Adversity… Good or Bad?

August 21, 2012 in happiness

We’ve all heard the phrase “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. If this is true, why do we usually to avoid struggle at all costs?

What if we started looking at the difficulties in our lives in a different light? What if instead of looking at adversity as tearing us down we focused on empowerment and the invaluable lessons we’ve learned through it? “The person who has had more experience of hardships can stand more firmly in the face of problems than the person who has never experienced suffering. From this angle, then, some suffering can be a good lesson for life.” –Dalai Lama

Struggles in our life have been shown to alter our priorities and philosophies. For example, if we have a life threatening moment, we may find the true meaning in “living each day to the fullest”. The trials in our life make us who we are, we we need to be, for one reason or another. As Aron Fulston (the guy which “127 Hours” the movie was based on) puts it, “Everything happens for a reason, and part of that beauty of life is that we’re not allowed to know those reasons for certain.”

In “The Happiness Hypothesis”, two versions of the adversity hypothesis are presented. The weaker version is that adversity can lead to growth, strength, and improvement. The stronger hypothesis is that we must face adversity in order to grow.

Optimists usually grow the most from trauma because they believe making an effort to grow from it will pay off. Even if they fail, they conclude that everything happens for a reason. On the other hand, pessimists tend to dwell in a life of low self esteem and threats, spending more time managing pain rather than solving problems. Although, that doesn’t mean pessimists are hopeless. As long as they focus on making sense of adversity and what they’ve learned, they too can grow – it just takes some extra effort.

So instead of running away from struggle, our best bet is to embrace and grow from it. Life is full of pain and joy, so we are best off accepting that truth rather than denying it. That way we can be happier people!