Conquering Adversity

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The reality of life is that we are all never far from adversity, never far from that moment that changes us forever. It can be in the uncertainty of tomorrow or the harshness of today, but adversity finds us—at work and at home. It’s not a matter of if—it’s a matter of when. So how can we prepare to meet a challenge we cannot yet define? How do we anticipate the answer before we even know the question?

In truth, we need a hero, but the good news is we have one. There is a hero inside each of us waiting to be discovered and unleashed. The secret to conquering adversity is to unleash that hero, and I have found six strategies that make a difference:

Strategy #1: Affirmation

  • Identify bedrock values
  • Recognize what is and is not lost
  • Accept a “healthy selfishness”

Affirmation recognizes those unshakable elements of your character that do not change with outside influences. Heroes don’t just stand for something, they stand on something—and that something is an unwavering set of principles and values that help them regain their footing when they’ve been knocked down.

Strategy #2: Expectation

  • Life is not fair, so don’t expect it to be
  • Apply optimism
  • Avoid the “Why? Traps”

The underlying truth is that life does not adhere to a fairness standard: bad things happen to good people. We are often faced with situations that are unjust, uncalled for or untrue, but even in the midst of these disappointments, we must still excel. It starts with the conscious decision to act rather than lament, an acknowledgement that some questions need action, not answers—as hard as that may be.

Strategy #3: Communication

  • Communicate with your heart
  • Communicate now!
  • Invite others to help

We must be as comfortable speaking our hearts as we are speaking our minds. Communication is about sharing what we feel, not just what we know. Effective leaders have the ability to connect with those they lead on a more personal level. If you give people a plan, they will follow it. Give them a vision, and they will move mountains.  

Strategy #4: Locomotion

  • Develop a “speed-is-life” mentality
  • Develop the mindset of the traveler, not the settler
  • Master the power of persistence

In the struggle between stone and water, in time, the water wins. This Chinese proverb captures the essence of the Locomotion strategy. Purposeful motion is a powerful tool for reshaping our reality, especially in the face of adversity or crisis. It is impossible to create momentum without motion, so engage the challenge.

Strategy #5: Collaboration

  • Create a Collaboration Circle
  • Welcome empathy, not sympathy
  • Seek work-life balance

Collaboration is about building a network of relationships before adversity strikes. “You can’t build shelter in a hurricane,” so developing a strong circle of support now is critical. Who can you count on?  People are more than willing to help when they know that help is both welcomed and appreciated.  Develop your support team before you need them.

Strategy #6: Celebration

  • Experience laughter
  • Mandatory downtime
  • Create positive consequences from negative events

Even in the midst of serious adversity, there will be small victories, but if we’re not looking for them, we miss the opportunity to celebrate them. Celebration recharges our emotional batteries, strengthens the ties with our support team and acknowledges progress no matter how modest.
Life brings its own unique variables, consequences and considerations each day. Our challenge is not to guess or fear the next adversity, but rather to prepare ourselves and others to face with courage whatever crisis may come, confident in the knowledge that there is a hero inside each of us.


Christopher Novak is an author, leadership coach and motivational speaker based in Marcellus, N.Y.

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