Not All Challenges Are a Closed Door: Handle Adversity One Step at a Time

7/5/2015 1:32:33 PM

If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

– Winston Churchill
What’s your reaction when the going gets tough?  Do you just keep trudging right along, or are you more likely to go back to bed and hope that when you wake up, it will all have blown over?
There’s something to be said for both of those approaches in their own way and at the right time. Sometimes we need to ride out a trial or a sticky situation and let it resolve itself. Other times we need to buckle down, roll up our sleeves, and attack the problem.  

Easier said than done?  Not necessarily.  

When our most difficult trials occur, such as the loss of a job or the end of a cherished relationship, it’s easy to get consumed with hopelessness and despair. These emotions are often followed by panic and a complete sense of failure. People in this situation have difficulty seeing the other side of the valley. It’s a terrible place to be. 

There are two key ways to avoid this trap. One involves perspective—considering that some good may come out of this experience. At least give it a chance! Perhaps an even better job opportunity might come your way. You may find a new friend or love interest that’s a better match. Who knows? The fact is a change in one’s direction often requires a catalyst that’s negative in the short term. So, it pays to consider whether it’s a new beginning or an important growing lesson.

The second key is to develop a step by step plan and take things one day at a time. Rather than focusing so much on the outcome (which often seems insurmountable), divide it up in pieces and work the plan. This way, the situation doesn’t seem so overwhelming and you’ll build momentum with each small success. As you make progress, you become more optimistic and perform better. There’s nothing like seeing some light at the end of the tunnel to help you regain hope. 

A perfect example comes from the corporate world where managements are controlling their headcount (and payrolls!) like never before, even despite posting record profits. Many excellent and dedicated workers have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This is extremely painful because of the economic hardship and the loss of the daily contacts with colleagues and friends. People tend to react to this situation in one of two ways. Some fall into a deep trap of bitterness and self-pity, waiting for something good to come along. Others use this as an opportunity to consider new career possibilities and/or to improve their skills. Then, they actively seek out new employment situations, often finding them superior to their former job. The same is true for younger people who don’t make the team or get into the college of their dreams. 

You’d be amazed at how often these kinds of disappointments prove to be the catalyst for a better future. By taking the process step by step, you sustain a positive attitude during your transition period and prepare yourself better for the rest of your life. And this doesn’t just go for job losses; the same principle applies in many other challenges you may face in your life time. 

When a trial strikes or your circumstances throw you for a loop, think about ways to slow down, step back, and focus on what (and who) is important. Remember that time heals pain, and, as Scarlett O’Hara famously said as she stood on the smoldering ruins of Tara in Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”
When you go through an especially tough time, are you able to take things one step at a time? Do you see how progress helps improve your confidence and attitude? How can you encourage someone around you with this perspective? Please share your stories, insights, and questions with us; we’d love to hear from you!
Photo credit:, Stuart Miles