MASTERING ADVERSITY: How to land on Your Feet

“Man Needs Difficulties; they are necessary for health”
Carl Jung
Did you ever notice how a cat always lands on it’s feet, no matter how high the challenge? Cats have an innate ability to meet adversity head-on; to transform a threat into an opportunity.
Have you ever known people who can do the same? No matter what the challenge, they land on their feet. Adversity is perceived not as a threat, but as a gift—the opportunity to develop new solutions. This as opposed to those who live their lives from crisis to crisis.
Living a “management by crisis” lifestyle is sort of like holding your breath underwater…indefinitely. Never coming up for a breather, the pressure mounts and you find yourself suffocating. Curiously, responding poorly to adversity seems so “normal” that many people are completely unaware of the undue stress they are creating. Nevertheless, they continue going about the business of landing on their heads!
Learning to land you your feet requires responding effectively to adversity. There are several dimensions to be considered:


  • Control. What makes a situation “adverse?” For the most part, the anticipation of having little influence on the outcome of an unexpected situation. How much control you feel in a given situation directly affects the extent of the adversity. Of the utmost importance, is scrutinizing the situation to find those elements which are under your control. By focusing upon these, you will avoid wasting time wallow-ing in stress and instead, reduce the magnitude of the situation.
  • Think positive…for a change! Rather than focusing upon all the choices that will fail to change the situation; or focusing on the people whose you believe are responsible for your dilemma, think, “What can I do to make a difference?” How accountable you feel in solving the situation will determine your sense of power over those elements and help overcome self-defeating feelings of helplessness and victimization! It becomes a matter of being proactive—of stepping forward and taking the necessary action to overcome obstacles— rather than attending to overwhelming feelings of immobility. That is, as if your success depends on the behavior of others.
  • Change your perspective. When something bad happens, it seems to dominate all other thoughts. You begin catastrophizing—making the problem larger than life. Time to shift contexts. How long the adversity will endure is related to the context or “frame” in which it is seen. The ability to experience it in another context is crucial to making it smaller. Take a break and go someplace that will cut your troubles down to size. Drive to the beach and look out over the ocean, walk through a park and sit at the base of a large tree, or listen to a great piece of music and become lost in it’s resonance and grandeur. Such an exercise makes adversity seem inconsequential and more manageable. By “getting small” we become able to accomplish big things.

Adversity does not have to create unmanageable stress. Rather, by changing your focus, you can experience it as an opportunity to grow stronger. Exercise is a way of stressing the body. In the beginning, very little exercise will induce muscle fatigue. Often, those just starting out report feeling sore the next day. But after awhile, your body is learns to respond differently to the “stress” of exercise. Muscles tear, heal and grow stronger. The immune system is strengthened, bone density increases as does your general endurance for the activity itself! So the next time adversity strikes, try considering it an opportunity to exercise new choices!