Avoiding adversity is making us, and our kids soft.
It seems the modern way of handling adversity is to take the path of least resistance. If we hit a hurdle we run away or make rules so we never have to deal with unpleasantness.
Actions like taking scoreboards away from kid’s sport so no one ever loses; or giving everyone a ‘participation award’ to avoid offending the less skilled are examples of how we ‘avoid’ difficult situations rather than ‘deal’ with them.
You all know people who have left a job or of a child who has left a team because the coach/boss put some obstacles in front of them? These are the ones who have forgotten that resilience is an important human trait.
In Google there are 100’s of pages with tips on How to be Resilient. They include:
- Take care of yourself – be healthy
- Hang on to humour
- Do acts of kindness to reinvigorate your spirit
- Live to learn – see failure as a learning opportunity.
They’re all good in their own way, but they miss the big point.
The key to resilience is ‘knowing who you are’.
Here’s an example. In my football days I had a saying ‘football is what I do, its not who I am’. This belief stopped me from getting a big head when things were going well, or too down on myself when things weren’t.
It helped me understand that whilst I may have played a ‘shocker’ in front of 60,000 people on live TV; I could still be a good husband, brother, son, friend, teammate, member of society etc. My identity was not solely a footballer.
Paying attention to the other good parts of my life, and who I was, allowed me to maintain the positive attitude needed to find solutions as to why I played poorly. Finding a solution is far better than running from or avoiding the problem.
In my job I go to schools and speak to many students whose whole identity is, ‘a student’. For them, good marks = good person, bad marks = bad person. This leads to immense stress and often a desire to avoid all forms of adversity. They drop out, choose easier, non-challenging subjects or let fear of failing stop them from trying hard. I ask them to think of all the things they are besides being a student. Suddenly that C isn’t going to ruin their whole life!
A great exercise to undertake is to actively build your identity. Work out what kind of person you want to be, detail what that looks like and then commit to small achievable actions. Here’s some examples:
I want to be a good soccer player.
My Identity will be – I’m a person who practices by myself everyday
My Action – I’ll get up 15 mins earlier each day and do ball skills
I want to be healthy.
My Identity will be – I’m a person who moves everyday
My Action – I’ll buy a pedometer and walk 5000 steps a day building up to 10,000 a day
I want to be smarter.
My Identity will be – I’m a person who seeks knowledge
My Action – I’ll go to a library and borrow a book
If you want to become better at something don’t focus on the outcome or obstacles. Become the person you want to be by focusing on the things that are in your control – your actions.
You’ll find very few setbacks actually stop you from your actions.
By knowing who you are, and putting setbacks into perspective I guarantee your levels of resilience will increase. Instead of running from adversity you may just learn to embrace it.
AUTHOR: Nathan Burke is the founder of Nathan Burke Consulting – a Melbourne based firm that offers training and coaching solutions helping people and businesses achieve High Performance.
If you are looking for guidance, support or training to help you find that extra “edge” that can take your performance to the next level, then contact Nathan and enquire how he might be able to assist you.