How to Remain Optimistic in the Face of Adversity

Written by Steve Bloom

There’s an old saying that goes, “the only two things certain in life are death and taxes.”  Well, I’d like to unofficially add another entry into that list: adversity.  After all, it’s everywhere.  Everybody has difficulties to overcome and problems to solve at one point or another in their life.

Even if you were to try extremely hard to avoid problems and make things simple, life has a way of thrusting adversity on you.  You never know when an unexpected event will happen.  And when those bad times occur, it can be hard to remain optimistic.

Understanding Adversity

how_to_remain_optimistic_in_face_of_adversityWhen bad things happen, the temptation to turn pessimistic becomes hard to resist.  And pessimism can lead to other problems like negativity and defeatist thinking.

One thing that can help is to look at adversity itself.

We all have obstacles to face and problems to overcome.  Everyone wants to strive for a better life, but it’s often more difficult than we expect.  All of us have had bad things happen seemingly out of nowhere.

That’s the nature of adversity.  It’s an inevitable part of life that we must come to accept.  After all, it’s not just you – it happens to everyone.  Even those people who have had a lot of success have their bad days.

When you learn to accept adversity as a natural part of life, you begin to work better with it.  You begin to think of it as a process you have to go through.  You might even start to think of it as a minor nuisance – like taxes.

But sometimes life can really throw you a curve ball and give you something you never expected.  Maybe a natural disaster struck your city and your home was destroyed.  Or maybe you got some terrible medical news.

For those times, it can be hard to remain optimistic.

But here are four things I do when I need to refresh my optimistic outlook:

1.     Give Yourself time to cool off

A normal first reaction to bad news is to become angry.  I’ve been there before.  And it’s okay to express that anger.  It’s much better to do that then let it fester inside and come out in nastier, more destructive ways.

But eventually you have to get over the anger and let things go.  Whatever happened can’t be changed so you might as well learn to accept it.  If you can’t let yourself cool down, you’re only going to just bring yourself down.  And that can lead to resentment.

2.     Cheer Yourself Up

It’s important to do something fun to cheer yourself up and brighten your day.  Whatever it takes to make sure you don’t let yourself get taken over permanently by any negative emotions.

It can be something simple such as going to a funny movie or hanging out with friends.  Just make sure it is engaging enough to get your mind off what’s going on.

This doesn’t mean ignoring the problem and in the hope it will go away.  You should always work on your problems.  It’s more about cheering yourself up so pessimism doesn’t completely sink in.

3.     Focus on a brighter future

When you’re dealing with adversity, it can be easy to think it will never end.  When you look to the future, you might see nothing but bad times waiting for you.  That’s why it’s important to remind yourself of all the good things awaiting you.
Focus on the good things you have to look forward to doing.  There is always something good you can think of for the future if you just look hard enough.  No future is all bad.

Be hopeful that good things will eventually start happening again.  Your optimism will help shine a light to a better future.  Without it, things will become much harder.

4.     Think of adversity as a cycle

One thing I’ve learned about adversity is that it is cyclical.  Things can be going great for you for a long time, but eventually a bad situation will happen.  New problems have a way of showing up unexpectedly.

On the bright side though is that good times are always just around the corner.  If everything is cyclical then those bad times you’re going through now will eventually be followed by good times. It’s just a matter of working your way through the adversity now in order to get to those good times later.

Remaining Optimistic

When adversity comes, it’s fine to feel bad for a while as long as you don’t lose your optimism.  But once you turn that corner and let pessimism take you down that road into negative thinking, you’ll find getting out of adversity much harder than it really should be.  Remain optimistic that things will be better and soon you will find that they will be.

Some Amazing Comments


About the author

Steve Bloom

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, personal growth and adventure. He's always looking for ways to make life more interesting. Get tips on living life to the fullest through Twitter and Facebook fan page.


  • Steve, thanks for the great tips.

    I take adversities as opportunities to grow, to move ahead, to do something that was thought as difficult. Thank God Taxes are not part of my life in KSA.

  • These are some great tips to help feel optimistic again. Your point that adversity is cyclical is so true. We all have bad patches and then things work out as time goes on. Thanks for the great post!

  • This is a lovely article and thank you for sharing your great ideas – All too often people think that life is supported to be “fait” and if you do the right thinking then adversity “should not” happen. However adversity is never to be avoided, and it is up to us if we get deeper or weaker. Judy

    • I think some people do feel that way. That life is suppose to be easy and that adversity should not happen. Most people don’t have it that way. Adversity is universal and something we’ve all had to face at one time or another.

  • Steve,

    Great post. And I agree, adversity is a part of life (especially in the mornings for me!).

    You make some great suggestions. I like the idea of trying to reframe situations in a more positive light. I am a firm believer in the notion that we create our realities in our minds. Often times, events that we view as TERRIBLE are really just terrible because we perceive them as such.

    If we can take a step back, and really assess most situations, we realize they are not life threatening, and most have some positive aspects if we can change our perspectives.

    And for those that are really terrible, perhaps we can learn to accept them through reflecting. Obsessing over a truly bad situation does not lead to constructive outcomes after all.

  • Hi Steve,
    It definately is tempting sometimes to lock ourselves in our houses to avoid adversity. And I know i’ve done plenty of that in the past, but when I have faced the adversity instead of avoiding it, those are the times I really have grown the most.


  • Adversity is to our benefit. It’s not our enemy. Adversity exists to make us stronger . . . to make us better. It is the resistence necessary to create progress.

    We don’t have to like it. We don’t have heap praise upon all our misfortune.

    But we should embrace it all the same.

    Without adversity we would never have reason to grow. It makes us who we are. How we react to adversity says more about us than almost anything else.

    When you begin to see adversity in this light . . . as the challenge it is . . . you will find that it’s not some great evil out to get us. It’s simply the turbulent wind that lifts us higher.


    • Yeah, adversity isn’t some great evil. It’s natural. It’s something we all go through.

      I think it does help to see it as a challenge. And when you overcome the challenge, you grow as a person. It’s just a matter of getting over the adversity when it presents itself.

  • I really love the advice, especially to remember that adversity is cyclical. Good times tend to always follow the bad, so just keep on moving!

  • Steve, thanks for this. Andy Shaw suggests being grateful for adversity so you can learn from it. The book the Adversity Quotient offers some more practice techniques for responding well to adversity as well.

  • Hey Steve,

    When I want to maintain optimism, I like to imagine all the things I do have and if this makes sense, I consciously want the things I already have. Pretty interesting stuff I learned from Stoicism. I always recommend William B. Irvine’s “The Stoic Joy” as an introduction into the ancient philosophy. They are the ultimate optimists contrary to their dictionary definition as “Stoics”.

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