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Trouble and Triumph

By Philip Humbert

The biggest difference between winners and losers is their ability to cope with adversity.

Life will throw problems in your path. Sometimes the challenges will be physical, other times they will be financial. Sometimes they will be difficult people, or a natural disaster like a fire or earthquake, but sooner or later, life challenges each of us. And here's a key point: our response to small daily challenges is a much better predictor of our long-term success than our response to the few real disasters in life.

Disasters are big! We can't deny or avoid them; we MUST deal with them. When our home burns down or an accident puts us in the hospital, everyone understands that we MUST deal with these things. It is no accident that Winston Churchill described the Battle of Britain as their "finest hour." When emergencies strike, we drop everything and rise to the occasion.

However, the real test in terms of life success is how we deal with the "termites," the little things that are easy to ignore. Things like living within our means. Things like managing our weight and staying fit. Things like time for loved ones, time for rest and for renewal. These things are not dramatic and they are not urgent. We can delay taking time for our kids. We can neglect our health for a long time before obvious problems occur.

Recently I saw a biography of Donald Rumsfield, and one of the points they made is that he "moves toward problems; he never turns his back or walks away." That is a sound strategy!

High achievers expect challenges. They know that as they move forward, problems will occur. Unexpected things will happen, and they maintain an attitude of optimism, humor, strength and resolve in the face of difficulties. They know that as they become ever more successful, the size and complexity of their problems will only grow. How could it be any other way?

So, here are a some keys to solving problems:

  1. Expect difficulty! This is no surprise, it is not unfair or unusual. Life is complicated. Get good at it.
  2. Keep a buffer around the edges of your life. Maintain a reserve of extra time, savings in the bank, and a bit of energy to handle the unexpected.
  3. Attitudes of optimism and enthusiasm are essential.
  4. View difficulties as challenges or learning opportunities rather than as problems. How we talk about our difficulties makes a huge difference in how we handle them. Words matter!
  5. "We get by with a little help from our friends." Have a team of cheerleaders, experts and colleagues on stand-by to help you over-come any challenge.
  6. Be proactive. Take care of difficulties while they are small. Preventive maintenance is good for your car, your relationships and your heart.
  7. Learn from every experience and (try) not to have the same problem twice. Learn from difficulties, make changes, and move on. Never repeat the same life-lesson!

The key is understanding that challenges are how we learn and grow. Life is about what we learn and what we learn to do. Expect interesting situations! Taking them in stride builds your confidence. Never fear trouble; learn to triumph over it!

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