I used to avoid adversity like the plague. It was not my friend.
I would go to great lengths to keep the peace, avoid conflict, and maintain the status quo, often to my own detriment. I did not want to face the chaos and admit to myself that something needed to change.
But, eventually I became really, really tired. I couldn’t hold on anymore.
Exhausted by the effort it required to keep up the pretense of “everything is just fine” and “nothing to see here”, I let go.
The damn broke, and a flood of life lessons swept over me, releasing me from the self-imposed prison of denial.
The shadows define the light
After recovering from the initial tsunami of chaos after years of denial, I decided that I needed to take a closer look at the dynamics of adversity.
Why does struggle exist?
I have come to understand that if I am not experiencing and facing the shadows, challenges, and obstacles, on a regular basis, then I have become stagnant or stuck in routine, and therefore not learning and growing. I am denying myself the gift adversity offers.
How does adversity relate to pursuing our goals and what is the meaning of it?
Even though we all have visions for our lives, I now know that the process we go through on the way to realizing these goals is the point.
The having of what we want or arriving at our destination is just the icing on the cake but not truly the most valuable part of the journey.
This is the nature of life. Challenges, roadblocks, loss, confusion are normal aspects of growth, learning, evolution and maturity.
After much study, research, trial and error, I came up with a guide to navigate the rough patches. It works unfailingly for me and is effective on a universal basis. The only caveat is having an open mind and be willing to practice these perspectives and techniques, until they become second nature.
1-Remember that the adversity has definitive purpose.
It’s not a mistake. It’s part of the process.
When you look up at a clear, night sky, can you see the stars? Yes, you can.
Can you see the stars in the light of day? No, you cannot.
This analogy really solidifies for me the purpose of dark times and learning experiences. The darkness defines you.
It creates a better version of you and brings you closer to your desires. We must work through obstacles to become the best version of who we are.
Don’t avoid adversity.
As and when it arrives on your doorstep, you might as well dive right in and embrace it. Get excited about evolving and the benefits this brings to you and your life.
I found out the hard way that even if you find a way to circumvent it this time around, challenge needs to be there to help you move forward and grow. So, surprise! It’s going to going to come back. Life works in cycles like tides of the ocean and seasons of the year, the lesson will always return until you decide to face and move through it.
But remember, life and its adversity is happening for you, not to you.
3-Know that it’s always an inside job.
Choose to be happy and at peace regardless of what you are facing.
The most expedient method of moving through challenge is to choose to be happy and at peace regardless of what you are facing.
I know, I know. I can hear your groans from here. Easier said than done. But bear with me here. I know that this is the most difficult ask when you are in the middle of chaos. Believe me, I know.
But, your emotions are the fuel for navigating your life. Misery keeps you stuck in the far right-hand lane behind the tractor going 35 mph, and joy allows you to move to the far left-hand lane where there is no speed limit and all options are possible.
I think of it this way. You don’t look in a mirror with a frown on your face, and say, “I will not smile until I see a smile in the reflection!” Reality is a mirror reflection of your state of being. You must smile amidst the challenge, and then you will see the adversity dissipate.
Leverage the illusion of power.
Do not be fooled by the power of the illusion.
Nothing and no one outside of yourself has the ability to thwart your path towards all that you want.
Everything that you need to move forward is within you. Your thoughts, beliefs, perspectives and overall state of being is your point of power.
Yes, there is inspired action to be taken in all challenging scenarios, however control, manipulation and coercion of anyone or anything involved is not necessary. In fact, it is counterproductive to your aim.
Leverage the illusion of power by recognizing that the perception of control outside of you is a mirage. The illusion is quickly dissolved by mastering your inner world. This is a force like no other.
Do not look to your outer reality for the change first.
Change occurs within you first.
You know that you have changed when you have the ability to be immersed in a difficult situation and you choose to not let it rob you of your peace and happiness.
Drop frustration, anger, confusion and disappointment, and say to yourself, “it doesn’t matter to me what I am experiencing, I am going to keep moving forward and find ways to continue to be passionate about where I am in each moment regardless”.
Choose to face it with joy, because that is who you are, and you will see your outside reality transform in ways that you could not have imagined.
It’s always tempting to look outside of yourself and point the finger at someone who must be to blame for what you are experiencing. The truth is, though, that it’s no one’s fault. Adversity just is. It’s there to serve you in your evolution.
5-Don’t invite your inner critic to the party.
Just as no one else is to blame for your experience, you are not at fault for the adversity you face. You haven’t failed. Self-loathing is not only detrimental to your state of mind, but also just not true. The truth is that difficult times are a part of life and will happen no matter how “perfect” you try to be. It’s happening, either way. Let that big, meanie in your head go.
6-Laugh early and often.
Laughter is medicine for the soul. I break out a ridiculous clip on YouTube of a movie, usually with someone like Will Ferrell, that makes me laugh so hard I have tears in my eyes. It creates a world of difference.
7-Focus on the simple pleasures
This is a practice that I work on every day, but it’s especially helpful when I am embroiled in turmoil. For example, I find moments to observe the parts of my life that truly matter; the love and laughter I experience with my family, friends and relationships. I watch in deference as my eight-year old daughter reminds me of the simple pleasure in playing make-believe with her. I pause at drop-off to watch as my daughter skips into school with a grin from ear to ear, because she gets to wear her pajamas on a school designated “Pajama Day”.
These are the moments that matter the most.
Sometimes, when I am really struggling to find peace, I consider gratefully that my family and I have a roof over our heads and food on the table, which I never want to take for granted.
I have discovered that life circumstances, whether it be your health, finances, marriage or otherwise, can shift quickly and without warning. A few years ago, when I experienced my most profound lessons, I watched in disbelief as a tornado of adversity ripped through the heart of everything I held dear. The growth I experienced between then and now is exponential. And, I remind myself every day of the blessings I have.
Life is crazy, insane, hilarious and sometimes downright ridiculous. It’s a ride. It’s a vast range of emotions, oftentimes all converging at once. But, this is the ride we signed up for to know ourselves on a richer and deeper level.
Love all of it, because it is all happening just for you.