Rebounding After Adversity

by terrywelford

in Change, Leadership, Motivation

tree bending in windIt was Longfellow who wrote, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” Most of us are touched by rainfall – sometimes a deluge – at some point in our lives. It could be the loss of a job or loved one, a life-changing diagnosis or injury, a breakup or a business that fails. At times like this, we need to call on our inner strength as well as outside resources to pick up the pieces and move forward – to rebound. Think of trees bending in the wind during a fierce storm – they bounce back.

We can learn how to bounce back from adversity. It’s possible to change your perspectives and responses by modifying your thoughts and actions in several areas. People who successfully rebound from hardship, loss and adversity practice the following ten strategies:

  1. Positive approach to change – Engage change directly rather than denying, fighting or working against it. Adapt to it and find a way to make change work for you. Decide what you can and can’t control and spend energy accordingly. Focus on what you can do, not on what others are doing to you.
  2. Continuous learning – Acquire new skills and be able to apply them during times of adversity. At the end of each day, write down one thing you learned or one thing you knew already but had confirmed.
  3. Sense of purpose – Develop a “personal why” that gives your life or work meaning or helps you put it into a larger context. A clear sense of purpose helps you to see setbacks from a broader perspective.
  4. Personal identity – List all the different roles you play in your life. Think about how each of these roles has value. Each role is just one facet of your identity. Understanding this will help you rebound during difficult times or adversity in any one role.
  5. Relationships and networks – Relationships create a strong base of support. Cultivate a broad network of personal and professional relationships.
  6. Optimism – People who have a sunny outlook do better at managing crises. Negative thinking is just a bad habit. You can change your mindset. Find the “silver lining”:  view negative events as an opportunity to better yourself or become a better person. Ask yourself: “What can I learn from this experience?”
  7. Healthy habits – A good diet, adequate sleep and regular physical activity provide crucial buffers against adversity. Practice the “Power of Three” – what three small changes can you make this week that will lead to healthier living?
  8. Flexibility – Adaptability is crucial in rebounding from adversity. It involves accepting the need to shift and redefine your direction, focus and vision as you learn new information. Observe how you react to unexpected obstacles you encounter. Identify what you could do differently to demonstrate more flexibility.
  9. Organizational skills – Personalized methods, structures and systems help to organize and manage confusion, chaos and adversity. Develop stable structures to ride out a turbulent storm. If necessary, focus on one hour, one day, or one week at a time.
  10. Problem solving skills – The capacity to effectively think through and resolve problems and obstacles help us to rebound. Try to view problems as challenges and opportunities. Collaborate with others to find solutions. Don’t be afraid of creative, out-of-the-box thinking.

Think of the ability to rebound as a muscle that can be strengthened. Just as you would lift weights to build your muscles, practice the strategies outlined above to build your rebound muscles. Then, when rain inevitably falls, you’ll be prepared with the skills you need to deal with it and move forward.  

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