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Preparing for Adversity: Step 1 – Know Thyself

Woman filling in a formAs I continue with this new series on preparing for adversity, number one on the list is to make an assessment of your strengths and abilities.

Why is this important?

When hit with tragedies or catastrophes of any kind, our energy is used to survive – acting on instinct. When they seem to come one right after another, we have little time think about how we will recover.

Knowing your strengths and how to use them in any situation, takes you out of  survival mode and into one of rebuilding.  We don’t spend as much time doubting our abilities.

Who am I?

Throughout our lifetime, we are defining who we are: as a teen we start the process as we identify ourselves as an adult independent from our family; when we get married, our identity shifts from single to together; as a parent, we are redefined again. We have an identity in our business careers and leave that behind when we retire. Aging requires another new evaluation.

Many life altering events demand we redefine who we are. As I wrote in my book, From Winter to Spring, “Endings close a door to the past . . . they close a chapter in our life . . . there is no going back. I knew who I was before the loss, but who am I today?” Tragedy closes doors, brings about endings and a need to evaluate who we are now.

Here are some ways to make a quick assessment of the strengths and abilities you already have.

  1. Make a list of all your past accomplishments.  What risks, struggles and challenges were associated with them?  What did you have to do to achieve them?  Include all things – don’t diminish or trivialize anything. We often minimize what we have accomplished.  Resist the impulse to negate their importance.  Give yourself credit for all your efforts even if things didn’t turn out the way you wanted.
  2. Make a list of all the qualities it took to achieve your goals:  perseverance, taking a risk, making difficult choices, education or training, discipline, self-regulation, attitude, faith, belief in yourself, belief in God, following your gut instincts, hard worker, etc.  You can apply these same attributes again.
  3. What do you consider your most important strength?  How has that helped you through life?  Expand your list of strengths, both personal and professional. Are you good with people?  Are you a self-starter and motivator? Are you a problem-solver?
  4. What things from your past helped mold who you are today?  Even when we examine difficult or painful childhoods and pasts, we find strengths connected from the lessons we learned. We may have learned how to survive, how to look out for yourself, etc. We may not consider them as strengths because they came out of negative circumstances. But whenever we learn perseverance, self-reliance and  determination we can use these in a positive way to meet new goals in the toughest of situations.

Adversity challenges our ability to be in charge of our lives. It can make us feel vulnerable and anxious.  Recognizing and using our strengths can give us a renewed sense of purpose, hope, worth and meaning in the midst of extreme adversity.

Take time to celebrate your strengths.  This is not pride, this is honest acknowledgement. It is where we say to ourselves, “I did it once – I can do it again.”

Marlene Anderson

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