Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity

In my last post, I wrote about measuring progress and finding ways to celebrate small successes along the journey to achieving your goals. Measuring progress motivates you to show up and put in the work. But what happens when the progress comes to a quick halt and you’re met with adversity along the path to success?

We’ve all heard the classic, “Fall down 7 times, get back up 8.” But is it that easy? No—but it is that simple.

Adversity takes on many faces in weightlifting. The list is long, and I’m certain you can identify your own personal challenges that you face, but most commonly, they include injury and tough losses.

Injury is an adversity that nearly everyone who participates in sport will eventually have to work through, however large or small. But let’s face it: Injuries are frustrating. They’re painful, time consuming, and they limit you from training to your full potential. Sometimes injuries are short-lived and require complete rest. Other times, they’re nagging and take thoughtful care and constant effort.

First and foremost, when dealing with any injury, it is important to recognize that you will NOT get better by training through it. If it hurts, there is a reason. The body is very communicative, we just often don’t listen.  To recover properly and avoid prolonged injury, you must listen to your body’s signals telling you to stop. It is also critical to seek professional assistance with serious injuries and follow your doctor’s recommendations. Remember, they are the expert, this is what they do for a living.

That being said, you can and should work AROUND injuries. Something I see often (and have experienced personally) is allowing the injury to completely take over your training progress. It’s easy to fall into a trap of frustration and unproductivity. Don’t let that happen. Instead of seeing an injured knee as a setback in training, see it as an opportunity to strengthen other areas that you may have been neglecting, such as your core or upper body. Not only will this benefit your training in the long term, but it will also strengthen your mind.

Adversity is inherently a psychological issue to overcome. Finding ways to be productive during a period of tribulation allows you to maintain a positive mindset and gives you strength going forward. As you encounter future setbacks, you can look back and reflect on all the challenges you have already overcome.

Another common adversity that cannot be overlooked is dealing with tough losses, whether it be in competition or training. Having goals and keeping yourself accountable is motivating and keeps you moving forward. However, when you put in significant work day after day, consistently make sacrifices, and strive to put your training first, but yet still don’t live up to your expectations when it matters most, it can be heartbreaking. This kind of agony is not something that everyone can relate to without completely dedicating themselves to a process. However, if you have experienced it, you know it comes with all the emotions of a true heartbreak: disbelief, anger, grief, and oftentimes feelings of “Why do I even do this?”

In experiences like this, it is critical to keep perspective. In weightlifting, you train relentlessly for months on months for literally seconds on the platform. You often have numbers in your head that dictate whether or not you allow yourself to be proud of your efforts. When you don’t live up to these, whether in competition or in training, it is easy to beat yourself up and question if you are truly progressing. However, you have to remember that these tests are single moments in time. There are so many variables that influence your performance: sleep, nutrition, hydration, stress, nerves, adrenalin, and more. Recognize that you can and you will have off moments or days. You may not have lived up to your expectations on that single occurrence, but there will be future opportunities.

There is more to success than success on the platform. Dealing with misses or setbacks can be another form of growth. Use this frustration as fuel and continue focusing on what you can improve on in the future and what you did well that set you up to grow. These are the traits that can define success. Everyone, no matter how talented, will encounter failure in life. It is how you deal with failure that defines whether or not you will ultimately be successful.

Though each adversity comes with its own challenges and methods of working through, it is important to identify a generalizable method that is productive and applicable to all adversities you face, since once you tear down one wall, there’s often another standing in your way.

Over time and through many losses, I have found that two major keys to overcoming adversities are to maintain a positive mindset and to never lose perspective. There are two phrases that my mother has repeatedly recited since I was a child, and ones I now recite to myself whenever I’m faced with adversities that seem too great to defeat:

“This too shall pass,” and “One day you’ll look back, and this will all be a memory.”

Both of these sayings are rooted in finding perspective: looking at experiences within the larger context. All adversities are short-term. They will pass. You will get through this. And you will come out stronger than before. All it takes is a shift in mindset.

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