing on Transformation TV in April. She is the author of Hack Into OZ, Get the Most Out of Life, available later this month on Amazon. Her course, IMPACT will also be released in April. The modules include science backed data on building happiness, self-belief (efficacy), self-control (regulation), building habits, and staying motivated.