Anyone who has ever tried to achieve anything worthwhile has encountered adversity. Any pathway to success, be it in your job, a sport, a relationship or artistic pursuit, is going to have obstacles. The pathway to success is littered with failure and the hopes of those that gave up when the adversity became too great.
Today I want to explore the importance of learning to push through adversity, what it can teach you and, most importantly, why you need to learn to embrace it.
The times that I have felt like I have achieved the most are immediately after overcoming the greatest challenges in my life. I think this is a hugely important part of facing adversity. It’s important not to shy away from challenges in favor of a more comfortable life.
As an 18 year old, I had a minor injury whilst surfing which lead to a blood clot forming in my vena cava (the large vein responsible for returning de-oxygenated blood to the heart from the limbs). I was told that I needed to have ribs surgically removed to prevent a blood clot in my chest from passing through my heart, which would undoubtedly kill me.
I chose not to opt for the surgery, as I would never be able to perform even the lightest of physical activities with one side of my upper body again. I watched over the next year as my body found a way to adapt to the challenge of circulating blood around the damaged veins. Even though I still can’t surf without risk of further damage, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu more than adequately fills the void left by surfing.
I’ll never forget the relief that rushed over me when the doctors scanned my chest only to find that the clot has dissolved. The chop-happy surgeon was not sated that day my friends.
Anyways, enough of the personal anecdotes for now… I’ve already discussed some other challenges I’ve faced in previous posts. I’d like to provide a chance for us to explore adversity a little more broadly.
Learning to push through.
Like I said at the start, anything worth doing is going to be challenging. It’s part of the beauty of it. We have to embrace adversity and challenges if we want to learn to push through.
Encountering adversity is often a very demanding or stressful experience, no matter the context. Many will simply avoid it, preferring the path of least resistance. The less said about this fixed mindset mentality the better. The kind of people we are interested in are those that encounter adversity and not only weather the storm, but thrive in the face of it. This, in my opinion, is the key to learning to push through. If you can learn how to first survive, you can later learn to thrive.
Resilience is the key, we first have to understand that a state of stress is not a permanent one; that things will change. Despite some situations feeling like life or death at the time; there are actually very few of these moments that are life threatening. Once we can put that into perspective, we start to gain resilience and begin telling ourselves that it will all be okay in the end, despite the outcome.
One of my favorite quotes is from a philosopher called Friederich Nietzche:
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.“
I think this sums up this part very succinctly. If you have a reason to push through, you will find a way. Tell yourself that quitting is not an option; the only way out is to face the challenge head on.
What can adversity teach you?
In short, I believe that adversity is the greatest teacher in the modern world. Every scholar can theorize, every thinker can imagine and we have more access to information than ever before; but nothing surpasses the lessons you learn from trying something new and encountering challenges.
Adversity is a harsh teacher, but I’ve found it to be a fair one. Your ability to overcome adversity directly correlates to the effort that you have put in whilst preparing for those challenges. Sometimes we cannot control when or which challenges are presented to us, but we can control how we deal with them.
Adversity will teach you that you are stronger than you ever imagined. Sometimes when we find ourselves in the midst of a difficult time, we despair. The bottom line is, if you are alive to read this, you have survived 100% of the adversity you have faced in your life so far.
We, as human beings, are so adaptable and resilient in so many ways that we do not even realize. Less than a few thousand years ago, our ancestors braved dark nights with nothing more than wooden spears and fire light. We still have that history within ourselves; an innate ability to adapt and survive to almost any environment presented.
The benefits are too numerous to count when you learn to embrace adversity.
I don’t think any person will be truly happy leading a life devoid of adversity; choosing the path of least resistance to simply be ‘content’ leads to a deep seated dissatisfaction in a person’s psyche that manifests in really unhealthy ways.
We degrade ourselves by avoiding challenges; if we tell ourselves that we are not strong enough to face adversity, then we fulfill our own prophecies about ourselves.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed exploring this particular topic.
Thanks for reading.