“Instead of becoming discouraged and depressed by any kind of downturn, you must see this as a wake-up call, a challenge that you will transform into an opportunity for power. Your energy levels rise. You move to the attack, surprising your enemies with boldness. You care less what people think about you and this paradoxically causes them to admire you…You do not wait for things to get better—you seize this chance to prove yourself. Mentally framing a negative event as a blessing in disguise makes it easier for you to move forward.”
Robert Greene (Author, The 50th Law)
“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”
Michael Jordan (6X NBA Champion and 6X Finals MVP)
“When life gives you lemons, squirt someone in the eye.”
Cathy Guisewite (Cartoonist, Cathy)
My parents declared bankruptcy when I was in middle school.
We had to move into an even smaller house.
The house was so small that only half of us could fit.
The other half had to go live with relatives 100 miles away.
Most of our furniture was either repossessed or sold.
I remember stacking my clothes in neat piles on the floor of the shared bedroom I moved into.
I only had three T-shirts and worked really hard to take care of them.
I didn’t want one of them to rip because then I’d only have two shirts.
I was in the 7th grade at the time.
It was impossible to be cool in middle school with only 3 shirts.
The popular kids in my class were always wearing new, brand name shirts.
I remember looking at the Mossimo and No Fear logos in envy.
I’d strategically rotate the three shirts I had so no one would notice when I wore the same shirt twice in one week.
But one day someone noticed.
“Isaiah, didn’t you wear that shirt this week already?” he yelled out loudly in class before the teacher walked in.
I shook my head and said, “No, I don’t think so.”
“Actually, yes you did” he replied as he took a piece of notebook paper out his pocket.
The paper documented the shirts I’d worn that week.
He read the words on the paper slowly.
“Monday: Shirt #1. Tuesday: Shirt #2. Wednesday: Shirt #3.”
He paused and looked up.
I remember everyone, especially the popular girls, being silent and just looking at my shirt.
Then they snickered.
I felt like I didn’t exist.
The funny thing is I had a great time after school with my friends.
We played baseball at the park and went swimming in the lake.
It was a very rough time in my life and getting called out in class was the pits of it for sure.
But—it was one of the most enjoyable seasons of my life too.
Experiencing Negative Events Make You Happy
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you happier.
The negative people and experiences in your life are improving your future.
They are making you happier and more successful right now.
A large-scale study reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology evaluated 2,398 participants ranging in age from 18 to 101 and found that people who’ve experienced negative events in their lives are happier and healthier than people with no history of major misfortune.
These people reported lower distress, fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and higher life satisfaction.
Researchers also reported that they were able to handle future negative events better than other participants.
In other words, negative experiences served as an advantage.
If negativity is an advantage, why are you hiding from it?
Why are you suppressing it?
Other studies reported in Comprehensive Addictive Behaviors and Disorders, Volume 1 : Principles of Addiction show that trying to suppress intrusive negative thoughts actually leads to having even more negative thoughts.
For example, alcoholics who fight against thinking about alcohol are more likely to drink.
Obese individuals who fight against thinking about food are more likely to binge.
Emotional people who fight against thinking sad or angry thoughts are sadder and angrier.
On the other hand, people who indulge in negative thoughts are less negative.
How can this be?
The key is to leverage negative people and experiences productively. You have to learn to take the good with the bad and leverage both to your advantage.
A study in Social Psychological And Personality Science found that people who are able to take the good with the bad at the same time are better able to improve their situations than those who can only take the good or the bad.
In other words, having the attitude that “Yes, I’m sad and angry at times because of the negative people in my life but I’m also happy and hopeful because I’m working to improve my situation” will lead to more happiness and success than just “I’m sad and angry” or “I’m happy and hopeful” alone.
5 Tips To Leverage Adversity And Negative Situations
The worst thing that could happen to you in life is to never experience negativity or adversity.
You need negativity as fuel. You need adversity to grow.
Without adverse situations to overcome, you would never learn.
Without these situations, there would be no sense of urgency. There would be no pain to make you change.
Look back at the times in your life when you made a great change.
Think back to the times that you changed jobs, relationship partners, or friends.
Think back to the times that you changed your behavior for the better, when you finally broke a bad habit.
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize that you made these changes only when the pain of NOT changing was bad enough.
In a sense, this makes the negative people you’re surrounded by your best friends.
This makes the negative situation you’re in your biggest advantage.
But only if you channel these people and situations properly.
Here’s how to deal with adversity and leverage negative people and experiences to your advantage.
1. Desensitize yourself to negativity.
This will make you happier and more successful.
As counter-intuitive as it seems, creating more adversity for yourself will make you more resilient.
This resiliency, in the long run, will catapult you to higher and higher levels in life.
The key is to only take on challenges that benefit you productively.
Don’t engage in meaningless drama and conflict.
Instead, engage in conflict only when there is something positive to be won.
Go up against a colleague for a promotion. Start your own business. Write a book.
Get bigger goals and all your little problems won’t seem so bad.
Most importantly, stop suppressing your negative thoughts.
Being positive is not about thinking positive thoughts only.
It’s about facing everything that happens to you, the good and the bad, and then using them to your advantage.
2. Detoxify negative situations by mixing emotions.
Never suppress negative thoughts.
Suppression is the gateway to acting out.
Suppressing negative thoughts will make you more negative.
Suppressing your anger towards a negative friend, family member, or colleague who stabbed you in the back will eventually turn you into a negative, backstabbing person.
A better strategy is to let yourself feel your anger. Let yourself burn for revenge.
Just make sure you get even in the right way.
Let your feelings drive you to improve your situation, not destroy it.
Be disgruntled and hungry, yet peaceful and hopeful.
There’s no reason you can’t occupy both sides of the coin.
Practice facing the negative people and situations you’re up against head on while staying positive and taking productive action.
Don’t deny the negative situations and people you’re up against.
Instead, put them in their place and rise so far above them that you can’t see them anymore.
3. Leverage your position as a misfit.
One of the biggest reasons people become miserable in life is because they put all of their self-worth in other people’s hands.
They put their happiness in other people’s pockets.
You’ll never get rid of the negative people in your life by looking to them for validation and approval.
At the same time, you’ll never improve the negative situation you’re in by running from them.
When the going gets tough, don’t run and don’t make concessions.
Instead, stand firm.
Double down your position. Own where you are.
Own the fact that you’re a misfit up against the wall and then use this new identity to your advantage.
There’s nothing more energizing than feeling like it’s you against the world.
With this mindset, you have nothing to lose.
With this mindset, you’re a loose cannon.
You’re dangerous—in a good way.
The best way to flip a negative situation upside down is to face it head on.
Try to see the negative people and situations you’re up against, not as obstacles, but as shortcuts.
They are stepping stones, not roadblocks.
The best way to defeat them is not by changing course, but by driving straight through.
4. Connect with misfits that others ignore.
True friendship is not when two people need each other.
It’s when two people like being around each other—when two people like learning from each other.
True friendship is based on exchanging value for value. The same is true for any positive and productive relationship.
Too many people think that relationships should be based on need and obligation.
Then, these same people complain when the people they’re “friends” with belittle them and guilt them into doing things.
Do you really want to need someone else to be happy?
Do you really want someone to need you to be happy?
Need should not be part of the equation.
Instead of lusting after need, you should want to be around like-minded people who are headed in the same direction as you.
The key is that these people must be headed in the same direction as you on their own power, not on your power.
These people must be able to support themselves and you must be able to support yourself.
They must be individuals. They must be misfits.
Never be a crutch to others and never ask others to be a crutch for you.
Stand on your own and connect with those who are able to stand on their own as well.
5. Design a disruptive exit strategy.
The reason most people never improve their negative situation is because they’re addicted to comfort.
Comfort makes people soft. Yet, comfort is what most people spend their entire lives chasing.
These people dream of the day when they’ll finally be able to just sit back, relax, and exhale.
Nothing more to do. No more desires to fulfill.
Just a permanent state of letting go and being surrounded by others who’ve let go too.
The problem is that people who let go die.
Retirees who lie on some beach or live full-time on the golf course drop dead within a few years.
Studies show time and time again that people who achieve ultimate states of comfort, like retirement, have higher mortality rates.
In fact, a long-term study reported in the British Medical Journal shows that people who retire at 55 are 89% more likely to die in the first 10 years after retirement than those who retire at 65.
Pressure, not comfort, spurs growth.
If you want to change your life for the better, you need to start getting uncomfortable.
You need to start being disruptive.
The truth is you cannot improve your situation without first disrupting it.
If you really want to grow, you’re going to have to disrupt your environment, the people in your life, and yourself.
You’re going to have to disrupt your own mind.
But there’s a logical way to do this.
Don’t just be a jerk and create a bunch of chaos. Instead, create a rational escape plan. Map out your exit strategy in detail.
Sit down and write out what you want your new life to look like.
Who and what do you want to break free from?
What do you want to do instead? Who do you want to connect with instead?
Who do you want to become yourself?
By answering these questions, you’ll set a new target for yourself.
Once you have a target, all that’s left to do is to unapologetically take action towards hitting it.
With a strong goal in place, you can work towards achieving it by happily facing any adversity that comes against you head on. You can work towards detoxifying negative experiences you face by channeling your emotions and actions productively. By leveraging your position as a misfit and surrounding yourself with other misfits, you’ll continue to move forward. In this way, you’ll stay desensitized to negativity and fully execute your disruptive, life-improving exit strategy.
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