How to Endure the Struggle and Overcome Adversity

As you have seen, the most important aspects of progress are positive thoughts, social support, and enduring the struggle. This article is about how to endure the struggle. They say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” 

But how do you develop that toughness to keep going? Sometimes you need to move even when you don’t feel motivated at all. How do you keep moving when you don’t feel like it at all?

First, you realize that there will be adversity along the way. There will be setbacks, obstacles, challenges, delays. You already predicted it, you expected it, and when it comes it is no surprise to you. 

Prepare for setbacks and problems. Put a plan in place ahead of time so you will know how to deal with them. Do not become discouraged when you encounter them along the way.

Remember times when you achieved success in the past after enduring hardships. Remind yourself how you were able to overcome obstacles and endure frustration in the past. These memories will serve to be very powerful motivators in getting through the low and slow times.

One of the ways I deal with setbacks, obstacles and problems (I call them “glitches” now) is by staying ahead of my game most of the time. I try to stay ahead of schedule, even if just a little. 

For example, if I want to get 1, 2, and 3 done by Friday, I go ahead and get 4 done by Friday as well. Now I’m ahead of schedule. Psychologically, this helps to ease my anxiety or anticipation of “problems.” It’s like having money in a savings account for an unexpected or emergency situation. 

In the same way, you can put time into your savings account by working ahead on your goals. If a “problem” arises, you know you can handle a delay. If you get sick or just don’t feel like doing anything for a while, you will not veer off schedule too far.

Accepting the Unexpected

Life is about change. It is constantly changing. One day we think we have a handle on life, and the next day the handle breaks. Just when we think we’ve made ends meet, they move the ends. Often, change fires itself at us point-blank. It doesn’t wait until we are ready. 

Therefore, the ability to remain flexible and to moderate and/or modify our goals is a trait worth adopting.

If you have a spiritual belief that the Universe is working for your highest good, it will be much easier to accept things that do not go your way.

We’ve all experienced times when we went through a very painful experience and thought our world was falling apart. Then after time had passed we discovered that experience was a Godsend. 

When someone or something “throws a wrench” in my plans, I try to realize that this may just be a blessing in disguise. This may just be “the best, worst thing” that ever happened to me. I often quote the popular phrase, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

Enduring the struggle requires altering our usual routines and ways of thinking. It often involves change on our parts. It involved a change in our thoughts, our words, our attitudes, our actions, and even our personality. It involves the ability to adapt, modify, and be flexible. It involves a tremendous amount of patience.

The more advantages one has in these areas, the easier it will be for change to occur. Each individual possesses personal traits that will enable him/her to develop motivation and more importantly, to remain motivated, especially in the face of adversity. 

However, fewer advantages should not be used as an excuse NOT to change. Although you may feel, for instance, that you can’t change the fact that you were brought up poor without the advantages that others have, you do have control over your attitude and your perceptions of how much you will allow your past to influence your future. 

In this case, you might want to study examples of people who overcame meagre beginnings and went on to be very successful.

Life is a grindstone, and whether it grinds you down or polishes you up is for you and you alone to decide.

— Cavett Robert

The Real Reason People Procrastinate and How to Overcome It

You may be like most people and struggle from time to time with procrastination. You may wonder why you or others procrastinate.

Procrastination comes in many forms, such as not making decisions, being late to events, not showing up, putting things off till the last minute, not completing projects, not putting things away, not cleaning up after oneself, etc. It is caused by many different things, such as laziness, selfishness, stubbornness, passive resistance, rebellion, fear, perfectionism, etc.

Surprisingly, research shows the number one cause of procrastination is the need to be perfect. Perfectionists suffer tremendous psychological and emotional pain. They are constantly “in a bind.” They are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. They can’t decide and act because there is no perfect decision. 

There are just different choices with different possible outcomes. Perfectionists tend to see the worst thing that could happen in any choice, therefore resisting action based on such horrible possible outcomes. They can’t see any good way to go, so they do nothing.

What procrastinators don’t realize is that NOT making a decision IS making a decision! They are making an unconscious choice to do nothing.

They may give lots of excuses, justifications, and rationalizations for their lack of movement, but the reality is, it was their choice. Being around a procrastinator is just as frustrating (if not more so) as being a procrastinator.

If perfectionism is the cause of the person’s procrastination, this can be handled by asking the person what is their greatest fear or worst-case scenario.

Then, using RBET (Rational Behavioral Emotive Therapy) principles, ask them what the possibility is of that worst thing happening. Reduce their anxiety by talking about their worst fear, the reality of its slim chance of happening, and the reality of it not being so bad if it did happen, thereby desensitizing them to it. 

Then ask them what the possibility is of the best thing happening, and have them describe that. Ask them to take a risk and make a decision.

If the procrastination is caused by laziness, resistance, or some other such reason, simply remind the person of the payoff for doing what they don’t really want to do. We all have things to do every day that we don’t particularly like doing. 

I often don’t feel like getting up when my alarm goes off in the morning.

I often don’t feel like taking a shower and getting dressed, driving to work, doing certain tasks, household chores, etc. Yet I do them because of the positive result I receive for doing them. Sometimes just pointing out the consequences for procrastination vs. getting it done now can give them the extra push. 

Setting firm limits and boundaries, such as stating “I need this finished by 2 PM today” can also be helpful. When verbal limits do not work, putting our limits in writing can add the necessary push. If the person still does not respond, you will need to determine what you will do, such as, “If you are not ready by 6:00 I will go without you.”

A great way to overcome procrastination is to make whatever it is to be done YOUR CHOICE. Make it your choice to do it. Rather than resenting that you must do it, or feeling guilty about the fact that you should do it, simply choose to do it. From all the available possibilities, choose what you know is right. 

Knowing you are doing the RIGHT thing will often overcome all obstacles. Choose, and then put the power and commitment of your intention behind your actions. When you choose to do it, you put yourself in positive control of your own destiny. You make yourself vastly more effective.

I used to be terrified of roller coasters and other amusement park rides. I would get nauseous and sick on these rides. I really wanted to get over my fear because my young daughter loved nothing more than these rides and I wanted to be able to go on them with her. 

Someone told me that the way to get over my fear was to imagine I was in control of the ride – that I was actually the driving force, making the ride go up and down and sideways and upside down. I tried this, and to my amazement, I actually started enjoying the rides!

When you feel that you are forced or obligated to do something, it makes you feel like you have no choice and you will naturally resist it. So choose to do it and free yourself from these useless burdens. Choose to do it not because you must, not because you should, but because you know it is right and best for YOU. 

Every moment is a choice. In every moment, in every situation, make it your choice to do what is best. Make it YOUR choice and you’ll make it great!

Hard work pays off later, laziness pays off now.

— Unknown

Others who Overcame Adversity

As outlined previously, having role models of people who have overcome adversity will greatly assist you in enduring your own struggle.

Recalling these stories is an excellent way to work through blocks in your progress. It is helpful to have a model of a person (or several people) with whom you can identify: someone who has had similar struggles and has overcome them. 

It makes us think if so-and-so could do it, why can’t I? The stories have the effect of making you identify with a community of survivors, of confident people who believed in themselves and achieved success because of their determination. Following are some sample stories:

Thomas Muster, an Austrian professional tennis player, was ranked sixth in the world. He had just won the semi-finals of the Lipton International Tennis Tournament and was scheduled to play in the men’s finals the next day. That night, while putting his tennis bag in the trunk of his car, a drunk driver hit him and shattered his knee so badly that after his surgery, the doctors told him he might never walk again. He did come back, however, and was able to rise back up to his sixth-place ranking in the world. Muster’s story demonstrates the importance of being adaptive as well as determined. Muster’s life was clearly changed by his accident, but rather than succumbing to this setback, he adapted to the new circumstances with even greater determination.

Lance Armstrong was ranked the number 1 cyclist in the world in 1995. He was on his way to reaching his goal of winning the Tour de France bicycling race when, in 1996 at the age of 25, he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. Undergoing major surgery and heavy chemotherapy treatments, he beat the odds and survived. By 1999 he was ready to race again. The sponsors of his old racing team had given up on him, but he never gave up on himself. He convinced another sponsor, the United States Postal Service, to back him and went on to win the Tour de France a record-breaking seven consecutive times. He also started the Lance Armstrong Foundation which, through its sale of yellow “Livestrong” rubber bracelets and other donations, has made tens of millions of dollars for cancer research. Unfortunately, Armstrong was one of those people who sabotaged his success by taking his need to win too far. He rose to fame and dropped to shame.

Ronan Tynan was born with phocomelia, a congenital deformity, yet he trained as a competitive horseback rider and jumper as a boy. At the age of 20, he had both of his legs amputated below the knee and went on to win 19 gold medals and set 14 world records in the Paralympic Games. He obtained several educational degrees, became a medical doctor as well as a world-famous singer and member of The Irish Tenors.

Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.

— Buddha

Using Life Traumas or Difficulties as Motivators

As the anecdotes about Muster and Armstrong exemplify, life traumas have the potential to work as motivators rather than inhibitors. One almost always encounters obstacles in the pursuit of one’s goals. Overcoming obstacles — particularly large ones — proves one’s determination and makes one’s attainment of the final goal that much more meaningful. In Imperfect Control (1998), Judith Viorst writes the following.

Studies of victimization have found that most of us until we have been victimized, share three basic, often unconscious, assumptions:

We assume that we are personally invulnerable.

We assume that the world we live in is comprehensible.

We assume that we are essentially worthwhile.

Victimization deprives us of this sense of certainty.

As the title of Viorst’s book suggests, no one is always in control of life. The assumptions that Viorst lists as characterizing people who have never been victimized suggest an attitude of taking life for granted. 

Although it is certainly not to be wished for, the experience of trauma can thus lead to increased motivation, because it robs one of these assumptions, forcing one to reevaluate what in life is important and what is worth pursuing. Lance Armstrong demonstrates this by saying that having cancer was an unexpected gift – “the best thing that ever happened to me,” because it caused him to rethink his priorities. 

He never lost sight of his goal to win the Tour de France, but he also began to see good health, something he had always taken for granted – and a loving family and good friends — as blessings.

The notion of hardship, as leading to increased motivation, is affirmed in Gail Sheehy’s Pathfinders. She writes:

Repeated to a striking degree in the histories of the most satisfied adults was a history of a troubled period during late childhood or adolescence when many rated themselves as very unhappy. Anyone who overcomes a difficult childhood is likely to acquire that key characteristic–a concentration of optimism–and quite possibly an orientation toward the present and future rather than an emphasis on the past.

It is not what happens to us that influences our motivation so much as our perceptions of what happens and the manner in which we choose to act in response. In terms of thought transformation, perpetual victims see life in terms of “Why me?” and “I can’t, because (whatever).” whereas recovering victims see life in terms of “What can I do with this?” Unhappiness and discomfort can be calls to action.

Furthermore, significant emotional events often are able to change our behaviour (or motivate us to act) more than insight or any other thought. For example, a man has known for a long time that he should write a living will. Yet he puts it off until he is almost killed in a car accident.

Life is like driving down a long, winding road. You never know what the next curve will bring – a beautiful view or a dangerous pothole. One thing is certain though. As long as you’re alive, you’re still moving forward and eventually, you’ll leave the obstacles behind. Unwelcome detours finally do end, and easier stretches lie ahead. You eventually do get to your destination. And you will have learned more from your journeys than from lying around safely at home.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

— Albert Einstein

Exercise: How Am I Doing? Assessing Progress!

Draw a picture – for example, a mountain, a set of stairs, or a thermometer – that will enable you to measure your progress. Write out your goal and the steps involved in reaching it along the side of the picture. 

You can refer back to this picture each week and mark off your progress. As the picture is gradually filled in, you will feel a building sense of accomplishment. 

In order to succeed, you must know what you are doing, like what you are doing, and believe in what you are doing.

— Will Rogers

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