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Change Adversity Into Opportunity

If you think that being unemployed for a long time is an adverse situation, think again. I watched a news story on the Today show about someone who truly faced adverse circumstances and made incredible changes in his life. Italian Paralympic athlete Alex Zanardi won three medals in the Paralympics. So, what's the buzz? Zanardi, a former Formula one driver, lost both legs while competing in his beloved sport. When asked how he pulled through, Zanardi said, "It was up to me to change an adversity into an opportunity." Zanardi's startling response to adversity made my think of familiar refrains of people who have lost their jobs and remain unemployed: "They laid me off. I didn't deserve it. Why me?" "They hired someone else instead of me. I was more than qualified!" "I've worked hard for XYZ company for 15 years. I didn't deserve this layoff!" We perceive circumstances as adversity, which is based on our core belief systems. These are influenced by our childhood, past experiences, culture, current circumstances, faith, and values. We then judge a circumstance or make opinions about every situation. So, how can we change our opinion or judgement about adversity? Gain a different perspective. I work in the mental health field daily and help others see things differently. Mental health professionals speak about three minds: the emotional, the rational, and the wise. Go back to the three reactions above. They represent the "emotion" mind, which means our thoughts are based on distressing feelings. The rational mind examines factual evidence.

Try The STOPP Technique

So, instead of thinking, "I didn't deserve the layoff," rephrase that with "What are the facts? I've felt this way before and I've come through it." The wise mind takes a breath and looks at the better picture. So instead, you can start to think, "What's best for me in this situation?" The remedy in this case is the "STOPP" technique:

S= step back T=take a breath O=observe P=pull back P=practice what works


Paralympic athlete Alex Zanardi changed his perspective on facing adversity and made significant changes in his life. Can you do the same?

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