How to grow from adversity

In 2014, Rosie Batty became a household name in Australia following the tragic and brutal death of her son at the hands of his own father. Since then, she has championed the domestic violence cause with dignity and courage. Rosie mourns her son everyday yet she continues to speak out and fight for tougher laws and reviews around this once taboo issue.

Rosie’s incredible resilience is an inspiration to us all and shows us what can be achieved when we refuse to give up.

While, hopefully, none of us will ever have to confront that degree of extreme trauma, we will all face some sort of trauma or major obstacle at various points in our lives.

Sam Cawthorn - Founder CEO, Speaker Institute

Sam Cawthorn - Founder CEO, Speaker Institute

Types of challenges

A challenge is a challenge no matter how big or small. However, what may seem manageable to some can seem insurmountable to others. Some of the major challenges we may face include:

  • Traumatic events – such as the death of a loved one, family break-ups, or accidents and injuries.

  • Chronic health problems

  • Financial woes

  • Job loss

  • Conflicts with others

  • Injustices done to us

  • Major disappointments

How we respond to them dictates what happens next. Do we give up or keep going?

The good news is, most of us keep going. Often, just having the belief that we can get through because we have done it before (or others have done it before us) becomes self-fulling.

 “For they can conquer who believe they can”


The qualities of resilience

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines resilience as, “The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress”, and, “An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.

We humans have an inbuilt capacity to adapt to change but sometimes we forget how to use it. Before we can re-learn this valuable skill, it helps to understand the qualities of resilience.

Studies show that resilience is built from many elements including:

  • Having a well-developed sense of self-awareness, especially of our own thought processes.

  • Having a strong connection to others. Being empathetic and compassionate.

  • Being deeply committed to improvement. Having goals. Believing that change is possible.

  • Being in control of our emotions and behaviour and aware of how they affect others.

  • Not having a ‘victim’ mindset or blaming yourself when bad things happen.

  • Believing that the things that happen to us are usually not permanent or personal.

We are stronger than we think

Most of us know about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but most don’t know about Post-Traumatic Growth (sometimes called adversarial growth). This is a well-documented outcome of trauma or adversity.

Post-Traumatic Growth can be proven by analysing individual psychological and physical measures after the adversarial event. In the weeks after the event, we are likely to experience symptoms such as despair, anxiety and depression; however, after several months, our measures usually return to normal. After a year, many of us show results that are even stronger than before.

 “If it doesn’t kill me, it makes me stronger”


What to do when you encounter adversity

Firstly, let me say that there is no easy fix or ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to overcoming adversity. However, there are steps you can take to be ready for it whenever it hits.

Just as being physically fit helps us recover when we experience illness or injury, being mentally fit helps us overcome adversity.

Some of the things you can do to help build your mental muscle-power include:

  • Look after your mental and physical health. Eating well, having a good work/life balance, and learning to manage stress are all essential practices.

  • Maintain perspective when things don’t go as planned. Avoid catastrophising (perceiving problems as being bigger than they really are).

  • Learn to listen to and understand your self-talk. Your inner voice is a big influence on your self-confidence and self-esteem, so if you don’t really understand how it works, you won’t know how to change the conversation.

  • Consider the situation from different viewpoints. Are there any benefits that can come of it?

  • Find ways to learn from the experience whenever you encounter a set-back.

  • Be clear on your own values and goals. When something blocks your path, it really helps to shift your focus back to what is most important to you, such as your family and friends, or your purpose in life.

These skills can be used in almost any situation. Your personal life for sure, but also in your school or workplace. As a manager, teacher, or parent, you can even learn to help those in your care develop resilience skills so they are better prepared to handle adversity whenever and wherever it happens.*

Nothing in life is risk-free. So, instead of being afraid to try, we can all learn how to cope with life’s challenges and continue to pursue our dreams, even if we change direction along the way.

Call to action…

One man who has shown amazing resilience after being pronounced dead following a major car accident is Sam Cawthorn. Sam was in hospital for many months and was left with an amputated right arm and a permanent disability in his right leg.

To hear Sam share his journey, listen to his podcast interview on The Mentor List. Sam has turned his life around and is now an authority in personal corporate resilience, a best-selling author, a professional speaking coach, a philanthropist, and was also awarded Young Australian of the year. He even defied the odds and became a father again after his accident.

Sam’s story is simple, yet his message demonstrates the awesome power and strength found within the human spirit when faced with the choice to continue living as a victim of a tragic accident or to make a choice to seize the opportunity of ‘life’.

Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List.

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