Facing Adversity: What Is Your Reaction?

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Adversity comes in many shapes and sizes and it affects each and every one of us every single day of our lives. It might be a minor problem like your alarm clock didn’t go off and you over-slept by 10 minutes, now you have to figure out how to get to work on time. Or it might be a full-blown catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti and now you have to figure out how to remake your entire life. Adversity is an unexpected bump in the middle of your well worn path and it’s your reaction when facing adversity that determines whether you’ll make it over the hump.

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reaction when facing adversity

There are three types of adversity:

  1. Problems that occur, over which you have no control, such as acts of God or the death of a loved one.
  2. Problems that occur as a result of a decision you made, such as choosing to choosing to sleep in an extra 30 minutes when you know it will make you late for work.
  3. And problems that occur because of something someone else did, like the day your wife forget to fill the gas tank and didn’t tell you about it before you left for work.

No matter the cause of the adversity, though, your first inclination will be to look for someone or something to blame. Even if that someone turns out to be yourself. Most of the time, when something goes wrong the best way to find a solution is to find out how the problem started. If your car stops dead in the middle of the road, you look for the source of the problem – what went wrong?

But placing blame when you’re faced with adversity doesn’t help you handle the situation. What good does it do to blame your wife for not putting gas in the car? You’re still faced with adversity – you still need to find a way to get to work. It doesn’t do you any good either to blame yourself for sleeping in – you’re still faced with adversity because you still need to find a way to get to work on time.

Placing blame is simply a reaction to adversity, one of many reactions you might have, including anger, frustration, fear, etc. But your gut reaction isn’t going to help you overcome whatever adversity has plopped down in your path. If you want to get over that hump, you need to stop reacting and take action.

Blame and cause are two different things. Yes, your wife forgot to put gas in the car but the reason your car is dead in the road is because it’s out of gas. That’s the problem you need to fix. Stop worrying about your forgetful wife and fix the problem.

If you find yourself constantly surrounded by turmoil, take a look at your reaction when facing adversity. Too many people get mired in the past when it comes to dealing with adversity. You can never change the past, you can’t reach back in time and change a decision you made. What’s done is done and it never helps to dwell on it. Now you need to take action and overcome this obstacle.

The best way to solve a problem is to take a look at what caused it. Not WHO caused it or WHY. But what is the reason this problem occurred? If you realize it’s a mechanical failure then great, fix it and move on. If you realize a problem occurred because of something someone else did, that’s also great. Fix it and move on.

But what often happens is that you realize the problem occurred because you made a mistake, you made a bad judgment call or a bad decision. And then you have to sit around and mope about it and get depressed and beat yourself up. And before you know it, you’ve either blown the problem all out of proportion or it’s grown on it’s own while you were stewing over there in the corner. Now it seems like an insurmountable obstacle.

How you react to adversity is crucial to your success. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur, working alone, trying to get your business off the ground. You don’t have time for pointing fingers and assigning blame. You don’t have time to spend on mulling over the past. Adversity can come from many different directions but you’re the only one who can make it disappear. When adversity rears its ugly head you need to take action to overcome the obstacle it’s placed in your path and get back to business.

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  1. David

    Steven, I prefer having someone else to blame. I’m not that interesting in solving the problem. I am more interested i placing blame. That way – they get to solve the problem and I can relax!

    Just joking.

    But on the other hand, there are many times when I do assign blame and that would be a hard habit to break. Sometimes it is someone’s fault and you should let them know.

  2. Dmitriy

    I try not to blame anybody. Mostly it’s my fault that I’ve got problems, so I try to solve them with myself. If God acts, as you said, then I can do nothing. What does not kill me makes me stronger.

    1. Joseph

      That’s actually a great altitude to have towards life, what really doesn’t kill you should not discourage you, it should instead encourage and make you stronger.


  3. I really enjoyed this post. It’s taken me many years to not be so quick to react to adversity. I find if I keep my focus in check, and not dwell on negative things, I deal pretty well with most if the adversities that visit me.

  4. Olof

    As a therapist I help a lot of people deal with just this. How it´s not what happens but how you react to what happens that matters. Not who did it but how you are going to react to the problem. That all we have is control of ourselves and that is it. Building on that is how you learn to take control of your own life and stop blaming others.

    1. Joseph

      It’s great to hear from someone who helps lots of people cope with this. I do agree with you.

  5. Joseph

    Thanks Steven for giving us a lesson full of reason that the best way to solve a problem is to take a look at what caused it and fix it rather than looking back at the problem and starting a blame game.

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