How to Maintain Composure in the Face of Adversity

how to maintain composure

The other morning I hit a major setback on something big that I’ve been working on. When I learned about it my immediate impulse was to panic. That was followed by anxiety, and it wasn’t long before I found myself in somewhat of a frenzy.

Fortunately the day ended and eventually I fell asleep. When I woke up the next day I realized just how useless all of that had been. I knew that in order to pick myself up and move forward I had to maintain my composure in the face of adversity.

1. Give Yourself Time to Process It

When you’re faced with adversity, it’s important to give yourself time to process what’s happening. Some people will tell you to forget it and move on. But, if you try to move on immediately, you’ll find it impossible not to continually dwell on what just happened. It might take a day. It might take a week. It might take two. The key is to make sure it’s not taking so long that you’re completely mentally paralyzed and unable to move on.

2. Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions

When you hit a major setback it’s inevitable that you’ll have some sort of a reaction. Chances are it won’t be a positive one. While it might be tempting to shout out to the world about your setback, that may end up causing long term damage. Therefore it’s best to avoid any knee jerk reactions.

3. Stop Resisting The Circumstances

You’ve probably heard the words “what you resist persists.” What’s happened has happened. Resisting something won’t change that. If anything it keeps you stuck exactly where you’re at and ultimately kills your flow.

4. Consider the Possibilities

By asking yourself one simple question, a world of options will open up to you: “What’s possible?” By asking what’s possible you destroy the limitations of your current circumstances. What emerges is a blank canvas for you to paint your next masterpiece on.

5. Look at Your Previous Setbacks

If there’s anything that 1000 days of surfing has taught me it’s that life ebbs and flows. Sometimes the conditions are fantastic. Sometimes they’re lousy. But they always improve. When you’re trying to make a dent in the universe you’ll often take two steps back to take twenty forward.

6. Go Past the Point of No Return

The other morning I was interviewing Jonathan Fields who has been incredibly successful as an entrepreneur. When I asked him what differentiated really successful people from others he said that they keep going when most people would have given up. They go to the point of no return and never look back.

By maintaining composure in the face of adversity, you’ll be able to navigate the waters of life even when they get a bit choppy. 

Photo by Astragony

16 thoughts on “How to Maintain Composure in the Face of Adversity”

  1. Great points.
    I have a very simple mantra I use for dealing with setbacks – ‘Learn the lesson. Apply the learning. Move on.’ – really helps keep the focus on dealing effectively with the setback rather than getting stuck in it.

  2. This is good advice – I can particularly use reminders about number 4. Oftentimes frustration will constrict my awareness to the point where I can’t see so many other – more positive – aspects of a situation that are right there in front of me. Hence, I think there aren’t other roads to take, and this can lead to a sense of hopelessness. Move your consciousness away from the sticking point by imagining the possibilities, indeed.

    1. Seth,

      Possibility based thinking is incredibly powerful. It causes a world of options to open up before you. Instead of letting your circumstances cloud your field of vision, you see things you didn’t see before.

  3. Very true point. “what you resist persists” People tends to focus too much on things that had past, and overlook the present & future. Look forward, and great things shall happen again. =D

    1. Yeah, tell me about it. I only know because I’ve resisted things so much throughout my life. But when you stop resisting something it loses its power over you. That’s liberating.

  4. I find it really helpful when a big upsetting event happens to give myself permission to just not be at top shape for a bit. I’ll let myself watch that extra tv show or have that extra snack for a day or two. I also find it helpful to remember how quickly and even seemingly randomly your perspective can change.

    One day the situations feels hopeless. The next day, perhaps after a deep sleep, you might wake up feeling ready to take it on. It’s strange how that works.

    Patience with oneself is key.

    1. STeve,

      That’s a good point. It’s especially valuable if you’re a Type A go getter person. Some days you are simply not going to be at the top of your game and if you try to force things it’s kind of a train wreck.

  5. I think giving yourself time to process things is the most important step. Many times when we’re hit with something, we are paralyzed and don’t know how to react. I work in Security Management and we’re faced with random issues at times. You have to learn to relax as best you can and take in all of the information that you’ve received. Dealing with adversity can be frustrating but it shows what kind of person you are. You may not pass with flying colors all of the time, but the fact you tackled it on head shows something about you.

  6. After years of anxiety and panic and frenzied responses to adversity, I think I’ve worn out my OMG!!! Your article here is spot on. I’ve found there is something valuable to learn in every such experience. Sometimes I have to look harder than others – and sometimes it’s just a character growth opportunity.

  7. Great points Srinivas. I think it is also important to ask ourselves what we have learned from the experience once we have perspective. There is always value in everything.

    The things that we do to take care of ourselves during good times will sustain us when life gets tough. Set up good self-care habits when things are easy. Many of them will endure when things go sideways.

  8. How to Maintain Composure in the Face of Adversity…it’s a tough one!

    To have the will to act in a positive manner, rationalize without emotion,understanting the cause/effect for future scenarios…commitment all the way…

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