Personal Development

5 Ways to Stay Positive When Facing Adversity

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"But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful." ~ Elizabeth Edwards ~

Have you ever had one of those days where it seems that the world is one big pigeon, just waiting to crap on your front steps? Sure, we all have. Then someone comes along and tells you to keep positive. You feel like strangling them on the spot.   While our mind is telling us we should be positive, our feelings are screaming at us to tell the world where to stick it.   Regardless of how we feel however, we realize that it will not do us any good to continue to have our own pity party and we need to move on.

gratitude_3There are things we can do, that will help us turn our attitude around, brighten our day and shorten our stay in a negative state the next time it seems the world is out to get us.

Here are 5 things we can do.

Step away and get a reality check

When we are in a negative state, we have a tendency to see problems as greater than they are, overreact and see trappings in a situation that really don't exist. This causes the position and problem to snowball and get worse.   Ask yourself this question, "Is there anything I can do at this time to keep the problem from getting worse?"   Or, "How could this problem have been worse than it is?" This may help us to see there is some light at the end of the tunnel. If we feel stuck in negativity we can ask someone we trust to give us their perspective.   As they are not caught up emotionally in the problem as we are, they will be able to see in a clearer and unbiased manner.

Look for a positive and focus on it

When you have just found out some bad news it will not be easy to focus on something positive.   Try to shift your thinking, however, away from the negative to a situation that has gone well, good ones or something that has brought you joy and happiness in the past. If it makes it easier just try to think of something neutral.   Do whatever it takes to shift your focus.   At the time of receiving bad news it may feel you are the only one who is having a difficult time.   The life stories of most highly successful people will usually include at least one chapter on overcoming tragedies and failures.   Remind yourself of this next time things have gone off the rails for you.   Nietzsche said that "What doesn't kill us will make us stronger."   People who have survived adversity and gone on to better their lives believe this and look back on their difficult times with a sense of pride for having overcome them.

Look past the situation

Think of difficult situations that you have been through in your past.     Become aware that this too will pass. Try to imagine what it will be like a year, five years or ten years from now looking back on this time.   It will help us focus on doing the difficult work that we need to do to get through a crisis, while at the same time giving us perspective that this is only one thing in our ongoing lives. This helps keep us from getting overwhelmed by our present negative situation or events.

Ask for and accept help

Successful people have a strong support network that they can count on to support them in times of need.   If you have such a network, this is the time to reach out and ask for help.   Knowing when we need help and asking for it is a sign of strength, not of weakness.   We feel good when we are able to help others, so let others experience that same feeling by being able to help us in times of need.   Support networks don't happen by accident, they are built up over time with effort and consistency.   The way to develop a strong support network is to be part of such a network by offering and helping others freely in times of need. What we put out to others comes back to us multiplied.   If you don't have an immediate support network, or have recently moved to an area where you don't know anyone, there are organizations in the community whose purpose it is to offer support in your situation.   Reach out to them in difficult times.

Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Every morning, before I start my day I have a gratitude book in which I write in at least ten things which I am grateful for.   When I'm having a bad day, to go back to that list helps me and I become aware of all the good there are in my life.   Developing an awareness of all the positives and remembering them is a powerful tool that helps us overcome adversity and the difficult times that are an inevitable part of life.   While remembering all the things we have to be grateful for is a good practice in our everyday lives, it is especially important during difficult times.

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About the author

Harvey Deutschendorf

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, internationally published author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to His book THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success has been published in 4 languages. Harvey writes for FAST COMPANY and has a monthly column with HRPROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE. You can follow him on Twitter @theeiguy