Wisdom From Adversity

From the Harvard Business Review – March 2007, with the same title…

Wisdom From Adversity

A traumatic event forces you to rethink your life and your beliefs. Since my injury, I’ve spoken with numerous people who have gone through crises, and certain themes have repeatedly come up. Some are truisms that we’ve known since childhood, but they don’t really take root until you face a serious challenge to your identity. Below, I’ve summarized a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

You can’t know what will happen tomorrow – and it’s better that way.

If we knew all the good and bad things in store for us, we would probably focus on preventing the bad. It’s far more rewarding to engage with the present.

You can’t control what happens, just how you respond.

Successful people are accustomed to being in control, but adversity strikes unannounced. The only way to influence the outcome is by focusing on the things you have the power to control: the choices you make in response to life’s events.

Adversity distorts reality but crystallizes the truth. It reinforces your fears but also puts an emphasis on what matters right now. Adversity also sheds light on your beliefs: It shows you what is important to you, who your friends are, what you are capable of, and what your true goals and ambitions are.

Loss amplifies the value of what remains.

It pushes you (and may force you) to take stock of what you have, allowing you to liberate yourself from petty or irrelevant matters and celebrate your assets.

It’s easier to create new dreams than to cling to broken ones.

Adversity alters relationships and may even ruin them. It destroys some dreams and renders others unlikely. Certain things will be irrevocably lost, and pretending otherwise is foolish. But adversity also provides an opportunity to houseclean – to pack old dreams away and make room for new ones.

Your happiness is more important than righting injustices. Anger is a normal response to a traumatic event, but attempting to assign blame or seek justice is draining and usually futile. It’s more fruitful to release the anger and move forward with your life.

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