Adversity is defined as an adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress. Synonyms include anguish, difficulty, grief, hardship, ordeal, pain, plight, suffering, torment, tribulation, trouble and woe. Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it? Anyone who is alive experiences adversity on a daily basis. It Happens! How a person deals with adversity depends a lot on a person’s perspective or frame-of-mind.
In the movie Forrest Gump, there is a humorous scene that occurs when Forrest is in the midst of his run across America. During his transcontinental journey Forrest attracted many followers, and as his run became a legendary trek these people sought his advice as though he were a sage. One fellow approached Forrest seeking council for a business idea. At that very moment, Forrest accidentally stepped right into a big pile of dog … well surely you remember the scene. The man shouted, “Whoa, you just stepped in a pile of dog sh–!” and Forrest calmly stated, “It Happens!”
What do you do when you step in it? If you are alive and participating in life, adversity continually happens. Your reaction to adversity is a choice. Are you one who accepts it and starts the process of cleaning up and moving forward? Or are you one who gets angry, over-reacts and fights against that which was probably un-avoidable?
I’m not suggesting that adversity isn’t frustrating or angering – It is! Adversity certainly isn’t fun or enjoyable. The emotions of annoyance, disappointment, irritation and even resentment that you experience when life’s difficulties confront you are to be expected. Unless you’re a Vulcan (i.e. Mr. Spock), emotional feelings are normal and they occur within each and every one of us as humans. However, the way we react to those feelings or circumstances is a choice, and is what sets us apart from all the rest. You can choose to act out on your feelings and behave in an annoyed, disappointed, irritated and even resentful manner. Or on the other hand, you can acknowledge your feelings as simply feelings and then choose to act differently. Despite feeling annoyed, you can choose to act with acceptance. And while you may feel irritated, you can choose to act with tolerance. Behaving outwardly with acceptance and tolerance is a great remedy for feelings of annoyance and irritation.
The critical concept to understand is that feelings are different than actions. Negative feelings are normal … especially when adversity strikes. It Happens! Your actions afterwards are a choice and do not have to follow suit with your feelings. You have free will and have the power to decide how you will act in every situation. Liking something and accepting it are two separate things; you don’t have to feel joyful when adversity strikes, but you can choose to act positively and productively. Negative emotions inside do not require you to act negatively and counterproductively on the outside.
The next time you step in it, try quoting Forrest and say, “It Happens!” You may be surprised at how that simple Gump-phrase will lighten the moment. With the moment lightened, you’ll be able to get on with the process of cleaning off your shoes … and maybe even doing it with a smile!
It Happens! … Life Happens!
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Next Blog Date: Monday, January 25, 2010