Sitting in a Starbucks waiting for my wife’s car to be serviced, I overheard a conversation between a man and woman that illustrated the choice we have when dealing with adversity. The man, in his late sixties, had fallen head first and bruised his face and lost several teeth. His speech was slightly slurred as his lips were swollen. A friend walked in and after seeing him expressed deep concern. The conversation went like this:
Her: Oh my word, what happened Paul? You look as though you’ve been attacked by a brick wall.
Him: I stumbled and fell face first into a table. I wasn’t able to catch myself and that’s why the big bruise and missing teeth.
Her: I am so sorry, that’s awful.
Him: Thank you, but the prognosis is good. Once the swelling goes down they’ll fix my teeth, the bruises will go away and I’ll be as handsome as ever. But, you know, I’m not one to cry over spilled milk. It happened, I’ve got good medical care and I’m already starting to recover.
Her: Well, yes, but that’s a nasty bruise. And you could have more damage than a bruise and missing teeth. Have you had a specialist look beyond the bruising?
Him: No, that’s not necessary. I have a good doctor that I trust, and besides, I’m already on the mend and if something comes up later I’ll deal with it then.
Her: Paul, have you heard about all of the people who are misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed? You really should have a specialist look at that.
Him: (Laughing), Thank you, but I’m comfortable with the care I’m receiving and not one to go looking for problems that aren’t there.
Her: I heard about this woman who had a breast exam and was told she was all clear only to find out six months later that she had stage three breast cancer. She should have at least had a second opinion, maybe even a third. Don’t you think that would be wise for you to do the same?
Him: Are you suggesting I have a breast exam? (Laughing) I appreciate your concern, but I had an accident, I have a good doctor and am already healing well. Tell me, how are you doing? (Changing the subject)
There are two ways we can respond to personal adversity. The first is that we can accept that something regrettable, unfortunate or painful has happened. We can then get the appropriate expertise to address the situation and then take positive action as Paul did. Paul was certainly aware of “what” had happened and “why” but was more focused on “how” he could heal in the best way possible.
Another way to deal with personal adversity is to focus on the negative as Paul’s friend was. We can remain hyper-focused on the “what and why” and look for a deeper more troubling aspect of the regrettable, unfortunate and or painful event. Paul’s friend didn’t mention his positive attitude in the conversation and by ignoring it missed an opportunity to affirm his positive approach to healing from his injuries.
Is knowing why something happened an important aspect of overcoming adversity? Yes, without question. But, the more we focus on why something happened the more we remain stuck in the past. The more time we devote to how we can overcome the adversity and do so with power, grace and gratitude the faster we will move forward.
My recommendation is to quickly understand why something happened, and equally as quickly, move to the powerful and empowering how can I take action that will positively help me.
In what area of your professional or personal life do you need to move on quickly? If you’d like to learn how to do that, you can download a copy of my Mastering Your Mindset teleconference here.