Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. ––Napoleon Hill
The word “gift” is probably the last word that comes to mind when one experiences adversity. Yet, how many times have you heard someone—a friend, a family member or perhaps even yourself—say something along the lines of “at the time it was an awful and terrible experience but in retrospect, it was all for the best”? No one really manages to make it through life without facing a certain amount of adversity. The key really is learning how to cope with it, learn from the experience and grow.
I recently heard an interview on National Public Radio with Dr. Norman Rosenthal, best-selling author and psychiatrist. His new book is titled The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks and Imperfections. Dr. Rosenthal talked about his personal experience dealing with an adverse situation that many, including myself, have faced in recent years—the loss of a job. Very few things can be as crushing to someone as losing their job. I never thought it would ever happen to me, but it did. I loved my work. I had always been that person who happily came into the office earlier than most and was often the last to leave. I had always been promoted to positions with more responsibilities in leadership and management and I welcomed the additional challenges. Then, one day, management changed and just like that my work was on the chopping block. In just a few minutes, one of the euphemisms (reduction in force, restructuring, realignment, etc.) was used to tell me that I was being laid-off and I no longer had a job. The sting was painful.
Now I can look back at the situation with grace and appreciation and see it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Losing my job gave me the freedom to move on and explore new paths. I became an independent consultant and I enjoyed my new found time to pursue and explore interests that had long been neglected. I could reflect on what I thought was important, what would bring me happiness and prioritized accordingly. I had it all wrong before—work was no longer my priority. My husband and I decided to start a family and I now have a beautiful little boy who never ceases to take my breath away. I am thankful. This journey has been a blessing and my adversity, a gift.
Dr. Rosenthal spoke of the concept of Post Traumatic Growth that comes out of a new positive psychology. The goal is to try and understand the joyful and good aspects of human behavior. When asked how one can make post traumatic stress turn into post traumatic growth, Dr. Rosenthal offered the following tips that can help people take advantage of adversity:
- Really accept the adversity that has happened. If you suffer a loss, try to deal with it head on, for what it is. We often go into denial to ward off the painful feelings associated with the adversity. Instead, we should come to terms that it really has happened.
- Analyze the situation. Every adversity is different and you must respond accordingly.
- Create a narrative. Tell a story. A great way to analyze the confusing aspects of an adverse situation is to talk things through and tell a story, but the key is not to tell the story the same way each time. Every time you tell the story, see different things, find and explore different angles because that will mean you’re continually processing the adversity in new ways.
I hope you’re able to find the joyful aspects of any adversity that has come your way and incorporate gratitude into your everyday existence.
One other unexpected benefit I received from my experience was more time to challenge myself to write. After some nudging and encouragement from a friend, I decided to start this blog. Building the Petit World Citizen community has been a pleasure and I thank you for being a part of it and sharing this space with me. I very much appreciate those of you who follow this blog and comment, but I also appreciate those of you who don’t. I know you are there, reading and traveling along this journey with me. This gives me inspiration to continue. As always, if you have questions or topics you’d like for me to explore, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Feel free to comment below or contact me by email.