Monday, May 01, 2006

Get Over It: Overcoming Adversity

The best athletes recover faster from adversity than the good or average athletes. All athletes must overcome adversity like a bad call, bad conditions, a sickness, fatigue, a personal loss, etc. And yet, some people win and win and win no matter what.

Take Tiger Woods for example. Golf is the kind of sport that requires extraordinary concentration, focus, and skill. No team exists to lift a golfer from the depths of bad play. No batters to pick up the slack. No other superstars make extra baskets. It is all golfer, all the time. Yet Tiger seems to thrive on adversity. He makes a mistake and follows it with a great shot. He has the best "save shot" in the golf business. He jokes that it's because he has the most opportunity and that might be true, too. He doesn't play safe. He plays aggressive and that can land him in the tall grass of trouble. Yet, he comes back and contends.

Tiger recovers when others give up or get discouraged. When others get deflated, he gets analytical. He's emotional but keeps a tight reign on his attitude. If the whole thing is lost (and it rarely is) he focuses on his game to improve it for next time. That almost never happens. Most of the time, he plays "in the zone" unaware of external stimuli, focused, alive, mistakes and all.

Real life superstars do the same thing. Everyone has adversity. Everyone experiences setbacks. Everyone feels the tugs of pain and despair. Some people seem to recover and keep going and press on while others stop or retreat or play safe.

When adversity hits, choices abound:

  1. Keep going
  2. Give up
  3. Hide
  4. Fight
  5. Get bitter
  6. Rail at life's unfairness
  7. Make a plan
  8. Re-think decisions
  9. Cut losses
  10. Be bold
  11. Play it safe
  12. Pray
Lots of choices, right? Some of us are very good at snatching defeat out of the arms of victory. You read that right. Some of us quit on the threshold of greatness and possibility, when success is right around the corner, but the corner was never turned.

Others of us seem to consistently, repeatedly make lemonade out of lemons. Victories over little difficulties and big, some people seem to bring the same mental training, determination and devotion to their lives that a guy like Tiger brings to golf.

So how can a Poopy Pants Pete become Power Player Peter? Here are a few ways to deal with adversity:
  1. Keep the problem in context. Are you dead? No? It could be worse then.
  2. Don't generalize the problem. For example, a loser's self talk goes like this, "Oh you did it again! What a complete screw up. Why do you even try? Life isn't fair." You see this line of reasoning? How did you get from a missed putt to life sucks? A pessimist gets there in no time flat.
  3. Use positive self talk. "Okay, that was a mistake. A bad moment. Let's get it back. More follow-through. Keep it lined up. Better. Better." When you hear an athlete say, "We just had a bad day or bad break. Everyone has them, we'll come back tomorrow." You know that team is okay. How you frame the problem in your mind is very important. Overcomers keep it positive.
  4. Forget being realistic. Realists don't make bunker shots from 30 feet out in the rocks and brush in One. They don't. Raging optimists do. Every shot is possible. Realism is limited to the current atmosphere. Optimism allows for possibility. Realists hear that there is a "60% chance of dying with this cancer at this stage" and figure that they're dead like the majority. Optimists think about the 40% who overcame. Dying isn't an option.
  5. Hang out with optimists. Realists are such a drag. Realists don't build sky scrapers, don't build light bulbs, don't build computers, don't innovate. That isn't to say that realists are wrong, they are more right than optimists more of the time. But they miss opportunities. Hang around the dreamers, builders, influencers. Their can-do spirit is infectious.
These are just a few steps to "getting over it". My financial planner says that adversities hit, on average, every five years. Holy cow! That's a lot. That's life. So the key isn't to avoid adversity, cause it will come. The key is overcoming.


vj said...

Yup, I keep stalling on my book...part because of time...but in truth, part because I keep thinking it is a hard task for me. I will move forward, I will move forward, I will move forward!!!:-) (also had a new idea for a children's book)

Anonymous said...

Thanks - I needed this today