Even in the face of adversity, great things can happen.
In 2004, thousands of people lost their lives when a destructive tsunami crashed into much of southeast Asia. Rob and Paul Forkan were on a family trip with their parents in Sri Lanka when the disaster hit. Unfortunately, both of their parents died, while Rob and Paul were lucky to escape with their lives.
Despite the loss of their parents, the Forkan Brothers used their adversity to fuel a just cause. In 2012, they kept their personal experiences in mind when they founded Gandys, a company that would grow into a highly successful clothing brand. In addition to providing quality products, Rob and Paul gave, and continue to provide, 10 percent of their profits to the Orphans for Orphans foundation. They know what it’s like to lose their parents and want to ease the suffering of those in a similar situation.
The Forkan Brothers’ story isn’t unique. Many entrepreneurs face seemingly impossible challenges. For instance, Brian Chesky of Airbnb, James Dyson of Dyson, and Melanie Perkins of Canva have all faced adversity in one form or another. From near-constant rejection to losing friends and loved ones, they channeled their feelings and negative energy into something positive.
Most importantly, these people share two common traits: persistence and resilience. As Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
If you’re having difficulty overcoming trauma in your life, don’t give up. Others like you have learned to overcome adversity, and you can too.
This article will teach you:
- What adversity is.
- What it looks like.
- The signs you might be experiencing it.
- And what you can do to overcome it.
What is Adversity?
Adversity is the events or conditions where a person experiences extreme challenges, hardship, or problems that are difficult to overcome. It’s important to note that these are not normal, everyday problems. Adversity might come in the form of a catastrophic event or personal tragedy. Whatever form it is, adversity can shape the course of someone’s life. It is significant enough that when someone overcomes it, they demonstrate strength and resilience.
Different Types of Adversity (with Examples)
(Physical disabilities, injuries to the body, medical conditions, and more)
Famed artist Frida Kahlo faced physical adversity when she was in a bus crash at 18-years-old. An iron handrail impaled her, leaving her with severe injuries, dozens of surgeries, and many months of rehabilitation. During her recovery, she took up painting. Today, she is recognized as one of history’s most famous artists.
(Mental illness, learning disabilities, mental challenges, and more)
Billionaire Richard Branson had dyslexia as a child. His school leaders and parents all encouraged him despite his difficulties learning. He overcame his form of adversity by starting his first business at 16. Later, he would go on to become one of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs.
(Emotional fatigue, depression, anger issues, self-image problems, and more)
Eleanor Roosevelt faced many instances of emotional adversity throughout her life. Before she was 10, both of her parents died. Her tough childhood motivated her to champion the downtrodden and push for universal human rights.
(A lack of social skills, autism, crippling shyness, and other social disorders)
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk revealed he has Asperger’s Syndrome. This disorder can make socializing difficult or awkward. Musk has talked about how Asperger’s makes it tough for him to make eye contact and communicate normally. Even so, he has been a pioneer in commercial space travel and continues to be an influential visionary and businessman.
(Lost faith, anger at God, lack of hope, no sense of community, feelings of being constantly tested by God, and more)
Ryan Longmuir started taking drugs at 12 and was addicted throughout his teen years. When he faced the possibility of jail time, he prayed to God for help even though he didn’t believe in a higher power. Soon after praying, he met two women who helped him immensely and brought him to church. Within years, Ryan had turned his life around and started a catering business called Regis Banqueting. The company took off, employing 20 full-time workers and earning millions of pounds every year.
(Poor economic circumstances, immense debt, social caste difficulties, and more)
Known for his financial advice, Dave Ramsey started his career earning millions but lost everything due to unwise and excessive debt. His experience inspired him to change his ways, and he now teaches others how to manage their money to avoid the mistakes he made.
6 Techniques for Dealing with Adversity
When looking into the face of adversity, it can often feel like the odds are against you. No matter the challenge, you have the capabilities and talents to overcome every trial in your life. For dealing with adversity, learn from the following tips.
1. Get Clear on Who You Are and Your Purpose
The two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you discover the reason why.Mark Twain
You can’t let the circumstances of life define you. While you may face many examples of adversity throughout your life, those challenges aren’t who you are. Having a firm sense of identity and self gives you an unshakeable foundation whenever tragedy arises. Knowing your identity also helps you pinpoint your purpose or why you are on the Earth. When people don’t know their purpose, they often experience depression and hopelessness.
How to find your identity and purpose:
- Figure out what motivates you and fills you with passion.
- Set aside time for prayer and meditation.
- Stay focused on your goals and avoid distractions.
- Identify your core values.
- Discover what brings you lasting joy, not just momentary pleasure.
- Plan out what you would like to accomplish over the next 5-10 years.
2. Dedicate Overcoming Your Adversity to a Person You Care About
Another way to figure out your “why” is to personify it through someone you care about. That person may be a parent, a significant other, a child, or a close friend. Through that person, you have a reason for not giving up, even in the most difficult of times.
For example, many athletes name their parents as the main reason they’re motivated to succeed in sports. Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal says that his mother was the reason he wanted to make it in the NBA. He knew if he could achieve this goal, she wouldn’t have to work anymore.
Remind yourself of your person by:
- Keeping a picture of them with you at all times. This can act as a physical reminder of why you can’t give up.
- Talking with them regularly. Stay in close contact to stay focused on why you do what you do.
- Telling others about them. When appropriate, you can share with others why that person is a motivating factor. Most people will respect you more for doing so much to help another.
3. Have a Support System Full of Positive Influences
The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.J.R.R. TOlkien
When you’re at your lowest point, few things are more helpful than the support of those around you. Their encouragement can make a real difference in getting through a difficult time. Take a look at the CrossFit community as an example. They are famous for constantly boosting each other up and rallying around those who feel like giving up.
You feel the influence of those who make up your inner circle. Be intentional about who’s in your life. Take advice from a mentor or life coach. If you surround yourself with people who want you to succeed, the chances of succeeding are almost guaranteed.
How to develop a support system:
- Find groups that provide positive support (whether in-person or online).
- Join a mastermind group that works to build each member up.
- Provide support for others yourself. When you give support, people will be more willing to offer support to you.
- Distance yourself from those who are overly critical, demoralizing, or condescending.
4. Connect with People Who Overcame Similar Challenges
Experience is a master teacher, even when it’s not our own.Gina Greenlee
At the same time, search for others who have had similar experiences. Reach out in your personal and professional networks to connect with those who can offer advice to you. As you do, you’ll learn how you can overcome whatever trial or challenge you’re facing. Such influences can provide helpful perspectives when dealing with adversity.
You can also find inspiration in famous people who have overcome similar problems. Read biographies to learn more about the challenges they encountered and how they grew stronger.
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
- The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
- Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
- The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt by Eleanor Roosevelt
- Mother Teresa: In My Own Words by Mother Teresa
- Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson
- Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
5. Shift Your Mindset
Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.C.S. Lewis
Some of the factors holding you back when facing adversity are your limiting beliefs. Overcoming your personal challenges requires addressing those beliefs. One way to address it is to look at what you consider success. Depending on changing situations and experiences, you may have to redefine it, changing it to something more realistic. You can also develop smaller daily habits that put you on the right track. You can learn more about this strategy by reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Another limiting belief could be a fear of failure. When people fear the possibility of failing, it might indicate that their worth as a person is linked to their work. Adopting a growth mindset can help fight this fear by looking at talents as a developing process.
How to overcome the fear of failure:
- Reject a perfectionist mentality.
- See every failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Visualize success before starting a new challenge.
- Boost self-confidence and self-belief through positive thinking.
- Schedule specific times to tackle new goals.
6. Work with a Mental Health Professional
Heal the parts of you that need your attention or you will forever live out your pain for all to see.Dana Hall, LCPC, MA, TF-CBT
Some examples of adversity require more than positive influences and sources of inspiration to overcome. In the most serious cases, working with a therapist or mental health professional could help you. Some types of adversity are associated with trauma, and trauma of an emotional or physical type can be difficult to most past.
There’s no shame in seeing a doctor who can help you heal. Working one-on-one with a qualified mental health professional can help you learn strategies to overcome the specific challenges you’re facing. Whenever you feel like succumbing to dark feelings, mental health professionals can help you pull through. You don’t have to suffer on your own.
Remain Resilient in the Face of Adversity
When finding yourself in a state of misfortune, it can be easy to give up and stop trying. One thing to know is that you are not alone. You must remain resilient when faced with life’s challenges. No one has a smooth path in life. Failure and negative change are simply a part of it. However, as Charles Hunt teaches, “Resilience is the capacity to adapt to negative change and recover from it as quickly as possible.” When you inevitably experience pain or loss, you must remain flexible and adaptable if you want to get through it.
Much of the power to adapt comes from inside you. You have to dig down deep to overcome the adversity you’re experiencing. It’s easy to wallow in the pain of today, but sacrificing your future self isn’t worth it. There is always a brighter tomorrow. You just have to believe that it’s waiting for you on the other side.
Overcoming adversity starts with small steps. Try the following strategy right away:
- Spend the next week clarifying your identity.
- Buy five books about leaders whose stories inspire you.
- Connect with a mentor who has lived a similar experience.
- Reach out to loved ones and friends for support and words of encouragement.
- Take five minutes every day to visualize what a successful life looks like.