Hardships are something we are not strangers to. We all have them–no matter how rich, how famous, how happy, we all face hardships. It is what we do about them that determine the impact they make.
This is a hard subject to write about because it is littered with clichés…
We tend to ignore these because they feel like fluff. How can they possibly work in a situation where our hardship is so very difficult? This week alone I have sent 3 sympathy cards, visited with a mom of a 3 year old that is severely mentally impaired as my daughter was, counseled unemployed people seeking a job, coached those who are under-appreciated at work, worked with companies whose core business is deteriorating, and heard from all of them that life is very difficult and these hardships can be all-consuming.
The truth is that these platitudes are so prevalent because they are right. Any time we face hardship, we have to deal with it and how we deal with it has a large bearing on our future. My philosophy is that there is something in our hardships that makes us better. That doesn’t mean we seek them out or enjoy them; I certainly never wish then on anyone. But if they happen to us, to me, or my clients, my goal is to “harness them”.
What does harnessing a hardship look like?
1) Understanding why it happened–is it anything that could have been avoided? For example, many companies were really burned during the Big Recession because they simply were not prepared. Other companies fared better because they had a “leading indicator” or a warning light if you will, that allowed them to prepare early, suffer less and recover sooner.
By understanding why it happened, you may have a better chance of preventing it from happening again.
2) What can I do about it? Many times you can’t prevent a hardship but you CAN respond to it. How you react does matter.
If you have declining sales and you have learned it is due to your competitor undercutting your price, you have options. Most companies I visit with complain about the Son-of-a-guns, then continue to promote their quality. If that was going to work, it already would have. Chances are the differentiation in quality is not as great as perceived. It is time to take off the “rose-colored” glasses and have transparent conversations with your customers about how you can better meet their needs.
3) Act on what you learned. You can conquer hardship by standing on its shoulders–by that I mean, use what you learn to rise above the problems to a place where the problem is eliminated or minimized.
It is about the opposite of denial; it is using the challenge as motivation to envision and then create a better future–one where the happy moments outweigh the bad (the attitude adjustment I had to make when being treated for cancer), walking away from people who are downers in your life, revitalize your business based on fixing what wasn’t working, accepting the challenge to become a better boss. etc.
Sometimes we create our own hardships. Here is a great article about some of the self-defeating practices we are all guilty of from time to time.
Harnessing hardship is simply recognizing the challenge and using it as motivation to become better and stronger–as a person, as a boss or family member, or as a business. It requires an openness to accept the truth as face value and a commitment to tipping the scales in the other direction.
Coincidentally, it is a practice I have followed my entire life and across all my roles, as a person, a mother and a business leader. I have been able to invoke this practice on others’ behalf through my coaching and consulting practices–and it is a joy to see others Harness their Hardship!
What hardships are you facing and what have you done to harness it? Let me know in the comments below.