“How to handle adversity”
Why is it that some people, despite insurmountable odds, move forward and upward in their work and personal life while others opt out, cop out or drop out?
If you think IQ–intelligence quotient, or EQ–emotional quotient–determines success, you’re partly right. They contribute. But there’s also AQ, which stands for adversity quotient. It’s a concept to grab onto as if your life and career depend on it. They do.
AQ tells how well you withstand adversity and your ability to surmount it, explains Paul Stoltz, author of Adversity Quotient, Turning Obstacles into Opportunities (Wiley). It’s a conceptual framework that combines scientific theory and real-world application, predicting who will overcome adversity and who will be crushed. Who will exceed expectations of their performance and potential and who will fall short. Who gives up and who prevails.
There’s no question you’ll face adversity. It’s a question of what kind: A calamitous event such as a downsizing. Your company’s new emphasis on performance, results, teams, customer service, global markets. Any kind of change can cause adversity. The higher your AQ, the better you’ll handle it.
The good news is you can permanently boost your AQ. You start by refocusing your attention away from gathering more intellectual gear, Stoltz says–and on to fortifying yourself by honing your climbing skills.
“Life is like mountain climbing,” he says. “Fulfillment is achieved by relentless dedication to the ascent, sometimes slow, painful step by slow, painful step.”
We’re born with the core human drive to ascend, which means “moving your purpose in your life forward no matter what your goals. Successful people share the profound urge to strive, to make progress, to achieve their goals and fulfill their dreams. Whether or not you have a formal statement of purpose, you feel this drive.”
Individuals have different responses to the “ascent” and as a result enjoy varying levels of success. Stoltz calls them:
Quitters. This group cops out and drops out. Bitter, with a fate of looking back on a life poorly lived, they abandon their dreams and choose what they perceive to be an easier path. The irony is they suffer far greater pain than that which they attempted to avoid by not climbing.
Campers. They go only so far and say, “This is as far as I can or want to go,” finding a comfortable plateau to sit out their remaining years. They gain some ground but can’t maintain success without continuing to ascend. “It is the lifelong growth and improvement of one’s self that defines the Ascent, Stoltz says. They’re satisfied with sufficing rather than striving and are strongly motivated by comfort and fear.
Climbers. These “Energizer Bunnies of the mountain” are dedicated to the lifelong ascent. They don’t allow age, gender, race, physical or mental disability or other obstacles get in the way. They live life fully, never forgetting the power of the journey over the destination. The word “quit” is not in their vocabulary They have maturity and wisdom to understand that sometimes you need to go backward to move forward and that setbacks are a natural part of the ascent. If you need to strengthen your fortitude for the climb ahead–and there will be one–or resume the climb, learn new climbing skills such as:
Changing habits and behavior like learned helplessness, which is “internalizing the belief that what you do does not matter.”
The ability to immediately sense when adversity is happening, sounding an internal alarm and gauging your response.
Reinforcing the good and questioning the bad.
Learning these and other skills will help you strengthen your ability to persevere and remain true to your principles and dreams, no matter what life hands you.