Responding to Adversity

Responding to Adversity

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Churchill

Adversity is a fact of life; It’s how you respond to that adversity that dictates who you become.

We can’t help our how we were raised or our socioeconomic situation at the starting line.

We can’t help where we were born or what kind of family we were born into.

It’s not fair. Really, it’s not.

But here’s the thing – that’s ok. None of that says anything about us. It’s what we do that matters.

That’s not to say life isn’t a hell of a lot easier when you’re born on third base - because it is. What it does mean is that you are in the situation you’re in and it’s your choice to respond constructively or not.

It turns out that the philosophers have something to say about developing the ability to respond effectively to adversity. Personally, I’ve found both the Stoic and Buddhist schools to be best fits for me in developing my own philosophy for getting through life. With that, here are 10 recommendations for responding to adversity according to the Stoics and Buddhists:

Stoic Recommendations

  • Practice Acceptance: The Stoics believed that accepting what is outside of our control can help us to find peace in difficult circumstances. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot.
  • Cultivate Self-awareness: The Stoics believed that developing a deeper understanding of oneself and one's emotions can help us to respond to adversity more effectively.
  • Develop Resilience: The Stoics believed that adversity can be an opportunity to build resilience and develop inner strength. Use challenges as opportunities for growth and self-improvement.
  • Practice Gratitude: The Stoics believed that cultivating a sense of gratitude can help us to appreciate what we have and find joy even in difficult circumstances. 
  • Focus on Virtue: The Stoics believed that living a virtuous life can help us to find meaning and purpose, even in the face of adversity.

Buddhist Recommendations

  • Practice Mindfulness: Buddhists believe that cultivating awareness of the present moment can help us to respond to adversity with clarity and wisdom.
  • Embrace Impermanence: Buddhists believe that accepting the impermanence of all things can help us to find peace in difficult circumstances.
  • Cultivate Compassion: Buddhists believe that responding to adversity with compassion can help us to connect with others and find meaning and purpose.
  • Develop Equanimity: Buddhists believe that developing a balanced and equanimous mind can help us to respond to adversity with calmness and clarity.
  • Let Go of Attachments: Buddhists believe that letting go of attachments can help us to find freedom and peace in difficult circumstances.

None of these recommendations are necessarily easily executed. It can take a lifetime to develop the skills required to live in accordance with these ideals.

However, by practicing these teachings we can develop the inner strength, clarity, and wisdom necessary to face life's challenges with grace and equanimity.

We can begin cultivating self-awareness, acceptance, resilience, gratitude, and virtue or mindfulness, impermanence, compassion, and equanimity today by picking up that meditation practice.

By journaling when you’ve got something on your mind.

By choosing to bring up that thing that’s been bothering you with your significant other.

By choosing to take a walk around the block before responding to that email.

Everything in life depends on the daily choices you make in the face of adversity. What is done is done, but how you respond to what comes next is your choice to make.

Choose wisely.