Motivational speaker and best-selling author, Zig Ziglar once observed: “Life is like a grindstone. Whether it wears you down or polishes you up depends on what you are made of.”
Will you allow adversity to wear you down or polish you up? This decision becomes the fork in the road where we have to make a choice: it can keep us stuck in dark depression---even cause us to slowly slide backwards—or it can propel us forward. Our attitudes toward adversity become our quantum moments (moments we never forget because they impact the trajectory of our lives forever). Our perspective determines whether we grow bitter or better. That is what this book is all about.
Adversity reveals what we are made of in terms of our endurance and patience. We discover where and when our endurance has its limits. It is often during adversity when we discover what we are made of; what our assets are, but also where our weaknesses and limitations may show up. A painful crisis can teach us that we do not have as much control as our “sophisticated” egos would have us believe.
What does it take to overcome obstacles then? Over the past 22 years I have had the honor to run many marathons. At the time of this writing, I am getting closer to my goal of completing my 100th marathon. I have run these events all over the world. I ran my only ultra marathon at the tip of Africa as a way to welcome the new millennium. It was a 56 km race over many hills under the blazing African sunshine, but the stunning views of deep, blue sparkling ocean compensated for the symbolic ups and downs of ultra running.
I have also done the famous Boston marathon a few times and struggled, significantly slower than usual, across the finish line of the New York City marathon which ends in Central Park. I love this race so much that I told my wife when the time comes one day to scatter my ashes, she has to do it at the finish line of this iconic race!
I can honestly say that the journey more than the destination has taught me the most. The numerous medals at home remind me that I am a finisher, but what it took to get there matters far more. The longer I run, the more meaningful this reminder by Sara Teasdale has become: “I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.”
There are at least ten lessons I learned that have helped me overcome the obstacle of completing 26.2 miles close to a hundred times. It is an obstacle often compounded by heat, wind, rain, snow, sleet, hills, floods, and humidity.
Although running marathons generated these lessons, you need not be an endurance athlete to appreciate them yourself.
1. Always be prepared.
2. Have a positive, realistic reason for doing what you are doing. Pure motives are powerful forces allowing us to overcome adversity and afflictions.
3. Believe that you are able to handle most obstacles. You have what it takes.
4. Take a huge obstacle and break it down into small steps.
5. Every problem has a solution ultimately. Finding it requires patience.
6. Have a written plan of how you will tackle your troubles and review this plan often, ideally every day.
7. Be consistent.
8. Refuse to lose hope. Endure endlessly.
9. Appreciate the help you get from those who celebrate and align with your intention. Supporters sustain us when we are experiencing the inevitable storms of an impermanent, chaotic life. Sweating becomes sweeter with the enthusiastic support of spectators along the pathways, while we endure the tough battles we encounter.
10. Ultimately faith is the confidence that you can fully trust a Creator God or Higher Power who will help you overcome your challenges and turn setbacks into comebacks.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale refers to this ability we have to overcome as, “The Persistence Principle.” This principle states that there is positive energy already inside of us and we allow it to flow out of us when adversity tests our resilience. It will allow us to move forward, and in doing so, you will help others do the same. Moving forward is not selfish. It is all about our resilience inspiring others to develop their own ability to overcome life’s inevitable adversities. Imagine how far all of us will move forward, collectively, if we inspire one another to become more resilient.
Adversities allow us to become more aware of what really matters. They awaken us. Introspection teaches us compassion, but only if we keep our hearts open. To move forward we also need to check our ability to maintain what energizes us the most. In the next chapter we shall discover how we can enhance our energy.