Becoming a Seasoned Sailor - Navigating through Adversity
The easiest part of achieving our goals is setting them. (Which isn't to say that goal setting is an easy process either!). Once we've taken the time to carefully set out our goals, as well as the plans to achieve them, it can be easy to assume that achieving them will come automatically.
When things don't go as planned, many of us who initially approached the problem or task at hand with enthusiasm and energy can easily be derailed. As Iron Mike famously quipped: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face."
So how do we go about taking that adversity in stride? We've all heard the proverbs about rising once more than you fall, but what does the game plan actually look like when you pick yourself out of the dirt?
Find a sense of humour.
Change in our lives can be difficult, and come with resistance from places you least expect. Having a sense of humour about failure can make all the difference in the long game.
SpaceX posted this video in 2017, showing how many mistakes and failures come from taking on a monumental task like reusable rockets.
The rest of us who aren't spending millions to put humans on Mars can also learn from the sense of humour that SpaceX has about it's failures.
Sometimes stepping back and seeing the humour or irony of your situation can help reduce the impact and help you move forward. You may not be chuckling in the midst of a major setback, but you don't have to be crying either. Finding your sense of humour when facing adversity is a healthy way to build resilience, no matter how bad your situation.
With Peregrine, difficulty and failure has almost always been a part of our day to day. In my mind, if things are always working in your favour, you aren't challenging yourself enough. Since the beginning, we have had a goal of "Operational Excellence", which means that every part of our organization must be continually striving to be better in some way.
Stretching our minds constantly to find solutions to the problems around us made Katrina and I much better problem solvers than we were when we began. Being able to laugh off the feeling of frustration that comes with resistance and problems was essential in my mind, as it made the constant stream of little issues a "to-do" list, instead of the mental and emotional drag it could have easily become.
Learn to make peace with difficult situations
When things don't go our way, it can be easy to blame others or shy away from facing how we could have been better. But moping around and feeling sorry for ourselves can actually sabotage your ability to rebound and come up with solutions and next steps forward. It’s important that you consider what mistakes or missteps you might have made.
Spend time processing what you could have done differently and take responsibility for your actions. But also remember to make peace with the situation and accept the things you could not change. It's much more important to learn from failures and mistakes, as that's usually the only thing standing between you and repeating the same mistakes.
Be willing to change the plan.
It's impossible to prepare for all possible outcomes of a scenario, but thinking about contingencies and alternatives to your original plan ahead of time can making reacting to problems or unforeseen issues simpler and easier.
Being willing to adapt the means you use to achieve your goals is key to a resilient strategy. Even a rough idea of an alternate strategy can make rebounding from problems second-nature with time and practice.
But whatever you do, you can’t give up. Michael Jordan famously said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” If you refuse to give up, you will surprise yourself with how far you can go to achieve your goals.
Look at the big picture.
With any goal, it can be easy to take things personally and let our emotions be affected. Small issues or problems with our plans can easily become huge setbacks if we let tunnel-vision take over. It's key to learn to look at the bigger picture, both to remind yourself of the things going well at the moment, as well as to reflect on how we've dealt with similar adversity in the past.
For me, becoming a better and more adaptive graphic designer is a goal that I often let tunnel-vision affect. Small details that would seem insignificant or invisible to others would drive me insane, and it became difficult to stay motivated. Designing graphics would take days instead of hours, because I would become obsessed with tiny details.
Learning to look past the specifics of the difficulty I was encountering and appreciate the bigger picture (sometimes literally!) has made me a much more competent designer, who is better able to allocate time and resources to get the results I was looking for.
Share your stories of overcoming adversity below!
-Tyler at Peregrine