The Comeback (Five Questions To Overcome Adversity)

“Good fortune and bad are equally necessary to man, to fit him to meet the contingencies of this life.”

– French Proverb


I’m not a big tennis fan, but I was amazed at Serena Williams’ recent win at Wimbledon.  I remember reading about her injuries and failing health last year, and whether or not she would even compete again.  Just a few of her setbacks that kept her out of tennis for almost a year:

Cuts on both feet after stepping on broken glass
Two operations on her right foot

Blood clots in her lungs

“I just remember, I was on the couch and I didn’t leave the whole day, for two days. I was just over it. I was praying, like, `I can’t take any more. I’ve endured enough. Let me be able to get through this.'”

– Serena Williams

Now here she is a year later winning a Grand Slam title.

Everyone goes through adversity.  No one is immune or exempt from life’s curveballs. Illness.  Death.  Job loss.  Disappointments.  We’ve all had things happen to us where we look up and say, “Really?  Why me?” In the end, though, it’s how we deal with adversity that matters.

“What can I control?”  Read Eugene O’Kelly’s poignant book, Chasing Daylight, in which he chronicles his last months with terminal cancer.  One way of handling this devastating prognosis was to control what he could control.  That meant taking responsibility for his attitude and planning to live his last days on his own terms.  He couldn’t control the cancer that was killing him but there were other things he could control – and that’s what he focused on.

“What’s great about this?” A question posed by Tony Robbins.  Find the one (or more) bright spot(s) in your dilemma.  What is the lesson to be learned?  What can I take away from this?  How will this make me a better or stronger person?

“Will this matter next year?” I’ve mentioned this in prior posts.  Richard Carlson’s (“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”) lesson.  Right now things are brutal, terrible.  You blew a major presentation.  You broke your leg.  You had a major falling out with a close friend.  One year from now, will this matter?  There will be other presentations.  Your leg will heal.  You can always reconcile a relationship.  Time will pass and so will this moment and event.

“Do I need help?” Find support if you need it.  A close friend, relative, or counselor can offer you guidance and a shoulder to lean on.  If you’re not up to face-to-face conversation, maybe find some material in a book, website, or blog.  You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last person to go through your particular problem.  Learn from others on how to get through it.

“What am I thinking?”  Monitor Your Thoughts.  We can be our own worst enemy.  I recently wrote about my extreme weight gain after tearing an achilles tendon.  I wish I knew then just how much your own thoughts can further derail any hope of a quick recovery. Over and over, I was telling myself that it would be a long recovery, that I may not walk straight again, I’m getting fat, medical bills are piling up, etc.  Negative.  Negative.  Negative.  When these thoughts come, say “STOP!” immediately and replace the thought with something positive.  I’m getting better.  I’m going to get through this.  I’m mentally and physically strong.

Understand that life, in many instances, just happens.  There are times when life just doesn’t make sense.  Those head-scratching times that cause people to question (and sometimes lose) their faith.  Try not to over-analyze and over-think your situation.  There is no universal agenda to punish or torture you.  Just know that you’re fully equipped to handle any situation.  By getting through this tough time, you’ll be even stronger for the next challenge or obstacle.

How have you overcome adversity in the past?