May Your Road be Rough….Finding Strength through Adversity

IMG_4612Ooops! That’s the second bell warning ring….OMGoodness….”I am almost late for the evening assembly…again”! Quickly I packed my books and off I ran….trying to catch that front row seat so I could see and hear Dr Tai Solarin (the school proprietor) properly as I loved to hear him speak. It was about 6:00 PM on a dusty November evening in 1985, my first year in secondary school. I was just 11 years old. In the midst of over one thousand students, I sat patiently and eagerly waiting for Dr. Tai (or Baba Tasere- as we called him). He arrived, walking majestically but yet slowly, he approached the stage to address us. As he began to speak, not quite 10 mins into his speech, I remember so well, he made a very profound statement which I will never forget…….”MAY YOUR ROAD BE ROUGH……in life”. It was my first of hearing such. With mouth agape, I was shocked that this man that I respect so much will say something like this. The funny part of the story was that he expected us to say “amen”……WHAT? ….. No way 🙁 .  What does this mean? And why would he say something like that to his students? Little did I know that this statement that seemed so much like a curse at my tender age of 11 years would have a new deeper meaning as I grew up and understood life… little did I know…… 

Even though I wouldn’t directly pray such for anyone now, I have come to realize with maturity that the rougher your road and the more challenging your life experiences are, the tougher you become. Rough life roads help build resilience.

Adversity or adverse conditions in life are marked by challenges and difficulties. They are difficult situations or conditions that people go through.

Resilience on the other hand is the ability to manage your emotions while going through difficult situations and more importantly, bounce back after going through these challenges.

Some people in life are endowed with this ability. They know how to manage their emotions in difficult times, persevere and come out of it in flying colors……unmarred. Unfortunately, this percentage is very low. But the beauty of resilience is that it can be acquired.

Life was designed to come with challenges. That is just the way it is. Whether someone was born with silver spoon in his/her mouth or not, everyone gets a dose of life’s bitter lemon. It is what you turn this lemon into at the end of the tunnel that counts. So why not use your difficult situation to your benefit.

I love this quote by Andrea Balt ” Turn your demons into art, your shadow into a friend, your fear into fuel, your failures into teachers, your weaknesses into reasons to keep fighting. Don’t waste your pain. Recycle your heart. 

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How I develop resilience through adversity………

#1. Have a positive attitude and change your perspective. I once read a book “The power of positive thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. This book was a life changing book for me. Ever since I read the  book 15 years ago, I have viewed and seen things, issues, and difficulties differently. I try to look for the positive part of a situation. Sometimes it is very difficult to see the positive in a supposedly hopeless situation but when I look hard enough, I see it and if I don’t see it, I create the positive part. Yes….I create it. I’ll tell you a short story…….not too much of a bad situation but just me not allowing a situation to get to me. So I was going to get married 13 years ago. I did my university education in Moscow, Russia hence I had extremely few friends in Nigeria. In fact I had only one close friend who was my bride’s maid. I wanted a bridal shower but there was no one to organize and invite. My bride’s maid was going to be out of town around that time. So here I was getting married with no one to put together my bridal shower…..but the beauty of it was that I was a very creative person. So what did I do? I began putting my own bridal shower together…… all by myself. My sister was shocked. She said no one does this……I responded, says who? Where is it written? I was already a working class lady so I had the funds, set a date, invited my close cousins, a few of my older sister’s friends, my mom, my sister in-laws and without much ado, I had a beautiful bridal shower. Ok, so this is cannot be compared with life issues but then a simple but yet true scenario someone turned a situation around to work for her. Maya Angelou once said….”if you don’t like something, change it, if you can’t change it, change your attitude towards it. Have a positive attitude towards life.

I do realize that there are some life issues that we confront which are beyond our scope and coping capability. I have gone through them as well. At times like this, you must be determined that it will not consume you. Every problem has a lifespan. Continue to have a positive attitude. It is this positive attitude that is called resilience. So that when the problem expires (because it will), you will look back and be proud of yourself.

#2. Be Flexible and understand that change is inevitable in life. Rigid people who are extremely set in their ways have difficulties handling change hence, they can cave in quickly when confronted with unusual situations. What is that saying?….Change is the only thing constant in life. Nothing in life is permanent so learn to embrace it when it comes your way. 

#3. Take a stock of your challenges- It’s always good in life to look in hindsight what and how you handled a situation. Be proud of yourself on your achievement and see your mistakes as learning curves. You will be amazed at how much you will learn just by taking stock. You will also see your mistakes through sharper lens which will enable you develop a plan that will help you overcome such or similar obstacles if they ever surface again.

Remember these quotes……

– The goal of resilience is to thrive

– Resilience is a coping mechanism 

– Obstacles are developmentally necessary, they teach critical thinking, resilience and resourcefulness 

– Adversity reveals character…. Take the best, leave the rest and move on

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