Strength In Adversity

Strength In Adversity

Let’s face it, sometimes life can throw us curve balls. Big ones.

The devastating fires that continue to burn across large swathes of Australia are a case in point. For me, and for so many others.

Two weeks ago, while visiting my parents in East Gippsland, Victoria, I found myself doing something I’d never had to do during my childhood growing up on their small dairy farm – packing up my parents’ most precious belongings to evacuate their home as the threat of nearby fires burning out of control grew extremely high. In fact, my whole extended family evacuated, leaving only my brother and two brothers-in-law behind to protect his farm and that of my other brothers across the road. (Here’s a link to the video I recorded the morning we evacuated. Above is a photo I took of the horizon the same day).

While the winds kept the fires away from my family’s properties, I’m acutely aware that many were far less fortunate. And of course, many fires are still burning, leaving thousands of Aussie rural dwellers living with the ongoing threat of fire with much of the summer season still ahead. Not only that, but many are now also struggling with very tough economic times due to fire’s impact on local economies. My own brother Steve and sister-in-law Kim are a case in point. Their vacation rental properties are now sitting largely empty in the middle of peak summer season due to the mass evacuations and ensuing cancellations. (If you live in Victoria, please consider paying them a visit at Jetty Road Retreat when the smoke clears… or visit any area whose economy has been ravaged by these fires!)

Hopefully, you are not living under the threat of bushfire right now. However, I’m guessing you’ve had your share of adversity. Perhaps you’re dealing with a situation right now that’s challenging you in some way. Perhaps even dialing up your anxiety a notch or three.

Job stress. Financial stress. Relationship stress. Life stress.

Having dealt with my fair share of curveballs in recent years, I’ve learnt that letting our fears run amok (as they like to do, ‘fear-casting’ worst possible scenarios that are generally unlikely to eventuate) does us no favors. I’ve also learnt that when we buy into our self-doubts, it keeps us from taking the very actions that would improve our situation.

Williams James, the founding father of psychology, said that:

“Most people live in a restricted circle of their full potential.”

Whether we use 5% of our brains or 50% (the debate is ongoing), there’s no arguing that most of us never get close to realizing what we’re actually capable of achieving or handling. Likewise, experience has taught me that sometimes the situations which challenge us the most have the hidden gift of introducing us to reservoirs of strength, stamina, and courage that may otherwise have lain dormant. In doing so, they can embolden us to thrive amid life’s pressures, to live our lives more deeply and to lead more bravely – grounded in ourselves and not in the impermanence of the circumstances around us.

So whatever adversity you’re dealing with today, I invite you to trust in yourself that your ‘capacity for life’ is larger than what you’ve estimated to be. While you may have been in situations where you’ve felt that you lacked the resources to meet your challenges, what you really lacked was the self-trust required to look within for the resourcefulness to figure it out… one day, one hour and, on the more testing days, one moment at a time.

As I share in the video below (a clip from my keynote speech at the 2019 National Instruments Global Sales Conference in Texas), research shows that those with the highest levels of wellbeing aren’t those who have an absence of struggle, but those who’ve learnt how to thrive amid the challenges and curveballs that life inevitably brings our way.

So embrace your challenges. And when you feel like life is coming at you as though you’re drinking from a fire hose, look for the hidden invitation your ‘problems’ hold for you to connect with new dimensions of strength you might never have otherwise discovered. Sure, this may not alleviate all your stress (and you wouldn’t want it to anyway – since we need stress to perform at our best), but it can spare you unnecessary anxiety and expand your ability to deal with all your challenges more constructively – with a clearer focus, calmer mind and braver heart. As Victor Frankl wrote:

“When we are no longer able to change our situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

It’s impossible to predict, much less fully plan for, all that 2020 will hold in store. However, whatever it holds, remember that you always get to choose how we will respond to it. Therein lays your power, your strength and your freedom.

As I’ve written in my new book You’ve Got This!: The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself:

Trusting that the potential within you will always transcend the problems outside you is a powerful place to live from.

After all, when you trust yourself to handle anything, it liberates you for everything.