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So do not GO through them, GROW through them!So do not GO through them, GROW through them!

We all face adversity from time to time, but some of us are able to flourish when things get difficult, while others seem to struggle getting out of bed in the morning. 

It turns out that trauma, loss, setbacks in our lives, typically called ‘adversities’ in whatever form it takes, isn’t actually the thing that makes us “stronger”. All those inspirational quotes with cheesy sunsets about enduring adversity and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” they all kind of mislead us into thinking that just enduring hardship is enough to steel us against future hardship.

That’s not entirely true.

It’s what comes after the adversities that really matters. It’s not the survival that makes you stronger, it’s your response, the work you put in as a result of the adversities that makes you stronger.

Adversities most often shake us to the core. They make us question our fundamental beliefs and question the degree of benevolence and kindness and predictability in the world, and of the people around us.

At that point, it can basically go one of two ways:

  1. You fall off the proverbial mental cliff leading to a lot of dysfunction;
  2. You use this as an opportunity to forge a new set of beliefs and a new worldview that is more resilient and enduring than your previous one 

Think of it like an earthquake that rips through a city. Everything is pretty much destroyed after the tectonic violence wreaks havoc beneath. But after that, buildings can be rebuilt with new knowledge of structural integrity, and people have the opportunity to design more resilient systems to guard against future earthquakes. The city doesn’t just “bounce back” to its previous state, it’s made into a wiser, more resilient city.

And so, when our lives are disrupted by some tectonic-shifting adversity, we have the opportunity to rebuild ourselves.

Even in the worst situation of a loss of a dear one, we’ll carry the memory and the pain, but the question at that point is, how will we rebuild ourselves?

I say, ‘grow through what you go through’!

I recently had the opportunity of moderating a panel discussion on, ‘How to turn adversity into opportunity and emerge stronger every time’, with personalities who have been fierce and fearless in living their lives. These successful people have been unstoppable and have found their way to jump hurdles and navigate around roadblocks that would stop others completely.

Their single, common mantra for all these remarkable individuals and many more successful people to push through adversity and bolster themselves, even when facing disaster, is to see adversities not as an END, but as THE BEGINNING of something new…

So how do you see adversity – something that can help you or hinder you?

I believe that adversity does not build character but actually reveals it. Hard times can bring out your best qualities or it can reveal your cracks that can use some repair. Agree or not, Adversity is one of the most powerful forces in life and many times, it is the situations in life that give us the most pain that leads to the most significant growth.

How you chose to deal with adversity depends on your mindset. In life, things can either happen to you or for you. Your mindset matters and let’s look at a few important lessons on how to overcome adversity.

Start with changing your perspective

Your perspective on adversity changes how your mind will process it.

Have you ever noticed that when you decide to buy a new red car, you suddenly start seeing red cars all over? This is no coincidence. Your mind is constantly scanning everything in your world and actually edits most information out and only serves up the information it thinks you should have. 

When we choose to believe in abundance in the face of adversity, even in the worst cases of unfortunate circumstances, it can help foster inner growth and greatness.

This is no easy task, however. We are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. But if you truly want to succeed in whatever your mind is set on accomplishing, I invite you to flip your perspective.

Take stock of all you’ve been through already

I agree with Author Maya Angelou said during  “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose. I didn’t run away — I rose right where I’d been knocked down. And then that’s how you get to know yourself.”

The hardships you’ve been through can give you confidence, inner strength and resilience to grow through any more that are thrown your way.

Never waste an adversity – Gain valuable insights.

Take a hard look at your planning and preparation. Did you miss something key? Look at your execution. Did you put in consistent effort? Focus on areas that are within your control and ask yourself what more can you do next time.

Do not waste a failure – yours or that of others around. With every mistake and failure, yours and of those around you, learn what to do and also learn what not to do. This is your chance to gain valuable insights; to truly learn from mistakes to improve your chances of success next time.

Accept, make peace, move ahead and reinvent with positivity

The challenges you face in life are not indicators that you aren’t talented, qualified or special enough to attain your goals. They are simply new pieces of necessary information, in disguise. “Necessary” because these challenges will help you to learn more about and therefore how you can better accomplish your goals. It’s important that you consider what mistakes or missteps you might have made.

Take responsibility for your actions and make peace with what happened. Accept the situation for what it is, and then move therefrom. Napoleon Hill, framed it this way: “Every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit”. The true secret to success is the ability to embrace adversity as a chance to change ourselves and our situation.

Have a purpose,

Sometimes things happen that can knock the wind out of your sails. But if you’re working on something meaningful to you, a purpose or a passion, you’ll always find a way back to it, even when times are very tough, until you’re successful.

Oprah Winfrey has overcome great adversity and became a multi-billionaire doing what she loved. As she puts it: “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

Refuse to give up

To overcome a crisis, fully commit to finding a way forward. Approach the problem determined and motivated as something to be overcome and solved, not passively accepted. Sometimes obstacles are a chance to create alternative paths, to dream bigger, to push forward and take even larger leaps.

But whatever you do, you can’t give up. Michael Jordan has famously said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Believe in YOU

Have self-confidence and a strong belief in your capabilities to overcome difficult times. Have an open minded and be willing to leverage your talent, know-how and ingenuity to overcome adversity. If you need more inspiration, consider the story of Walt Disney, who was fired from his first job for not being creative enough.

However, Disney never stopped believing in himself and in his dreams and founded the Walt Disney Company, a multinational mass media conglomerate. He once said, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

You CANNOT choose the situation but CAN choose your response

I choose to see the setbacks of life as a stepping stone. But in order to do so, I knew that I couldn’t let my disappointment, anguish, grief keep me down. I needed to stay in the moment and take it one day at a time and march on. In the end, despite how painful the situation was, it helped me know myself better—I grew a new sense of confidence, a deep love and appreciation for myself and attitude of gratitude. 

I now look back on those periods of my life when I was down and out, where I was so vulnerable as being so valuable. I learned so much and it helped me understand how fragile and fleeting life is and how strong I am to overcome all challenges. I now get to live the rest of my life knowing how valuable that experience was because it shaped me into who I am today. It also allowed me to build a deep sense of emotional fortitude and new self-confidence. I know now that I can face anything in my path with grace and grit.

My biggest adversity, losing my Papa, taught me many lessons, but one of the most important was that a person’s response to adversity is like a muscle or a root—it develops with use, over time. With every difficult situation we face, adversity helps root us down to make us stronger and more grounded for the road ahead. 


Being successful in life is not about getting to the point where there are no challenges—because that is impossible—but rather, becoming comfortable as you navigate the numerous and inevitable changes that come with building something new. 

It’s not about avoiding the storms, but learning how to weather them and come out on the other side a little tougher than before.  Hard times happen. Getting past them is a mental game you can win. The extent that we can experience personal growth after any setback depends a lot on the narrative we construct around this before and after point.

So, the next time you are admiring someone who is successful, remember all that you cannot see: the years (or decades) of extreme challenges that somebody goes through in order to develop something truly great.

In the words of Henry Ford, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it”.


About the author

Kriti Makhija

Chief Financial & Compliance Officer, Genesis BCW. Advisor NASSCOM Community

(Views expressed are personal)