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This article was published 27/2/2009 (3977 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WHY is it that some people can weather personal or business hardships better than others?
Why is it that some people experience a lifetime of success while others experience a lifetime of helplessness and perceive themselves as victims?
The answer, according to Dr. Paul Stoltz, a leading expert on human resilience, lies in our ability to deal with adversity on a day-to-day basis.
In his view, resilience is learned from early childhood as we confront those big and small challenges that we face every day. According to Stoltz, over 40 years of study after study have proven that those individuals who respond to adversity as an opportunity and with a sense of purpose and control will remain strong, no matter what happens.
Those who have a victim mentality and believe that the "system" is the source of all evil respond to adversity by becoming helpless and weak. Not only that, these individuals will not take responsibility for their own actions — they do not see themselves as being in control of their life.
This scenario is particularly true when job layoffs occur. Some individuals will recover quickly and see the situation as an opportunity. Still others will see themselves as instant victims of the system. Their feelings of helplessness and lack of control induces them to quit or to give up rather than striving to move on with their life.
From a business or organizational perspective, those with a workforce who see adversity as an opportunity not only translate this energy into increased capacity, productivity, and innovation, but also experience higher morale and lower employee turnover.
On the other hand, those employees and leaders, for that matter, who don't handle adversity well will quickly become overwhelmed, will retreat into helplessness and may even stop trying. In Stoltz's view, only those individuals and organizations who handle adversity well will continue to be successful.
Stoltz goes on to suggest there are four components of adversity that he calls the "adversity quotient" or "AQ". These are outlined below:
"ô Perceived control — This is one of the most important elements that determines how individuals respond to and handle adversity. It's all about understanding the extent to which an individual can influence the situation and how much perceived control they have. In other words, it's about empowerment and influence, resilience and gritty determination. People with a high perceived sense of control will take action which in turn results in even more control. Perceived control can be experienced by anyone — a student who tackles a challenging course load, a child who in learning to ride a bicycle falls and who gets up to try again, to an executive who leads a company turnaround. On the other hand, those with a lack of perceived control feel there is "nothing I can do about it" or "you can't fight city hall."
"ô Origin and ownership — This element consists of the perception of responsibility for improving a situation and the extent to which the individual needs to play a role in improving the situation. Those with higher AQs hold themselves accountable for dealing with situations regardless of their cause. Those with lower AQs deflect accountability and most often feel victimized and helpless. In other words, accountability is the backbone of action.
"ô Reach — This relates to the scope and extent of the "fallout" from a situation into other areas of one's life. Individuals who can compartmentalize and keep the fallout under control, limiting the impact of the adversity, seem to engage in much more efficient and effective problem-solving. Those with a lower AQ tend to think in terms of catastrophe and engage in twisted thinking that holds them back and allows negativity to bleed into other areas of their life. They quickly feel overwhelmed.
"ô Endurance — People who see adversity as simply temporary tend to believe that the future will get better; they see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Their sense of hope creates energy and optimism and increases the likelihood of action. Those with a lower AQ can be quite fatalistic and see the adversity as longer lasting, perhaps going on indefinitely.
Thankfully, science has shown that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks. In other words, with effort, you can change a negative attitude and your ability to more effectively confront adversity. Stoltz provides a simple strategy that can help destroy your destructive responses to life's events and help strengthen your sense of control and commitment to act. This strategy, called LEAD is outlined below.
L = listen — Our typical, normal responses are the result of a lifelong, habitual pattern. So the first thing you need to do is to be able to get a good and quick gut feel or awareness of when adversity is happening. In other words, listen to yourself. Learn to smell the fire before it gets out of control. Next, determine if your response was a high/low AQ thought. If the response was low AQ, take time to restructure and rethink your response in a more positive manner. Noticing the adversity more quickly helps you to strengthen your response.
E = explore — This element stands for exploring both the origin and ownership of the situation. If an individual doesn't feel a sense of ownership, they won't take action. People who accept ownership of the result will perceive a greater sense of control, and will be empowered to act. At the same time, individuals with a high AQ may accept the blame for a situation, but it will not stop them from action. Others will attack themselves with unwarranted criticism and blame that only serves to decrease self-esteem.
A = analyze — It is important to take steps to analyze the evidence and to separate fact from assumptions. You need to examine and dispute any destructive elements of your response. Look at the limitations of the adversity itself, not the limitations you might face to improve the situation.
D = do something — But do it carefully, do not rush. Think about any additional information you might need, what actions would help to overcome the adversity — examine the what, where, when and why questions to confirm your goal. Don't just write a list of actions, commit to a time and date.
Everyone has faced a situation of adversity in their life where they really felt the wind had been taken out of their sails. The challenge for all of us is not to get stuck in a negative loop, wallowing in despair. Take the AQ assessment found in the article, Your Adversity Quotient, article 517 written by Stoltz. Then follow the simple LEAD structure he recommends and regain control over your life.
Source: the Adversity Quotient, turning obstacles into Opportunities, Paul G. Stoltz, Phd., Wiley and Sons, 1997
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, is president of Legacy Bowes Group and is vice-president of Legacy Executive Search Partners, Manitoba. She can be reached at email@example.com.