We all experience adversity in our lives. They come neatly packaged in many shapes and sizes, hardships, difficulties, impossibilities, rough roads, challenges, obstacles, tribulations, afflictions, uphill battles, tough luck, and the list of adjectives goes on forever. Whatever you want to call it, we all have them and have them often. Everyone has heard the phrase “the only thing certain in life is death and taxes” well I propose we add adversity to this short list.
No one particularly likes when these events creep into our lives, it’s always inconvenient, mostly unpleasant, very frustrating, and definitely something we could have lived without. I am still waiting to meet someone who has lived their life free from any form of adversity. There is, however, an upside to this that many don’t realize, or at least don’t recognize right away.
See Things Differently
See, adversity allows us to view our world and its surroundings from a totally different perspective. The best way I’ve found to describe this to people is to use the reference point of a Foxhole. A Foxhole is a military term for a defensive position “hole” dug into the ground that is deep and wide enough to accommodate usually two soldiers. This hole allows these soldiers to protect themselves by exposing as little of their bodies as possible while still maintaining their combat effectiveness, sight, sound, and returning fire on the enemy to name a few.
These Foxholes are positioned along the front lines facing towards the enemy. The number and spacing distance of these Foxholes depend on the size of the defending force, type of terrain defending, and the size of the “front” or enemy you are looking to defend against. Having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom II, I can say unequivocally that combat, particularly when the bullets are flying is hands down the most extreme definition of adversity. I call it adversity in its purest form!
When the bullets died down, the explosions faded away, and the dust settled, I discovered a lot about myself, and others around me. The craziest thing I found was even though the rest of my unit (team, squad, platoon, troop, brigade etc.) and I were engaged in the same exact battle, we all came out on the other side with totally different experiences. Each of these experiences was viewed by each of us from our own proverbial Foxholes. Some Foxholes saw pain and bloodshed, others experienced close calls and near misses, still others, unfortunately, would not escape death.
Build An Immunity To The Negative Effects Of Adversity
The more of these battles, or adversities we experienced the greater the standard deviation became from our previous perspectives. Suddenly getting up early for work didn’t seem like a big deal, that coffee that was made wrong at the coffee shop on my way to work didn’t matter. That crazy drive didn’t even raise my eyebrow, and that flat tire will be fixed in 20 minutes. Things that used to just get under my skin really didn’t matter anymore. True adversity can give you a totally different perspective that can and will spur opportunities.
Before you know it you weigh every challenge in your life against your greatest adversity. “That’s no big deal, I’ve dealt with worse before” or “It’s going to take a lot more than that to affect me”. Suddenly you have a scale on which you can strategically place things. Your greatest adversity now becomes the measuring stick from which you measure everything else. The greater your adversity, the greater your measuring stick.
Have you ever wondered how people that are battling, or survived cancer can be so positive? Or people who have lost everything in a fire, or natural disaster have that unique ability to “bounce back”? 9-11 or Hurricane Sandy survivors? Guess what, these are are very large adversities that carry very large measuring sticks!
This may sound crazy, or even counter-intuitive, but I challenge you to seek out adversity. I’m not saying you should burn your house down, but find something larger than you have experienced thus far. Look for that larger measuring stick to give you a different perspective. Get out of your Foxhole and find a different one, it’s easier than you think. Find a Spartan Race near you that you can enter, volunteer at a soup kitchen and see what real poverty looks like. Put yourself in difficult and challenging positions and you too will change your perspective and open yourself up to opportunities.