Thriving in Adversity

by | Apr 2, 2020 | Leadership


To say that our entire world is going through a season of adversity is an understatement. It’s rare that something affects the entire world at once. But that is where we find ourselves.

So what’s our next step?

We have a few options. We could stay in a state of denial or cling to false hope. The former meaning that we try to ignore our current reality and hold fast to the way life was a few weeks ago. The latter meaning that we are holding out for life to return to normal soon.

I believe that both mindsets are naive, unproductive, and potentially destructive. 

But there is another option. We can finish mourning our former lives, embrace this new reality, and thrive within this paradigm shift. 

“We can embrace adversity or run from it. To succeed at the highest level we have to take a step of faith in the face of adversity rather than run in fear.” –Golf’s Sacred Journey



This story I heard about Zig Ziglar illustrates how to embrace adversity…

Zig was in the airport and proceeded to his gate to get an update about his flight. When he arrived, he asked the employee about the flight. She replied that unfortunately the flight was delayed. He responded, “Great!” This response surprised the employee. You see, other passengers who had previously asked her the same question didn’t respond in that way. They directed their frustration and dissatisfaction at her, acting as if she had any control over the delayed flight. So when Zig responded with such positivity, she had to ask how he could take this inconvenient news so well. He simply told her that this delay meant he had more time to get work done. 

Zig was prepared for the unexpected. He didn’t know when it was going to happen, but he was ready to make the most of unforeseen circumstances.

Clearly, what we are going through is much more severe than a delayed flight. We have seen catastrophic medical and economic hardships and will continue to see those in the upcoming weeks and months. But the principle stays the same, regardless of the severity of the adversity. We must take responsibility for the things within our control and battle against worrying over those things that are out of our control.

Once we recognize our level of control (or really the lack thereof), we are ready to make the best of our current situation and thrive within it.

Here are some ways to thrive in adversity…


Confront Your Current Reality

It’s easy to want to avoid hard situations. But if we are going to thrive within them, we must have a good pulse on our current reality. Whether that be personal finances, job security, or living situations (aka isolation and quarantine), the next step forward is leaning into our fears, frustrations, and disappointments. I heard a pastor say, “It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stay there.” Embrace those deeper emotions, process them with a trusted friend, and then start moving beyond them.

I go into more detail on how to confront your current reality in a blog I wrote entitled Leading in Uncertainty. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to do so since this post is essentially a sequel to that one.


Readjust Goals and Expectations

Once you have a pulse on your current reality, it’s time to readjust those goals. If you are a business leader, it’s time to change your revenue projections. If you were planning a vacation this month, postpone those plans to the fall. If you normally work from home and have school-aged kids, your work schedule and productivity expectations must be adjusted. 

We must be realistic in our expectations with ourselves, our family and friends, and our co-workers. Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t get stuff done and try to accomplish goals. It just means we reshape our goals to fit our current context.

Remember: frustration and disappointment come from unmet expectations. It’s time to create a new norm for your goals and arrange your schedule accordingly. 


See the Opportunities

One of the opportunities that most of us have been given is time. Our schedules are not as busy as they used to be. I’ve talked to many friends who have said that normally they would be running around taking their kids to five different practices each week. Others have mentioned that they would consistently miss dinner with the family due to late nights at the office. Now they are at home all together. 

What can we do with this “extra” time? 

Invest your time in the people and projects that are most important. 

Here are a few examples:

  1. Catch up on your reading list (or create a list of books that you want to read right now)
  2. Learn a new skill (like a new language)
  3. Find a quiet place and carve out some time for reflection and introspection
  4. Reach out to a friend you haven’t spoken with in awhile 
  5. Create a movie or TV show list and then begin watching through it (but don’t binge)
  6. Explore new music


  1. Be intentional with your meals (actually talk instead of watching TV)
  2. Have game nights (we have been doing virtual game nights with our extended family)
  3. Enjoy the nice weather (my wife and I now go for a walk every afternoon together)
  4. Take a drive out into the country (you don’t even have to get out of your car, just enjoy the scenery)


  1. Allow your employees to take some time off and give them grace while working from home
  2. Have your team identify and then improve existing inefficiencies and productivity killers
  3. Encourage employee development (provide resources for them to learn a new skill, take an online course, or read some books pertinent to their role)

We have two choices when it comes to this unprecedented situation. We can complain about it or we can use it for investment. We can invest in ourselves, our family and friends, and our co-workers.


Tweetable Lesson


Note: If you or your team need help with leadership development, send me a message. We have created remote friendly lunch-and-learns, small group coaching, and executive coaching.