3 steps to turn adversity into joy

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“Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.” - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 'Flow', p. 200.

Adversity --> joy seems like quite a leap.

But it's sometimes the counter-intuitive that makes sense at second glance.

Think of the last challenging job or the project you succeeded in. Looking back, you probably have a story that connects the dots and captures how you succeeded. Thinking of it now, perhaps you feel pride, a sense of accomplishment, confidence.

How you did you feel in that moment, though? Typically, we only feel a watered-down version of those emotions. Time passes, emotions fade. But my guess is, those experiences had plenty of adversity. You probably felt that as well, although now you may feel differently about it.

So, you probably already have a track record in your experience of:

Adversity --> joy

How do we get from adversity to joy?

When we face adversity and stress, there are 3 types of resources we can draw on:

  • External support (e.g. friends), but it's not a given, you also need (to know how) to make use of it
  • Personality (e.g. extroverts more easily able to make new friends in a new city)
  • Coping strategies - this is what's most in our control

Coping strategies involve 3 steps to transform adversity into an 'enjoyable challenge':

  • Unselfconscious self-assurance: it's when you no longer see yourself in opposition to the environment, to not insist on your goals or intentions above anything else, to operate within a system.
  • Focusing attention on the world: you are not overly concerned with yourself. Instead, your focus is on your work, the people around you, society, and how you can contribute.
  • Discovery of new solutions: sometimes we are too rigid in aiming for a goal and getting rid of obstacles. If we take a step back and become aware of the entire situation, we may identify alternative goals that are also viable. Opening up, looking left and right.

If you've read last weeks' newsletters, you know I'm fascinated by how much value the simple concept of flow can give (if you missed them: It's not about you and 8 flow components - do you have these?).

What's been the biggest flow insight for you?

p.s. 👇 below, find the latest podcast, what I'm currently reading/listening to and my favourite quote this week

🎙️ My latest podcast

New podcast out with Gaia van der Esch. We talk about her new book 'Leading our Way' (Amazon) that features the stories of contemporary iconic women leaders: Christiana Figueres, Gitanjali Rao, Becky Sauerbrunn, Diane von Furstenberg, Tawakkol Karman, Comfort Ero, and Gloria Steinem.

It's about expanding how we understand leadership, written not just for women. Some surprising leadership qualities emerge from her conversations. Listen to the episode 👇

Gaia van der Esch - How Women are Redefining Leadership
About my guest I talk with Gaia van der Esch about expanding our understanding of what leadership looks like. Gaia is the author of the new book ‘Leading our Way’ that features the stories of contemporary iconic women leaders: Christiana Figueres, Gitanjali Rao, Becky Sauerbrunn, Diane von Furstenb…

📚 What I read & listen to

A few days ago, Elon Musk sat down for a 1,5-hour interview with the New York Times. The title is misleading. It's really about gaining an insight into the mind of a brilliant innovator, love him or hate him.

What's scary (and under-reported vs. his latest controversial post on X): his prediction that we'll achieve Artificial General Intelligence (AI being smarter at everything than the smartest humans) in 3 years. Yes, Elon Musk has been off with other predictions, but it's in line with expectations of several other AI researchers.

Elon Musk on Advertisers, Trust and the “Wild Storm” in His Mind | DealBook Summit 2023
The tech billionaire Elon Musk has come to define innovation, but he can also be a lightning rod for controversy; he recently endorsed antisemitic remarks on…

🖋️ My favourite quote

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.“ - George Bernard Shaw