My Grandfather was a WWII Navy pilot, and I grew up close enough to West Point to have cannon blasts rattle our windows with each Army touchdown. I’ve always respected and admired those who courageously serve, but it wasn’t until my husband left me pregnant with our fifth little boy that I began to fully appreciate what those men and women give the rest of us and study how they achieve the seemingly impossible. It wasn’t until even later that I began studying our Saints and what gave them such immeasurable Grace.
Whether warrior or Saint, a life of leisure and ease does not call out greatness. Adversity and struggle do that.
At some point, each of us will face something we dread, a struggle uniquely designed for us. Others will look on and say they could never do it, whatever their personal “it” is. They act as though rising to adversity is an innate trait given to a select few. I admit there is something awesome in the blood of America’s warriors, something gentle in the heart of a Saint, but these traits are not necessarily passed down from generation to generation or uniquely gifted solely to them. To think it so denies the sacrifice these men and women give to do what few dream possible.
The ability to rise in adversity is something all of us are called to and it is not something we need to enroll in Iron Man competitions to prove. Rising in adversity looks different for everyone, but it is attainable for anyone in any situation and usually begins in the same way – decision, discipline, and devotion.
3 D’s Needed to Rise in Adversity
No one wakes up to be a Navy SEAL. No one snaps her fingers to become a Saint. Rising takes sacrifice, discipline, and training. It takes commitment, positive examples, and openness to correction. It takes being tested to find what one is capable of and joy in discovering one’s purpose.
Decide to Rise:
Anything worth working for must be met with a decision to work for it. Deciding to rise in adversity is no exception. That does not mean you should try to conquer the world all at once. The old question of how to eat an elephant and its response of, “One bite at a time.” still hold true.
The challenge in deciding to rise begins with seeing the big picture. Ask yourself what your long term goal is, set your sights on it, embrace it, feel it, become intimately acquainted with it. Taste it. Listen to its call. Know its texture, fragrance, and voice. See yourself there. Decide who you would like to take with you and who needs to be left on the roadside at least temporarily. Decide their decision to support or deny you will not affect your determination or sway you from what God has put on your heart.
Balance that view with a focus on the path at your feet. Evaluate where you are now and what you need to get where you want to go. Maybe you need new skills, a different circle of influence, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual fortitude. Maybe you need financing and a plan for income. Reflect on the gifts God has given you and decide to use them rather than downplay them. Acknowledge areas needing additional support. Impartially assess assets and deficits and make a plan to address just what needs to be addressed.
Begin setting your foundation. You are not building a castle today. You are building a kingdom over time. That kingdom begins by overturning and inspecting the stone at your feet then rapidly rejecting it or placing it where it will do the most good. Start small but start something. Decide to act. Move continuously toward your goal.
Stop. Evaluate. Repeat.
Sometimes minute by minute.
Always maintain a dual focus on what you want to achieve overall and on the next step of your journey.
Never stop for long. No one is immune from the temptation to quit. Decide to keep going. Decide halfway is not enough. Decide better than the Average Joe was never your goal. Decide not to settle. Decide to thrive on challenge. Decide to humbly ask for help when needed. Decide to consult experts when warranted. Decide to learn from others and limit the amount of trial and error you must endure.
Decide to be someone different a year, a month, a week from now.
Decided to be someplace different tomorrow.
Decide to move.
Deciding is nice, but without discipline, intentions don’t amount to much. Worse, they cause us to lose our power because we see our failures as a lack of ability.
Failures are seldom caused by a lack of ability. They are more often caused by a lack of discipline.
Most people want the sexy glamour of success, however success is defined.
What they lack is the grit to get the glam.
Discipline is one of the unsexiest words on the planet. It brings up images of wooden spoons, time spent in a corner, and far worse.
Discipline in today’s culture implies punishment when in reality it offers freedom.
Today people talk about motivation. They say the are not motivated to exercise, to clean their houses, to work for higher paying jobs, to love in difficult Marriages, to do the things they once decided to do. They seek inspiration in plastic internet icons and rely on temporary affirmations others dole out or deny. This creates a roller coaster of emotion, highs and lows that blow in the ever-changing wind.
Discipline, on the other hand, frees you from that because it relies on nothing more than God, who always comes through, and your own commitment.
Discipline focuses on doing what you already decided was worth doing.
Discipline does not pay off in instantaneous hits but rather in long term value. It’s like comparing a $5 scratch off ticket to investing in long term mutual funds. Even in a rocky economy, withdrawing too soon from long term goals is caused by a lack of trust and self discipline. Discipline is doing what others don’t want to do to get what others want to have but will likely never acquire. Discipline takes doing what is hard to get what is good. Discipline always pays off, one way or another, in the end.
Take exercise as an example of how discipline works. Many hate exercise, but they love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing a workout. They love zipping up jeans and throwing on a tee-shirt instead of baggy clothes that make them feel like a pillow. They love the confidence that comes from knowing their bodies are strong, healthy, and beautiful. They love knowing they are using their bodies as God intended rather than in slothful, selfish ways.
Yes, working out can hurt, but doing so in a wise way gives almost instant results. Moreover, doing so consistently creates confidence and desire for more. The mind works in cyclical patterns. Discipline begets success which begets increased discipline. It feeds on itself whereas motivation and inspiration require a constant external source, a constant fix, and when that fix is gone, so is the will to move ahead toward one’s goals.
Discipline takes you where your decision wants you to go.
Devotion to a Greater Purpose:
Studying examples from our military to our Saints, shows another common thread. None set goals for money, fame, or self-centered purposes. They are all devoted to causes greater than themselves and willing to make sacrifices to attain what is most valuable. They know that all this talk of setting sights on goals and moving on the path means nothing if we arrive alone or if that path is lined with bodies of those we trample on to attain our position. It means nothing if we trade souls for temporal accomplishments of the world. It means nothing if we don’t realize the lowliest individual still has much to teach us.
No one is an island. We are all influenced; we all influence others. Sometimes this is positive. Other times it is not. Having an accountability partner, a spiritual director, coach, mentor, or friend who loves you enough to correct you is vital to keeping you focused, humble, and confident in your struggle. Love everyone, but think about those you trust in your advisory circle. Choose 3-5 people for the traits they consistently display to keep you devoted to your cause.
On your own, spend a few minutes every morning thanking God for the good and the bad the day will bring. Welcome struggle as a call to learn something new rather than a permanent setback. Recommit to the rise. Seek joy through song, prayer, reading quality literature, and the participation in the arts. Learn to detach from failure, setbacks, heavy emotions, and events you cannot control. Live for the eternal not your goal.
Reflect on what you’ve already accomplished as well as what more needs to be done. Chart this visually so you can see your success over time and refer to this when the desire to let discipline go by the wayside arises (Contact me for a template to help chart your success if you’d like). Be aware that this desire to drop discipline will happen at some point to all of us. Prepare for it, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and in whatever other ways your drive may come under attack. Overcoming that desire to drop discipline is when devotion to a higher cause and a commitment to discipline over motivation comes through!
This moving ahead when you have zero desire to do so because you are truly devoted to a higher cause is when you know your training is paying off! This is when you begin to find your true power. This is when you begin to know internally within the depth of your soul what it means to rise in adversity! This is why setting goals solely for one’s own benefit rarely payoff, but being devoted to God’s higher calling always does.
You’ve Got This!
Rising in adversity does not happen in a straight line. It is a path filled with bumps and bruises, ups and downs, backtracks and restarts. It is a sometimes meandering, frustrating journey, but it should also be one that lights a fire under you and makes you want to look at the beauty in the journey itself as well in the glory attaining the end goal. Rising in adversity will have you look back someday with amazement of what you have accomplished by embracing rather than running from God’s gift of struggle and the unique position He put you in.
If you would like help rising in your struggle, please contact me for coaching.