“Each fresh crisis is an opportunity in disguise.” This quote has resonated with me since I was a little girl. We can’t control the entire world around us and there will be times when even our biggest effort won’t lead to success. We are programmed to perceive failure and regression as a sign of weakness, of perpetual loss. The difference lies in perception. See, the event—the roadblock—is neither good nor bad in itself. It just is.
Steps back can take many forms: change in routines, not getting a promotion at work, personal or family tragedies, injuries, failing a test in school. When missteps do happen, a better strategy is to simply take two steps forward and keep in mind you’re still ahead of where you were before. In the digital world we live in, it’s difficult to see that even your biggest idols deal with rejection and failure, since what they project on social media does not always represent a true picture of their daily struggles. It certainly doesn’t tell the full story of how they got there in the first place.
Take, for example, famous Major League Baseball player Tommy John. Tommy played 26 seasons in the majors, not without setbacks. He faced a career ending injury that doctors called “dead arm injury,” but instead of focusing on the negatives he chose to focus on what he could control—his rehab. He asked the doctors what his chances were for a comeback and they said one in a hundred. He went on to win 164 more games, and now they call that surgery “Tommy John surgery.” His struggle didn’t end there. Twelve years later at the age of 45, he was cut off by the Yankees. They told him he shouldn't be playing baseball at his age. He wasn't ready to be over baseball so he demanded a second chance. He trained as hard as he could for the tryouts and got back in.
The lesson from this story is that we must focus our efforts on what is in our control. The 2000 year old stoic phrase, “ta eph’hemin, ta our ep’hemin,” reminds us that there is what is up to us and what is not up to us.
To complain, give up—that is a choice. So is our attitude, perspective, desire, decision, and determination.
Taking steps back ends up being a win-win situation because there will always be the opportunity to learn and practice new virtues, even if it’s only acceptance or humility. The next time you are faced with adversity, choose to see the positive, focus on what you can control, and see things in perspective.
I still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was early in the first year of my PhD program in Physical Therapy at the University of Miami when my advisor and committee called me into a formal meeting. You have to maintain a high level of work to stay in the program and I was right at the line. I remember sitting in that room with all of my male professors.
I believe anyone can be great, even you. All you have to do is find your way. When we’re born, we start out with a unique set of skills and talents. By finding the right combination of these two things, we can reach our potential. To find your sweet spot, you just need to be patient and keep experimenting. After that, it’s time for you to put in the long hours and hard work. The more you are willing to give, the more you will ultimately get.
Do you want to know what it takes to succeed? We all have different formulas, but maybe we can learn a thing or two from world record holder Stefi Cohen. Click the link for Stefi's latest article where she dives deep into "The Trifecta For Success."