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It’s often been said that balance is the key to a happy life. That seems to be true even when it comes to trials, tribulations and trouble. While too much trauma throughout life – especially during early childhood — damages physical and mental health, little or no distress and disturbances can also weaken a person. Not having negative experiences leaves a person fragile and vulnerable to life’s challenges. It does not allow a deep resilience and toughness to develop. Dealing with and overcoming problems develops character. Grit, it seems, is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it gets. So, there is a sweet spot in life experiences where individuals become stronger. A person who suffers a childhood trauma but is able to bounce back becomes a much stronger, more resilient person overall. An entrepreneur whose business fails is able to learn from those mistakes and become a better business owner the next time around.
Adversity – while deeply unpleasant — strengthens the human soul. Some of this adversity comes from living in a fallen world full of unethical and immoral behavior. Some of it arises from knocking up against all kinds of dangers such as natural disasters. Some of it emanates from the struggles and effort that goes into dealing with the complexities of modern times. And some adversity just arises from being alive, such as illnesses and diseases. The truth is that there are very few people who manage to skate through life without any trials. While some might seem to have it “easy”, in truth, most everyone is fighting some kind of battle. Some battles are clear and visible, and some are hidden from sight. But very few (if any) people have a “perfect, trouble-free life.”
While everyone faces trails of one sort or another, most people don’t see suffering as an opportunity… as a chance to grow. However, it does serve that purpose and there is value in it. In fact, practically every great leader has endured more than his or her share of adversity, and used those trials as a springboard to triumph. Steve Jobs was terminated from Apple, the company he founded. Abraham Lincoln failed in business, was defeated in eight elections and had a nervous breakdown before he went on to become one of the greatest Presidents of the United States. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before he went on to become the President of South Africa. Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein couldn’t get a job in physics for two years after graduating college. Instead, he worked as an assistant patent examiner where he was passed over for promotion until he “fully mastered machine technology”. Author Stephen King’s first book was rejected by 30 publishers before he eventually found a publisher, and went on to sell over 350 million books.
Here are some ways in which adversity helps individuals grow.
1. Trials Strengthen Relationships
While adversity often do place a lot of strain and duress on relationships, it also provides an opportunity to strengthen and improve them as well. When everything in life and in a relationship is going well, the solid footing of that relationship has not been tested. It is hard to know if that relationship can be trusted to be steady or it is nothing more than a facade. Many relationships – business and personal — are solidified through difficult times. That is why soldiers who serve in battle together often develop an unbreakable, lifelong bond. And, that is why the people who work together to rebuild after a disaster usually connect in a deep and meaning way. The real test of who is reliable and can be trusted comes when things aren’t going well. A crisis is what often tests friendships, work relationships, and marriages. And sometimes those tests aren’t driven by external forces, but rather by internal failings. People are all prone to lapses in judgment and sometimes make poor decisions. The opportunity to use those moments of trial-by-fire to improve relationships should be embraced.
2. Trials Reveal Character and Spur Self Actualization
It has been said that a person’s true character is like a tea bag. You don’t really know what’s inside til the water boils. But most people don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on their own character when things are going well. When the economy is good and needs are being met, people move through life on auto pilot, not really knowing if the values they claim to hold are real or just a fiction. Most people are busy soaking it in and not paying much attention at all. But life has an uncanny way of turning from good to bad in a snap. Hence, the saying, “life turns on a dime.” When that switch turns suddenly from riches to rags or from health to hurt, or from respect to reject, that is when people begin to ask “Why is this happening?” They wonder “why me?” They look around and ask “How am I going to weather this?” “Can I endure?” “Do I have what it takes?” It is in those tough times that a person has to dig deep to find out if he is just talking the talk, or if he can really walk the walk. It may feel scary, lonely or sad, but it is also an opportunity to learn what is inside. The bigger the trial, the more a person can learn about himself.
3. Trials Provide Opportunities to Learn
No person enjoys failing. It is disheartening. Problems and challenges force people to become resourceful and, if they fail, to learn from those mistakes. Failure is an awful feeling but it is an excellent teacher. The ability to figure out what went wrong, put it in the rear view, and move on is transformative. No inventor ever came up with a genius idea without failing a lot. Those mistakes and mishaps were a roadmap of what not to do or say and where not to go.
4. Trials Help to Develop Grace and Humility
There is a path that leads from trials to grace and humility. Trials force a person to have patience and endurance. And, patience allows for experience and insight to grow. Through experience, then we are able to reflect and develop humility. And, with humility, a person is able to have more grace and empathy toward others. In that way, trials help people to be more accepting and tolerant of others.
5. Trials Drive Passion and Action
When a person is facing a major setback or a big problem – one that simply could not be avoided – there is a realization that life is short, and there is no point in living in fear of trials because they are going to come anyway. There comes a moment of realization that there is no point in settling for less or avoiding risk. Falls happen just the same standing on the sidelines as on the field. Without learning how to fall and then stand up again, a person can never learn anything new or complete any task. It is an accomplishment to fall, rise again, and go on to climb to new heights and achieve something. Refusing to be deterred from a reaching a summit requires passion and action, and ultimately develops grit. It is better to be challenged and fail pursuing a dream than to be challenged and fail trying to avoid a trial.
So, in 2020, embrace adversity. Welcome it. Recognize the opportunities to grow and see those challenges as a way to blaze even more trails!
Quote of the Week
“Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.” Zig Ziglar
© 2019, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.