Starting any new task can be a challenge, whether that task is weight loss, personal development, a career change, starting a business, or willing ourselves to experience new things. Whatever we choose to change in our lives, change is difficult and can come with a number of intimidating adventures. But what separate the average individual from someone who accomplishes their goals time and time again are the benefits of adversity.
On the face of it, experiencing adversity and difficulties can seem counterproductive when considering the road to success. We often idolize certain men or women because of the accomplishments that they’ve achieved, and we compare our own level of success, which is often much lower, with theirs and think, “They have had it so easy. Look at how quickly that person became Regional Supervisor” or “His business grew 60% in its first two years, while mine is barely profiting at all”. When we see these individuals who rocket to success, it’s not a measure of luck or serendipity. What it boils down to is how well you respond to adversity. If you are focused on succeeding at any level, you should have a detailed plan on how you will achieve those goals, but where you will see the greatest area of improvement is when things don’t go according to your plan. How will you respond? When you put in extra work for three months, but your sales numbers come up short for the quarter, what will you do to change your process for the future? If you’re working out day after day and dieting, but you’ve lost 4 pounds in a month, how are you going to respond moving forward?
Here’s why understanding adversity and how it improves your ability to adapt is crucial. Simply put, adversity is the great equalizer on the path to anywhere worth traveling, because everyone experiences some level of adversity. Regardless of the type or size of business that is started, the founder(s) were faced with financial, operational, or external challenges that forced them to either adapt or fail. When athletes at the highest level train for months and even years, they often experience injuries that can set them back or possibly ruin their careers, and they must make the decision to continue training or to call it quits. Adversity is impossible to ignore if you have set any meaningful goals in your life, and you’d be a fool to think that you can accomplish your goals without reaching a mishap or experiencing mistakes along the way. But here’s the good news: Once you understand it, adversity can be incredibly beneficial. And here are five reasons why:
#1: Learn New Skills
Adversity is wonderful because we often don’t see it coming. We consciously set goals, start working and making measurable progress, and then we’re blindsided by unfortunate news. This news may come in the form of financial woes for our business (as has happened with me), a difficult class you’re taking while working on your college degree that may derail your timeline for graduation, a poor performance on a half-marathon, or any number of instances. The point is, we are rarely fully prepared for adversity.
And this is where the winners are separated from the losers. Use this unfortunate circumstance to work harder, smarter, and more efficient. I’ve been forced to research news financial options for our business, all while learning the ins and outs of local and state-funded grants and loan programs. If you’re struggling with your classes, use that opportunity to get to know your professor on a more personal level and ask for assistance. Or join a group of people in your class and as for help. You might have similar interests and make new friends. Whatever your circumstance, adversity is not a wall of denial. Instead, it’s an opportunity for you to branch out of your comfort zone and acquire new knowledge and skills.
#2: Forces You to Reevaluate
An unexpected hurdle can be the perfect chance to step back and view your goal from afar. Too often, we get caught up in the “numbers”, or we’re so worried about the specific details, dates, and inner workings that we lose sight of our overall progress. It’s a slippery slope when this happens, because becoming too detail-oriented can actually decrease your productivity, thus quickening your descent towards failure. Adversity allows you to see everything from 10,000 instead of from 10 feet, giving you a clear vision to work with.
Experiencing a setback gives you this opportunity. You can look at what’s working for you, what isn’t working, and how you can better allocate your focus to create an overall collection of work that can help you overcame your obstacles.
#3: Encourages Cohesion and Teamwork
Any goal worth accomplishing requires a team of great people, and a failure or a setback is the perfect way for that team to come together and create viable solutions for the group. When my business reached a stopping point prior to our launch due to an unexpected financial crunch, I worked with my co-founders to discuss possible alternative options, and we came to a conclusive decision as a group. This is in stark contrast with one person making a decision because they feel their title gives them seniority. This hurts not only the team but the future of the project, because it puts one person’s perspective on a higher pedestal than others, which can create an internal divide for your team.
Adversity provides you a window of chance to work together on a project that affects the entire team. Brainstorm, pool ideas, be constructive, and make sure you work together to overcome whatever obstacle you are facing.
#4: Allows for New Opportunities
Often times, our attention can become so tunnel-visioned that we lose sight of the bigger picture. As I mentioned previously, small details tend to overrun our schedules and dominate our time, and we can become determined to see a specific idea through. When this happens, new chances can pass us by, and it’s not until we are denied our initial goal that we have the opportunity to appreciate them. For example, a close friend of my wife’s spent her entire childhood determined to become a surgeon. She spent middle school and high school focused entirely on grades, making sure to take the right classes and apply for scholarships that would allow her the chance to go to medical school. Once she finished her first three years of college, she realized that the costs of medical school was not sustainable for her, and instead of quitting, she refocused herself and change her career focus. She remained in the medical field and is now aiding patients in surgery recovery.
This young woman is a great example of how we must remain focused but also be open to new opportunities. Only be doing this can we take full advantage of adversity when it presents itself.
#5: Guarantees Growth
Finally, facing challenges in regards to your lofty goals means one of two things: First, you do all of the things I’ve mentioned in this post (reevaluate, develop new skills, recognize opportunities, and work as a team) to overcome these challenges. Or second, you close up shop and decide that the goal that you’ve set isn’t worth the hard work. Or in other words, you quit.
I’m reminded of a quote by Thomas Edison. He said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” The work that it takes to push through the difficult times is what bridges the gap between “could have been” and “we did it”. This work forces you to grow as an individual. It’s just inevitable. If you can find it in yourself to put in that extra work, to find creative and ingenious ways to win, you come out of that situation with a deeper understanding of yourself and your work ethic. And in the end, it’s worth every minute.