“Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.” – John Wooden
John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, has a lot of inspirational quotes, and this is one of my favorites. Attitude and mindset go a long way toward success in any arena. These attributes make all the difference when overcoming adversity.
So, how DO you make the best of how things work out? That can be tricky, because adversity is sometimes enough to shut down the action-taking part of our brain.
Today, we’ll look at how to maintain a positive attitude and a goal-oriented mindset in order to overcome adversity.
What is Adversity?
Adversity is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune”. Basically, if things aren’t going your way, you are experiencing adversity.
As I write this, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country was shut down for a couple of months, and in some states, even longer. Now, many businesses, including gyms, have reopened. However, a lot of businesses and families are under financial stress as a result of the pandemic. The gymnasts are back in the gym now, but they and their coaches have had to take several months off training. Some gymnasts are dealing with injuries or fears because of extended time away from the gym.
Navigating life during the pandemic is a prime example of overcoming adversity. But even when there isn’t a global disaster occurring, there are many times in life when conditions won’t be ideal. Everyone faces challenges sooner or later, so it’s good to be prepared for the inevitable difficulties to come.
Mindset Shifts for Overcoming Adversity
1. Reflect on your situation.
Take a look at what happened prior to the current situation. Were you unprepared in some way for this hardship? Could something be improved to prevent this from happening again? In the case of the pandemic, obviously no one could have predicted that this would happen. But it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. Now’s a great time to create one!
If there is something that could have been done differently, take an objective look at it. Make a note of the processes that need to be improved. Think ahead and identify other potential stumbling blocks, then add solutions to your plan.
2. Look at adversity as an opportunity.
Sure, there are obstacles. But looking ahead to the opportunities available can help to keep a positive attitude. Think about how great it will feel to accomplish something instead of dwelling on misfortune. There are many stories out there about people who used down time to achieve a major goal. If the gym is closed, focus on the conditioning and come back stronger than ever. If being out of the gym has caused lost skills or fears, spend time at home doing visualization and basics. Also, someone else may benefit from hearing about your struggles. There is ALWAYS something positive that can come from a negative situation.
3. Focus on what you can control.
The famous Serenity Prayer reads, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” There will always be unknowns in life, and often it’s difficult to predict what they will be. Focusing on the things that are under your control can improve your mental health and overall well-being. Take a look at the current circumstances. Make a list of the things that you can control. Then, take action on those items.
Action Plan for Overcoming Adversity
1. Remember your WHY.
It’s easy to get down when facing difficult circumstances. Remembering why the goal is important is the first step toward making progress again. Think about why you are working toward this goal in the first place. If it’s something that inspires you, or that you are passionate about, it will be much easier to jump back in and do the work.
On the flip side, maybe your goals have changed. During this time of reflection, update your goals and make sure that each one is meaningful and important. Start with the end result in mind, and make a plan to get there.
2. Cultivate the opportunities.
As stated above, there is always opportunity to be found in the midst of adversity. Find that opportunity, and devote your hard work toward making it happen. A gym owner might be disappointed that the gym had to close down during quarantine. But there’s no better time to perfect lesson plans, do a deep cleaning, learn some new drills to teach, or update safety protocols. A gymnast could be frustrated that her newly-learned back handspring on beam has disappeared. But maybe she learned a new dance series during quarantine, or perfected her front handspring. Sometimes, looking outside the box can bring unexpected successes.
3. Don’t give up.
If there’s ever a time to work hard, it’s during a time of overcoming adversity. Determine what needs to be done to work toward the end goal (whether it is the same goal or a new one). Next, break the work down into manageable steps. Then, figure out how much time is necessary each day or week to get the work done. Block that time out on your calendar, and take that first step to get back on track. Getting started can be the hardest part, but with a plan in place, it will be much easier.
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What to Do if You Feel Stuck
Sometimes dealing with adversity just doesn’t seem possible. Taking action seems unsurmountable. If none of the advice in this article is working, try breaking it down into tiny little baby steps. Desmond Tutu is quoted as saying, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.” This means that it’s impossible to take on a big, overwhelming task all at once. One little step at a time, consistently, will gradually build momentum toward a bigger goal.
If it feels like even one baby step is too much, consider talking things over with a trusted friend, coach, or therapist. Getting another person’s perspective is often enough to make that little shift in our own thinking.
Overcoming adversity is a life skill that’s important to learn, as all of us will encounter difficult situations throughout life. To move forward, first work on the necessary mindset shifts. Next, set a plan of action and put in the consistent work. Don’t forget, engage another person to help if you feel stuck. Soon, you’ll be surprised by how much progress you have made!
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