October 07, 2020
When I was still a student, most of the adversities in my life were homeworks, quizzes, tests, projects, and other academic requirements; not to mention my other extracurricular responsibilities in different non-academic organizations, as well as my challenges at home.
Fast forward to my life right now, I came to realize that this pandemic emphasized the reality that adversity is a huge part of life. When I was younger, adversities were just occasional challenges that I had to overcome. As I grew older, adversity became something that I had to learn to live with.
I had a conversation with a student who was telling me about the challenges he faced in his online classes. Aside from the intermittent internet connection, he has also been struggling to focus because of the different distractions at home and within himself.
After listening to him, I asked a simple question that could help him turn his current situation around: What are you going to do about it?
Whether you are currently enrolled or you’re taking the gap year, we know that everyone is facing their own challenges.
However, while everyone goes through adversities, not everyone grows through them. In the face of adversity, growth is not an exclusive experience for the strong-willed. It is not an issue of how strong or how weak a person is, but about how willing they are to grow stronger or to outgrow their own weaknesses.
I believe that asking the question, “How do you feel?” is as important as, “What are you going to do about it?”
While the former question helps us assess our current condition, the latter encourages action and points us to our desired destination.
I would like to call it “the shift”—the transition from where we are to where we want to be.
A person who currently faces adversity would most likely focus on what is in front of him. There is nothing wrong with that, since adversities tend to demand our time, energy, and attention. But it won’t do us any good if we focus too much on our adversity instead of shifting our focus to our next steps. Adversity is a part of life, but it is not all of life.
In order to turn our adversities into our advantage, we must learn to SHIFT.
1. Seek help from a coach or a mentor. A coach or a mentor is someone you go to for wisdom and sound advice in decision-making. He or she can also be someone who looks after your well-being. Adversity demands energy and depletes our motivation, so we need people who would encourage us to keep pushing forward.
We need someone who will help us look at life with objectivity and optimism in order to know what steps to take. Adversity may disorient our focus and emotions, which is why we need someone who will realign us to the right direction.
2. Hone your leadership skills. Great leaders are forged in the crucible of adversity. Times of crisis have a way of developing strong leaders. Adversity can grow your skills in ways that comfort and convenience can’t.
The pandemic may have multiplied the challenges ahead of us, but it also opened up opportunities for our leadership skills to grow. Use your challenges to grow in self-leadership.
This is all for our benefit, because whether we embrace it or not, all of us would eventually lead others. Every aspect of our lives requires a certain level of leadership. The more we grow in leadership, the more we become able to turn our adversity into our advantage.
3. Instill a resilient attitude in yourself. Resilience has so much to do with what happens inside us than what happens around us. Though some studies claim that resilience can be grown from the outside-in, it must actually start from the inside out. Our mindsets have a major role in this shift. You can read more on this topic in this article.
To “instill” means to gradually but firmly establish a desirable idea or attitude into a person. Instilling resilience is like engraving an image onto a metal object. It requires high temperature or high pressure and must be done “gradually and firmly” in order to ensure that the object will bear the image. Amazingly, this process is the old word for the word “character.”
Adversity is not the engraving tool; it is the source of heat and pressure. Just like in honing our leadership skills, adversity is the painful process of establishing a resilient attitude in us.
4. Focus on what you have gained rather than what you’ve lost. While it is true that this pandemic has taken a lot of valuable things from us, it is also true that we have gained something valuable. This is not to invalidate the pain of losing something or someone important. But we can use that pain to launch us forward instead of holding us back.
A student once asked me, “How do I make plans when there are so many things that I do not know?” I told him, “Make a plan by focusing on what you know and what you have.”
Adversity may take a lot from us, but it must not stop us from gaining from it.
5. Take others with you. In the past, leadership was viewed as a one-man act, but recent studies show that leadership has become more about teamwork. This is starting to become the norm. Leadership is always plural. Leaders who have gone through great adversities acknowledge that they wouldn’t have been able to go through their challenges without the support of their key relationships—friends and family.
Don’t let adversity take away the joy of journeying with others. Take others with you, and you’ll realize that no matter how hard life may be, it can become an adventure when you include others with you.
Adversities are temporary, but they can affect us for a lifetime. A shift in our perspective can make all the difference in our lives and in others. May we become leaders who inspire and motivate others by turning our adversities into our advantage.