Bouncing Back From Adversity

One of my biggest challenges growing up was learning to own the life I’d been given. That may sound like a no-brainer to those of you that have heard my story. After all, I had no choice in all the experiences of those early years. But the truth is that everybody experiences things they didn’t choose.

Many people spend the rest of their lives protesting and rebelling against the injustices of their past. They fill their minds with a long list of excuses for not chasing their dreams.

Others choose to own their lives and rise above their circumstances regardless of what happened.

One of the keys to bouncing back from adversity is accepting responsibility for your future, in thick and thin. That doesn’t mean you remain where you are. And it doesn’t mean you downplay negative circumstances or act like you enjoyed every moment you’ve been alive. What it does mean is that you reach a point where you admit, “Nobody but me can make something of my life.” It’s ultimately an admission that you have no excuses for not giving your all to be successful.

I know because I’ve been there. There were so many days that I had every excuse to strive for nothing but survival. I could make a compelling argument that life was out to get me. Yet, instead of finding excuses for not succeeding I realized that I had to find a way around them and do whatever it took to be successful.

We all have reasons – some of them very legitimate reasons – to stop pursuing our dreams. I must have had a couple thousand before I reached middle school. You might too. But you can’t let your reasons for quitting dictate what you do. Instead of spending time wallowing in your past, you have to spend your time finding a way to a brighter future.

In the end, excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure. It’s OK to acknowledge they are there, but to be successful and achieve your dreams you have to learn to not pick them up. People who succeed do what they say they’re going to do. People who fail make excuses for falling short.

Excuses are a sign of weakness, and they pave the road to failure. Excellence is a sign of strength, and it paves the road to success.

Drop the excuses and embrace excellence at every turn.

 

Don’t Run from Weakness

Man holding boulderHere we are again, on the eve of another tragic shooting at a school—this time the Seattle Pacific University. And as always we are left wondering why these things still happen. There is no perfect answer, unfortunately, but there are common reasons. One of them is fear. But I’m not talking about fear in the typical sense—I’m talking about the fear of weakness.

I’ll be the first to admit I am no psychologist or human behavioral specialist but I know a little something about failure and success. And I’ve seen far more than my share of the dark side of human nature. In fact, I lived in the midst of it for the first 18 years of my life. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that when you run from personal weaknesses or try to hide them behind a facade of toughness or coolness or some other trait that you think makes you more acceptable to your peers, you don’t become stronger or tougher or cooler. You actually become weaker. If you run from your weaknesses long enough, you eventually become so unstable you crack.

I know it’s not a popular notion to mention our weaknesses let alone actually work at improving them. In fact, there is a major movement in our country that promotes focusing on your strengths and ignoring your weaknesses. This is a half-baked approach to a healthy, successful life for one primary reason: your weaknesses are the primary enemy of your strengths and therefore any progress you try to make.

While strengthening your strengths is critical to succeeding at any endeavor, if it’s all you do, you’ll eventually hit a ceiling on your potential. And it may come sooner than you realize. The only way to lift that ceiling is to work on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. When you do that you not only become a far more formidable force toward your dreams, you greatly diminish the possibility of breakdown. You become a more whole and healthy person.

It’s not weak to admit weakness. And it’s not uncool to work on a weakness until it becomes a strength. Don’t hide who you are to be more acceptable. Accept who you are, strengths and weaknesses, and put in the time to diminish the biggest enemy of your dreams—and possibly others’ dreams too.

You Determine the Weight of Others’ Opinions

ScaleThe fear of what others think is a major reason many people don’t pursue their dreams. While it’s in our nature to give consideration to what other people think about us, there is a huge difference between considering what other people think and fearing what they think.

It is very possible to consider what others think about you without letting their thoughts dictate your actions. It is nearly impossible to fear what other people think about you and keep that from hindering your progress. Giving too much weight to the opinions of others will eventually derail you altogether.

The desires to be liked, accepted, and to “fit in” are powerful forces. When we are young, it is easy to let them become the most powerful forces in our lives. But if you are serious about chasing down your dreams, you can’t give them so much power.

That starts by understanding that no matter where you try to go and what you try to accomplish, people will always have opinions. Some will agree with you and support your efforts. Others will not. They’ll say you can’t. You won’t. You shouldn’t. You’d be stupid to. Some of them will be adamant about their opinions. But that’s okay, because that’s all they are—opinions, words floating in the air that have no power over your actions except the power you give them. Choose to only give power to your own words and the words of those whom you trust.

As for the rest?

Let them drift to the ground where they can do you no harm. Then keep marching forward. It’s your dream, not theirs.