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7 Ways to Face Adversity Using the Power of Extreme Ownership

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Adversity is an inevitable part of our lives, and it is an important and defining factor of our personal story. The stories we build for ourselves in the face of adversity will either empower or discourage us emotionally, help us move forward or remain stuck in the past, allow us to grow or to decline.

The way we respond to adversity is a real choice we have to make and embrace because it will determine how we live our lives. Most people never see adversity in a positive light, thinking that the universe is out to get them, because they don’t want to take complete responsibility for their lives, but prefer to blame anyone else for all the hardship.

Even in situations that are genuinely out of your control, fault and ownership should not be confused. It may be the case that dramatic events happen, that we neither can prevent nor predict, like losing someone close, health issues, or a global pandemic! It may not be our fault they happened, but it is still our responsibility how we decide to live our life after that, how happy we want to be and how involved in deciding our own fate.

To change our perspective on adversity, and use it as a tool for personal development, we have to choose the way we respond to people and events purposely. There is the alternative to embrace fatalism, the negative approach where anything besides us is at fault, or we can choose to respond with resilience and ownership. 

Extreme ownership is a term that was coined by two former U.S. Navy SEAL officers, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. It entails several hard truths we have to be ready to accept. It starts with acknowledging the fact that we are entirely responsible for everything that happens to us, and with that comes the necessity to admit and own each mistake, the commitment to our continual and relentless self-improvement, and the need to build better, stronger relationships.

What are some of the ways to mitigate adversity?

1. Acceptance

One of life’s certainties is change, and that means there will always be challenges to face, relationships to manage and hardships to overcome. If we accept that we cannot escape adversity or the suffering that might come with it, we might have the chance to learn to react positively and constructively to the issues we encounter. This type of accountability mindset will help us get in the driver’s seat of our life.

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”– Malcolm X

2. Tell another story

No matter how well we plan for our future, some cases are hard to imagine and prepare for, and unexpected setbacks will seem to sabotage our efforts. The power of extreme ownership can help us become resilient in our pursuit for our goals because success is not always a straightforward rote. When adversity strikes, we should not despair or perceive it as a problem, but rather use it as an opportunity to make it a meaningful experience and learn valuable lessons.

When adversity presents itself, it’s high time to draw wisdom and build resilience, by owning and shaping our story. The opportunities that come with it can foster creativity, growth, and self-confidence, all of which can help us write our new narratives.

3. Internal resources

When we own up to the fact that adversity is part of life, we also should be determined to do everything in our power to prepare for the events, by cultivating emotional strength, decision-making skills, self-awareness, discipline. This “task” of permanently improving ourselves will help us towards a more balanced life because we will be more equipped to face anything that might come.

4. External resources

The personal support system of the people around us can be valuable in times of adversity. Even if we consider ourselves to be mentally prepared for anything, everyone needs help occasionally and investing in trustworthy relationships and positive people may be the support to get us through. When times are hard, having people around to share experiences and learn from theirs will help us realize we are not alone. We have to look for inspiration in the fact that others have overcome similar adversity, find mentors for guidance or role models to look up to.

5. Purpose

When going through adversity, it often happens that we get more clarity and the chance to shift our attention to what is really important to us. If we take ownership over our real purpose in life, setbacks along the way can be easier to reframe in the greater scheme, because the lessons they bring might help us reach your goals, eventually. 

Finding our life’s purpose can seem overwhelming, but it is important to consider that it is a life-long journey, based on searching deep for answers to what drives us and what makes us truly happy, but also what we are willing to endure to get there. With this list in mind, extreme ownership will keep us moving forward, pushing through challenges towards the ultimate purpose.

6. Believing in yourself

After going through the efforts of finding our true purpose, building our inner resources and outside conditions, the only thing that remains is to believe and trust in ourselves. We have to own our past achievements, however big or small, give ourselves credit and understand how much more we are capable of accomplishing. We also have to own our mistakes, because we learned from them and we are now better for that. Sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader to boost your morale and embrace a positive attitude towards the future, transforming adversity into opportunity, rather than an obstacle.

“There is no education like adversity.”– Benjamin Disraeli

7. Focus

Extreme ownership also teaches about prioritisation and focusing on behaviours that ensure success, because these are the things that we can actually control. Analyse the situation and ask the crucial questions to clarify your position – “How did I get here?”, “What can I do to improve my past decisions”, “What opportunities does it bring?”. The answers to those will have to be aligned to our core values and priorities, in order to keep us on the path to self-improvement in the face of adversity.

It has been said that what does not kill us, makes us stronger but being proactive about adversity, preparing for it to the best of our abilities, will give us the upper hand in life’s challenges. We will become not only stronger, but the way we will approach adversity will no longer be defined by what happened to us but by our response to it.

The power to overcome adversity comes from responsibility, resilience and determination. When faced with challenges, it is important to remember that how we interpret and how we move on from them is a choice. If we accept we cannot escape adversity, welcome the situation with an open mind, learn our lessons and continue to believe in ourselves, we can become free from worry, fear and frustration. 

Winston Ben Clements is a two-time TED Speaker, Entrepreneur and Host of the Born 2 Win Podcast. He has shared his story on stages, conferences and media platforms all around the world. He is passionate about creating a world that is truly inclusive for all. Winston’s ultimate mission is to inspire 1 BILLION people to unleash their full human potential. You can learn more about him at winstonclements.com.

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