A recent trip got me thinking about how a little difficulty in life can actually be good for you. Adversity is a funny thing. It can bring out the worst in people, or it can bring out the best. In many ways, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. You’ll be surprised at how much adversity can teach you about yourself.
Adversity is a strong force that can leave you vulnerable. Adversity can be brutal, but it can also be a catalyst for growth with the right mindset. As a caveat, let me state that I have not had a difficult life by any stretch of the definition. So I am not here to preach about smiling through your trauma and shower you with toxic positivity.
I am here to say that my life’s ups and downs have taught me that it isn’t the end of the world, whatever’s happened. That attitude has helped me step out of my comfort zone and try out new things – some worked out, and some didn’t. Overall, they have prepared me to go with the flow of life and not fret over tiny turbulences. The thought of a difficult time (or failure) has not stopped me from exploring new avenues, and that is my greatest lesson from life.
Coming back to the incident that got me thinking about all this.
As a student, I travelled on a strict budget with friends. As a travel writer, I had travelled on the rough roads that ended in rooms without even a clean loo on many days. When I travelled for leisure, I had decided I wanted to only travel in comfort. In the past decade or so, we have been fortunate enough to be doing well financially, so I saw no reason to travel on a strict budget. After our son was born, he has also travelled with us in style.
Our recent trip to Bihar was comfortable but not exactly luxurious. And then, on the way back from a sight-seeing tour, our vehicle’s wheels got stuck in a ditch in the middle of nowhere. Empty village roads and nowhere to call for help was not the best place to get stuck.
As soon as we stepped out of our vehicle, our son started crying. He was scared and worried we’d be “stuck here forever”. I tried to comfort him, saying it’s just a minor setback, we’ll find a way out. Meanwhile, I tried to show him the fireflies on the side of the road. He had never seen them, so for a minute, he was distracted but was still scared.
Thankfully, some villagers passing by came to our rescue and were able to get a tractor to pull out the vehicle.
This got me thinking about how we want the best for our children, how we protect them from the slightest discomfort and go out of our way to give them everything they want. But is protecting them from all difficulties the best way for them to grow? How will they learn to handle adversities you cannot protect them from?
Of course, I would want a smooth-sailing life. I wouldn’t go looking for a tough time or wish for something unfortunate to happen so that we could learn a lesson from it. But I would encourage our son (and everyone reading this) to step out of his comfort zone more often. It’s the only way to get some gentle practice on dealing with heartbreaks and failures.
Here are three lessons overcoming adversity has taught me:
Learning to think without panic
I know plenty of people who get worked up at the slightest hint of something not going to plan. Not only is it stressful for them, but also for people around them. Mindfulness has been proven to help people think clearly and rationally without getting caught up in the swirl of anxiety and panic. That calm can only come with experience—when you’ve been through difficult times before and overcome them, you know you’ll get through this as well.
Learning to handle it effectively!
Adversity can be hard to face in life, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to learn. It may seem counterintuitive, but being able to bounce back from difficulty is an incredibly powerful skill. When you look at a problem as a thing to be solved instead of something devastating, you can think rationally.
Learning to overcome fear
Fear can be a paralysing emotion. It can hold us back from achieving our goals and reaching our full potential. Fear can be overcome by taking action despite our fear. I know people afraid to try a new dish because they’re too used to their regular fare, or move to a new city because they fear they might not like it. They don’t even consider the possibility that they might not only like it but love it.
The only way to overcome hardship is by learning from it. You can’t let negative experiences define you, but instead, use them to make yourself a better person. The more you reflect on your life and learn from your mistakes, the better prepared you will be for future challenges. I am not saying that it’s always easy to find the silver lining of an unfortunate event or circumstance. Still, with time most things will eventually become easier to deal with after some reflection.
This is a poem I’ve had in my diary for over two decades now. It fully encapsulates the mindset you need to have to overcome adversity and come out smiling at the other side.
Life is not meant for laughter
To be a constant thing,
For if there was no winter
What heart would yearn for spring.
For who would know the beauty
That followed after rain,
If the storm clouds did not scurry
Across the dusty plain.
For life is meant for sorrow
To make the sun worthwhile,
And I who weep remember
And in remembrance, smile.Mary Lytton Summers