April 12, 2016 Blog No Comments

spring treeI just received some tough news. It’s not the first time I’ve dealt with difficult things. In fact, if I think I’ve had more than my fair share, I realize, haven’t we all? It’s just a matter of time before life will bring us hard experiences. We’re all in this together.

So when the inevitable curve ball hits us in the course of our personal or professional life, what allows us to get through difficulty with a sense of resiliency verses feeling defeated? I know what I have learned from my own experience and there is interesting research on this.

I find resonance with the following Huffington Post article, 5 Things Truly Resilient People Do Differently. Authors, David Feldman and Lee Daniel Kravets review their book, Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success. They have identified five characteristics that push people forward when dealing with difficulty.

In these 5 things, I recognize my own ideas on what gives us the ability to responds to adversity with resilience. So with each one, I have added my spin. See how it matches up with your experience.


The authors say this goes beyond simply being optimistic that “everything will be just fine”. It means being grounded in reality and pushing forward. It includes using the circumstance to challenge beliefs and ask questions like “now what” to prepare for what’s in front of you, rather than blindly being optimistic that everything will be fine.


To stay forward focused means you challenge yourself to think about how you will expand and grow from the experience. We have choices about how we respond. How do you want to make those for yourself? If you lay down, the game is over. Being forward focused keeps you thinking, planning and moving in positive new directions. It fosters hope and resilience.

It also changes the” locus of control”, a concept introduced by psychology professor John Rotter, at the University of Connecticut. He says that the more active control you take in moving through your difficult situation, the more resilient you will be.

Active control moves you from feeling victimized by circumstances outside your control to being the creator of your own reality. When we focus on our internal locus of control over the good and bad experiences of our life, we can move with more confidence, hope and resilience.


You have heard inspiring stories of people who take adversity and use it to pull themselves up. They push forward despite the odds. Some may say they are not being realistic, and their behavior is delusional, but this is the stuff of inspiration.

The authors tell of Casey Pieretti whose basketball career in college ended abruptly when he lost his leg in an accident with a drunk driver. His response was to decide to rehabilitate himself to run a triathlon within a year. He found his inner resolve against all the odds. Stories like this spurs the rest of us on


What lesson can we derive from adversity? What is the challenge that is speaking to us to learn, grow or do? To find the opportunity in difficulty means searching our true nature for additional meaning in life. It is never too late to give voice to what is important and take our life to new levels of action.

A difficult situation can help you re-prioritize your values and goals. What is important – how does this situation help you truly know your north star?


It is often our nature to want to lick our wounds in private. But as the authors noted, the research says that when we receive the help and support of friends and family who want to be there for us, we protect ourselves from the difficult emotional impact of traumatic situations. Depression and anxiety are real in the face of difficulty.


If there is ever a time to appreciate your family and loved ones, it is when there is difficulty. Accepting and responding to offers of kindness is empowering for everyone. It is not the time to be prideful and think “I can do it alone”. Support makes a difference.

Loving more also means loving yourself to consider what else you may need to feel better. Self-care has never been more important. Staying with a good diet, exercise and embracing the holistic healing techniques of meditation, yoga, t’ai chi or qigong are proven to be helpful. Love yourself more by searching for new ways to enhance your self-care.


For people who have been traumatized by circumstances beyond their control, like with interpersonal violence, war, man-made accidents or loss of loved ones, coming to a place of acceptance and forgiveness is a huge mountain to climb. But the climb is worth it. When we move past anger, blame and hatred, we find our inner strength. We find peace.


What is important is knowing that we have control over our most powerful tool that affects how we feel – our thoughts. Accepting full responsibility for our thoughts and guarding against the ones that make us feel like victims is essential to rising above difficulty.

Most of us have more strength than we are aware of. By looking at our history of successful experiences in coping with difficult situations, we can bolster ourselves for what is to come. By paying attention to our thoughts and focusing them on our ability to cope with stresses, we enhance our natural gifts to rise above difficulty.


Faith gives many people the extra support to transcend extreme difficulty. It is what the authors say “buffers the effects of trauma and galvanizes personal growth”. Whether this comes from personal religious practices or a set of beliefs, it allows people to tap into a power that is greater than themselves.


While I have always relied on a faith during difficult times, there are many people who don’t have this source of support. If you can believe you’re a soul with a deep well of wisdom, you can tap into this source of comfort and hope. This moves the locus of control from external blame to your own heart-based internal wisdom that knows things have a divine order.

When you think you’ll learn and grow from the experience, you can embrace the journey through it. Finding important meaning in the difficulty allows you to flow through it without resistance. The absence of struggle is what creates resilience. This acceptance and knowing brings calming peace in the face of difficulty.

I am assured by all these forms of deep knowing that we’ll get through these tough times and be changed for the better.

If you are interesting in reading the article I’ve referenced from the Huffington Post, it’s posted here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/what-is-a-supersurvivor_n_5….

If any of this speaks to you and you’d like to explore how you can enhance your ability to cope with difficulty, my Transformational Life Coaching and workshops will help. I welcome you to contact me at my websitewww.spectrumtransformation.com.

Written by Connie Milligan, LCSW
If there is anything I’ve expressed that speaks to you, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at my email, connie [at] conniemilligan [dot] com