How to handle adversity

Role Models
Aug 22, 2019 · 4 min read

Difficult situation ahead? Here are five tips from our Role Models on how to best navigate it.

1. Try stepping out of your head

It’s way more stressful to be in fear or to anticipate something, than it is to actually do something difficult” #Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso told us when we asked her how she’s tackled risky situations throughout her career. “I spend a lot of time in my head — I’m an introvert, I psych myself out on things and I think it’s going to be so difficult and then when I’m doing it it’s like, “oh, it’s so easy!

2. Ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

It’s a simple trick but it’s popped up in our conversations over and over again. When you’re feeling anxious or worried about a situation try asking yourself (with kindness!) what the worst possible outcome would be and how you would cope if they happened. The chances are, you could face them.

Beth Comstock suggested starting off with a small challenge to get used to the idea: “No one really likes to fail, but if you just try it and you do it on a small scale the failure is less painful. For example: If you walk up to someone at an event and said “hey, my name is Beth” and they just get up and walk away. Is that the worse thing that could happen? You gotta learn to laugh at yourself a little bit.

Once you’ve mastered this on a small scale you can zoom out to apply the technique to bigger, more critical situations. “I guess I’ve always thought “what’s the worst that could happen?Megan Quinn echoed, “but I could find another job, you know? I’m fortunate to be employable, I could find something. It’d probably be painful, it might be embarrassing, it would take some time but what is truly the worst thing that could happen?

3. Engage in the notion that adversity is a terrible thing to waste

In our conversation with Ama Marston, an author and thought leader on the topic of ‘transformative resilience’, we learned how to better make use of a crisis and why we shouldn’t see it as something to get through as quick as possible. “There’s all this talk about resilience as this notion of “bouncing back” and you hear people say they want to “get back to normal”” Ama told us, “but what I’m saying is that that’s often not even possible — and not preferable — because that’s a waste of adversity and an opportunity to learn, build new strengths and innovate…Why go through something particularly uncomfortable or difficult and not have learned something from it or have new strengths?”

With this in mind, even if the situation is something you would never have wished to happen, ask yourself whether there’s a way for something good to come out of it or somewhere can you go with it.

4. Acknowledge everything the experience the situation is gifting you

For champion ski-mountaineer Tamara Lunger, taking a risk and failing as she climbs some of the world’s highest peaks could ultimately lead to her death — something she actually had to face head on when one of her expeditions went wrong. Speaking to us about how she survived and recovered from such an extreme situation, Tamara told us: “I was able to know myself in such a very serious moment, so close to the end of my life. You get to see how you react — whether you panic or have a clear head, whether you can make good decisions — and this made me so rich because death is always part of the game and you need to know how to handle the fear. Every experience makes you stronger, and this for me is the biggest richness.”

Perhaps one of the things that amazed us most about Tamara’s fascinating story was the fact that she managed to move her career forwards after such an extraordinarily dangerous encounter. Tamara told us that her passion for the mountains is so big that she could never just stay at home because she knows she could die there: “I like a life that’s full of ups and downs — it needs to have a lot of movement so that means a lot of good moments but also a lot of very bad moments. Even these bad moments are making YOU though.”

5. Practise being bold…

Having interviewed thousands of high-profile people including a legendary meeting of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates live on stage together, prominent technology journalist Kara Swisher has a reputation for her straight-talking and insightful reporting. When we asked how she manages to stay so fearless when the stakes are so high, Kara’s answer was simple: “Be bold. I think people get pushed down by words and they get pushed down by actions — especially women — and that works when people who think they have to get along and be co-operative or “be nice”. It’s not that I’m rude or anything, but I just don’t have a problem articulating how I feel.

Role Models hosts candid conversations with inspiring women and is a bi-weekly podcast and event series motivating the next generation of global leaders.

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Photo: Kerstin Musl

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