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  • Writer's pictureMarc Bitanga

How to Deal with Adversity

I recently watched a documentary where Phil Stutz, a therapist & coach asserts that pain, uncertainty & hard work are the unavoidable constants in everyone's life. Stutz believes that learning to master or deal with tough times is the path forward.

It is definitely easier to complain. No one would blame you if you did.

But what good would that do?

I'm writing about this since all of us have had to deal with it since the pandemic. I've personally faced all three at once for several months. And I HAD to figure it out or else it would have led me on a downward spiral.

Phil Stutz isn't the only one who says embracing negative situations is necessary.

Professor Andrew Huberman, famed neuroscientist & podcaster goes even one step further. He says the key to unending motivation is to train our mind to enjoy these events in our life. To actually psych yourself up to teach your mind to look forward to them. The science behind it is that your mind begins to associate pain and hard work with a reward of a dopamine rush.

David Goggins, ex-Navy Seal & author/speaker, had a deeply traumatic childhood and endured the pain of Navy Seals BUDS training. He credits his success in life and in the military to his ability to “enjoy” periods of pain & uncertainty. “Enjoy” hard work.

In his book, Can't Hurt Me, Goggins talks about an episode during his Navy Seals initiation, where drill sergeants made it their mission to break new recruits and make training so difficult for them that they'd quit. We're talking about being out in the cold ocean and lifting logs as a team on a sandy wet beach, doing this 24/7. Goggins psych'd himself up to actually enjoy the pain that even the sergeants stopped picking on him because they realized they couldn't break David.

Ryan Holiday, author and stoic, borrowed the phrase "The obstacle is the way." from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It means, there's no getting around it, so you might as well get used to it and deal with it productively.

How should we deal with tough times in life?

I’ve personally contemplated with this concept of productively processing pain & uncertainty for some time now. And hard work? Hard work isn't new to me as my parents drilled work ethic into my DNA.

My take on enduring pain, uncertainty & hard work is to have a “why cry over spilt milk” perspective on these three elements.

I’m not claiming to be a guru that’s wielded mastery over them in my life, I’m still very human. As an example I still struggle to yield to uncertainty.

But I would say that I have certainly gotten better at it over these last few years.

Here’s what I’ve found that works for me:

Mindset: "Why cry over spilt milk?"

Mountaineers have a saying: “The mountain doesn’t care.”

It basically means, what is the point of complaining?

Complaining doesn’t make your situation any better. If anything it makes it progressively worse.

If I can’t do anything about how I got into this situation, I might as well move forward to get through it.

Realize that it's temporary

Our minds trick us into believing that when bad things happen to us, that it is now our reality forever.

That's why I always remind myself that if I'm in a bad spot, that it won't last. And that a good day will come again.

I believe in this so deeply, that I had it tattooed on my leg as a constant reminder.

Gratitude for everything you already have

Counting our blessings makes us realize how much good is around us.

And when you list out all your blessings, you begin to realize that life is still good and the sky isn't falling.

And a bad day, or a bad week is just that. It doesn't mean we have a bad life.

Acceptance of the situation

I've learned that when I try to ignore my situation or my emotions it just makes things worse.

Remember when you were a kid and started to cry when you fell or hurt yourself? And you waited for someone to pick you up, but no one came, so you just wiped your tears and moved on?

The simple act of accepting our situation acknowledges that it’s there. Then mentally a switch flips in our mind to get us to dust things off and just keep moving forward.

Find the lesson to be learned

I believe that when something negative happens to us, the universe is trying to teach us something.

So I seek it out.

I always try to use a bad situation as a learning opportunity. I literally ask myself, "what am I supposed to learn from this?".

Tough times are unavoidable.

If you watch the news these past few years, tough times keep coming at us in waves.

So we might as well learn to deal with it.

Now, I’ll turn the tables around.

How do you deal with pain, uncertainty & hard work?

Would love to hear from you and to learn from your own perspective on this.

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