The Intricate Relationship of Adversity and Growth

“Out of adversity comes opportunity.” – Benjamin Franklin

How do you deal with adversity? Do you stare it in its face and push through it? Or are you someone who thinks that you’re often unlucky and life will always be like this for you? In more ways than one, adversity can be both good or bad, and how it affects you will boil down to your perspective and the action you’ll take. Let’s discuss this more in detail below.

Adversity and Personal Growth

When adversity knocks on your door, it is deemed to be an unwelcome guest. Your first instinct might be to think of ways to avoid it or make it go away. Hardship is intimidating, and as much as possible, humans don’t want to deal with difficulties unless they have to. However, what you may not realize is that when you push adversity aside, you’re also sacrificing personal growth.

Frederich Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Many people believe that adversity is essential in achieving greatness. Because when facing difficulties and challenges, that’s when people rise to the occasion and develop important qualities like resilience, perseverance, and conviction.

This doesn’t go to say that you should welcome adversity with open arms every time. What this means is you accept and understand that adversities play a vital role in a person’s life. And that learning and rising from adversity to grow and be a better person are what you strive for, aren’t you?

What Does Science Say?

The belief that adversity leads to growth may be theoretical for some, which is why it is just as vital to hear about what science (backed by studies and research) says about adversity.

Psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, are the proponents of “post-traumatic growth.” They believe that people who experience some trauma have a greater appreciation of life, become more spiritual and inspired, and build stronger relationships with friends and family.

In a way, this highlights a silver lining in tragedies. That even through pain and suffering, there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. People hang on to this idea because they feel like their lives are defined by the setbacks they overcame and how they affected their lives. After all, rising from the ashes is always a good story to tell.

However, there’s another side of post-traumatic growth, and that is thinking you’ve grown but you’re still struggling. You tell other people that you’ve moved on, yet your actions do not match your words. It can be a coping mechanism, or it can also be that you’re not aware of your internal struggles.

The point is, depending on the adversity a person went or is going through, growth will vary. The level of support a person needs will also differ. What’s clear is that the direction a person is heading in will ultimately depend on how he wants to move forward.

The Scars Can Run Deep

When you’re going through a difficult time, you want to find the solution and get it over with. You focus on moving on and not completing the healing process. What happens is that you think you’ve moved on and your scars run so deep that it’s affecting different aspects of your life.

Experts believe that children who went through traumatic experiences early on in life emerge more resilient and stronger when they become adults. This can be true to a point; however, what Dr. Jim Taylor explains is that “hardships that are brutal and intense, prolonged and uncontrollable don’t create resilience, they create trauma.”

When children experience too much trauma, it affects their emotional and cognitive development. They can also suffer from systemic disorders that affect how they live their lives. There will be a long-term struggle, which is why it is essential for traumatized individuals to get the support they need. They shouldn’t just feel pressured to cope and move on. Ideally, they find the care they need for complete healing and transformation.

It’s About Perspective and Practice

Whether you’re someone who is carrying heavy baggage since childhood or someone who’s going through life one hardship after another, there are two key concepts to remember to turn adversity into growth —  perspective and practice.

You don’t get to have both right off the bat. It takes experience to build on these. The more experience you gain, the more you open up to different perspectives and the more practice you get.

As you face various difficulties, you learn how to adjust to each one. You gather wisdom, so you know the appropriate way to handle a specific misfortune. You develop better self-awareness and better yet, you develop a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is one of the tools to help you use adversity to your benefit. It gives you mental flexibility, and it sets you up for the right action to take. When there are perspective and practice, you achieve consistency over time. Together with self-awareness, you can apply a growth mindset whenever you face difficulties. Here are a few actionable steps to help you get started:

  • Record yourself every hour, detailing the events that transpired in that hour.
  • Be honest with your thoughts and feelings.
  • At the end of the day, go back to your recordings. Ask yourself how you can improve on your reactions.
  • Write your ideas down.

This simple activity allows you to listen to your voice and focus on how you can grow more as a person by turning negative reactions into positive actions. When you consistently apply a growth mindset, it becomes muscle memory.

Life Happens FOR You

Have you ever experienced bad luck and at that moment told yourself, “ Well, life happens.” Humans are conditioned to believe that life is a cycle, so it has ups and downs, and people should just accept that. So whenever something unfortunate happens, you believe life is unfair.

The truth is, life doesn’t happen TO you, life happens FOR you. You can either choose to believe that the world is conspiring against you or you can find that every adversity is an opportunity for you to learn and grow.

Experiences are the best teachers, and it’s what helps people break down barriers so they can appreciate joy, contentment, good health, love, and beauty more.

To give you a bit of perspective, here are the different ways life is happening for you. It will help to reflect on them so you can explore your personal barriers:

  • A lesson to be learned – adversity brings with it a lesson or two
  • Catalyze growth – hardships force you to go beyond your comfort zones so you’ll have more tools to overcome them
  • Touch your spirit – life may be calling you back to awaken your spirituality and faith
  • Be of service to others – it can be a realization to help others who are experiencing the same experiences you are
  • To test you – to see how you will handle a situation
  • Develop trust – learning to trust others and more importantly, trusting yourself, your moral compass, and values to push through any adversity

Dealing with adversity isn’t just black and white. There’s a grey area that people best explore to understand. And in that grey area, that’s where you can determine which direction you’re headed. Will you wallow in despair? Or will you take adversity as an opportunity for greatness? The choice is yours.


Life Is Happening For Us – Tiny Buddha

The Truth About Adversity – Forbes