The following article was coauthored by myself and Doug Ross. It was posted on his website also. Be sure to check out his work at
Adversity and Personal Integrity.What is this thing and how does it play upon the human spirit? The dictionary states that adversity comes from the word adverse –to oppose. Adversity is defined as misfortune, calamity, affliction, or distress. It is a general state of unhappiness -comes from the word adverse -to oppose
Early in my professional career I faced some withering criticism that I did not know how to deal with. I was told I did not fit in, that I was unsuited for a role here, that I was cocky and arrogant. At the time I struggled to understand what I was being told and how it applied to me. I simply could not see what they were saying or how I had done anything that could be construed in the way they shared. I was at the time crying out for wisdom to understand and come to terms with this feedback.
My wife got so tired of hearing me talk about it she asked me to stop. To this day I recall this event as a devastating blow and at the same time defining moment. A blow in that my primary source of support had had enough leaving me to navigate this ambiguity alone yet a defining moment in that it helped force me to own the feedback rather then reject it or rationalize it. In the ensuing months and years I have sought strategies to grow my awareness of others feelings and perceptions. This has been a journey of great pain and growth, a journey of facing adversity and living to tell about it
My journey to understand myself and how I interact with others has had many twists and turns. It was filled with adversity and this adversity I have learned to love simply because it has led to growth. So how do you get to a place where you can embrace adversity if not love it? I am sure there are many answers to this but here is what worked for me.
- Know who you are
- Ask for help
- Know who to ask for help
- Invest in your own growth and improvement
- Seek feedback on your progress
Know who you are:
I took the time to inventory my personal values by conducting a deep search of what was important to me and why it was. With his I was able to identify the five primary values that motivate me; faith, family, integrity, learning and teaching. These values act as guideposts and filters for the feedback I receive. If someone offers an opinion that encourages me to modify my behaviors in ways that contradict a personal value, I can politely thank them for the feedback and either not change my behavior or identify a way of adapting that allows my values to stay intact.
Ask for Help / Know who to Ask
Most of us are blessed with the ability to know who can be trusted for wise feedback. If we want to learn and grow we need to have the courage to ask for their feedback. Make no mistake this is a courageous act. For me I know when I am entering into something personally courageous by the queasy feeling at the pit of my stomach at the moment of entry. Funny thing about asking for feedback doing it actually gets easier over time. I believe that as we do so our ability to discern wise feedback from fluff improves (assuming we know who we are)
Invest in Your Own Growth
It absolutely astounds me that people willingly stop learning and growing. I understand why this may be done but for me it is never an answer. Growth is at the core of so many aspects of life either individual or organizational. One only needs to consider that a muscle atrophies when not used to understand the importance of exercise whether physical, spiritual, emotional intellectual etc. I love the concept that Stephen Covey uses “mind over mattress”. He describes in his work how an individual needs to chose improvement goals that are attainable and will reinforce the new positive behavior. His mind over mattress example relates the story of when he recommended a client simply get up 15 minutes earlier as a starting point for positive behavioral change. So pick a behavior you would like to change and make a small modification to it then slowly change the behavior. Side note here behavioral change is neither easy nor quick. Accept that it will take time to succeed but that the outcome will be well worth the investment
Seek feedback on Your Progress
Are you beginning to see a recurring pattern here? Ask trusted colleagues for feedback on your progress. Be sure to focus on the present rather than the past. Adjust as necessary.
Summing Up Adversity – Integrity
One of the factors that I recognized recently is that my integrity demands that I address issues of adversity. I believe that at the core of integrity is a sense of congruence. Every aspect of your life must be aligned to your values. When a misalignment occurs we get into cognitive dissonance which is in itself a form of personal adversity. Regardless, this must be resolved for personal harmony to be restored. Integrity says this relationship is out of alignment then asks questions that demand answers. What have I done to contribute to the misalignment? What can I do to restore alignment?
In the end adversity is a gift. It represents an opportunity to grow and develop a deeper consciousness of ourselves. It is our choice to address it or ignore it. I am reminded of a wonderful quote by Edwards Deming that should end this discussion nicely.
Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival.