Overcoming Adversity in small steps


Fall morning

Fall morning

The last day of September 2014. Here in South West Ontario, we have had almost two weeks of magnificent weather. Blue skies, cool mornings with temperatures rising to comfortably warm levels in the mid 20s Celsius ( 75F). Very similar to most winter mornings in Southern Africa.

The trees transformed into brilliant, colourful masterpieces reminding me that I am in the Northern Hemisphere.

An added bonus yesterday, we were visiting a neighbour when the hot air balloon in the picture above landed in the field right in front of us.


The last post for this year on the topic of Overcoming Adversity. Here are some final thoughts.

Today in my early morning writing period for my book, I was writing about a particularly frightening episode during my travels in Africa. A period which involved two weeks of wondering if I would ever get home in one piece. Confrontations with aggressive people in military uniform waving AK47s around, frequent interrogations at roadblocks. The first week amongst people who could not speak English, when my French improved dramatically. The second week with a few English speakers amongst the different nationalities cooped up in a hotel.

That was a period of acute adversity. Anxiety levels going up and down with every frequent new rumour or infrequent news item on CNN. Quite different to the chronic adversity following a business failure, or major upheaval like the 3 years of the Zimbabwe farm invasions.

Reflecting on those periods of adversity in my life and reading about others who have survived far worse situations, I realise that overcoming adversity has a lot in common with achieving goals. Overcoming adversity is itself a goal even if never stated as such.

The way to be successful at both is through continual small action steps. Building those small actions into habits.

The way I got through the two-week period mentioned above and the worst of the chaos in Zimbabwe was simply surviving one day at a time. Not allowing the enormity of what could go wrong and its consequences, to paralyse me. Doing whatever I could to positively affect the outcome, but not being defeated when things got worse instead of better.

It is the same as when I ran my first 85 km (50 mile) ultra marathon. Simple daily steps of getting out of bed early in the morning, putting on my running shoes and running. 6 days a week, no excuses, until it became a habit. Putting one foot in front of the other in races, 85 000 times for the big one. In the last quarter of the race when pain and fatigue set in, focusing on running just to the next telephone pole, the next water table or the next tree, then the next and the next.

That got me and thousands of others to the finish, focusing on manageable bites, not the enormity of the total distance.

That’s how I have survived the most difficult periods in my life, concentrating on improving my situation or taking one step closer to my goal every day. Not hoping for dramatic turn arounds and then being disappointed when they don’t appear.

A bit like the pilot of that hot air balloon, making the most of the wind and air currents to provide his passengers with an adventure. Concentrating on landing safely so that he can fly again tomorrow. Not whining that unfavourable conditions have blown him off course and giving up.

What about you? What is your strategy for getting through the hard bits and making progress towards your goals in life?


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