There are over six billion people on the face of the earth. Virtually every one of them is currently enduring some form of adversity, from professional setbacks, relationship problems, and varying degrees of physical or mental illness, to misplaced car keys...
Can you imagine the din to heaven if everyone experiencing some degree of difficulty in life cried out “Why me?” And conversely, the world-wide serenity if each of us merely shrugged and smiled, “Why not me?”
Carrying the World on Your Shoulders?
Coming around to thinking “Why not me?” is part and parcel to acknowledging that you truly aren’t at the center of the universe – that pernicious notion that you are Hercules with the world on your shoulders – and entitled to all the privileges and responsibilities that come with that status.
Changing your perspective and perception to “Why not me?” can provide you with a tremendous sense of inner peace and personal satisfaction.
No More Blaming the World for My Troubles
All of us, sooner or later, need to take the oath: No more blaming the world for my troubles... It takes real willpower to quit this, or any, bad habit (boy, does it ever!), but it can be done.
The question becomes, will we do it?
Given my personal history with alcoholism, the topic of willpower and self discipline holds a special fascination for me. I have discovered that what Eastern philosophies have to teach us is germane to our subject of mastering the power of adversity in daily life.
Mastering the Power of Adversity
If you really want to master the power of adversity, make this your test: gauge your burgeoning mastery by your ability to keep your cool or inclination to lose it in the smallest vexing situations … When dealing with your impatience and frustration at the grocery’s express checkout register, for instance, when the guy in front of you has a full shopping cart.
At my factory, when we’re engaged in engineering a new product, we start small... perfect the manufacturing procedure... and then increase our production volume to commercial levels. In business, this time-tested process is known as “scaling-up.”
Start mastering your adversity by dealing positively with the smallest problems you encounter and then “scale-up” that response to effectively deal with the mega-adversity in your life.
Choosing to Master the Power of Adversity
You see, mastering the power of adversity, first and last, is all about choice. First you choose to do it... and you continue to do it by continuing your series of choices.
If you’re muttering to yourself, “... that’s just semantics... foolish word play...” think again. Your adversity is real. It cannot change. But it can be transformed.
Transforming Adversity Through Acceptance
The Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh makes this point while talking about anger (and adversity and anger are invariably intertwined), in his guide to meditation, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life:
“When anger is born in us, we can be aware that anger is an energy in us, and we can accept that energy in order to transform it into another kind of energy. When we have a compost bin filled with organic material which is decomposing and smelly, we know that we can transform the waste into beautiful flowers... We know that anger can be a kind of compost, and that it is within its power to give birth to something beautiful. We need anger the way the organic gardener needs compost. If we know how to accept our anger, we already have some peace and joy. Gradually we can transform anger completely into peace, love and understanding.”
When is a Problem Not a Problem?
Why view a problem as a problem? Think creatively and banish negativity! What I say to myself when faced with a problem in order to transmute dark energy into the light of creativity (well, sometimes I mutter it, but I say it, just the same), is: “Hain’t we having fun.”
Not ‘Hain’t we got problems...’ but ‘Hain’t we having fun’.
Do you think that’s simplistic?
Well, so is turning on the light when you enter a darkened room, but doesn’t that light makes all the difference in the world to keep you from stumbling!
Changing Problems to Opportunities
If you’re of a certain age, you may remember the comic strip “L’il Abner” and a character called Joe Btfsplk, a sad sack who went everywhere with a dark cloud over his head. Why not step out of that angry cloud into the serene sunlight?
It’s absolutely your choice to do so... All it takes is a change of mindset to see how your journey of resolving your adversity can be as enriching and illuminating as ultimately solving the problem. That’s when you know you’re mastering the power of adversity.
If you view your life and move through the world in this way, you will come to see that there are no problems – merely challenges and puzzles that are sometimes entertaining and sometimes tedious, but always enthralling and filled with opportunities from which you can profit materially, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Press. ©2008. www.redwheelweiser.com
The Power of Adversity: Tough Times Can Make You Stronger, Wiser, and Better
by Al Weatherhead with Fred Feldman.
About the Authors
Al Weatherhead, chairman and CEO of Weatherhead Industries, endured wrenching family estrangement, serious arthritis and heart disease, and is a recovering alcoholic. Instead of surrendering to his adversity, he came to see it as a “blessed enemy” and leveraged it to achieve extraordinary personal and professional success.
Fred Feldman has published 17 novels and co-authored three nonfiction works in the self-improvement and how-to business genres. An award-winning creative consultant, Fred Feldman also travels the country advising Fortune 500 nonprofits.