Adversity: The Main Ingredient For Fulfillment

Just as your muscles require fatigue to grow, you need to struggle before you succeed.

Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

Last night my mom called to tell me my aunt was moving back to New Jersey. She’s lived here the majority of her adult life but ended up moving around the US with her daughter and her family. Now it seems shes ready to come home.

Happy to hear the news, I asked myself why it took her so long to decide she wanted to be independent. Why didn’t she think about herself sooner?

She’s given her entire life catering to other people and their needs. It’s no wonder that she’s only now discovering herself and what she wants.

Those of us who have experienced hardship grow from it. We come out stronger. Growth results in self-awareness. It doesn’t matter if self discovery is at age 15, 25, 40 or 75. If you make decisions based on your happiness at some point in your life, you’ve figured it out. You’ve experienced hardship, overcome, grown from it and acquired self awareness along the way.

Adversity → Growth → Self-Awareness → Fulfillment

This is the order in which struggle leads to fulfillment. As a child I was always picked last for teams in gym class. I became used to it and stood there smiling until I was picked. Somehow I was okay with my lowly status. I feared failure so I didn’t try.

Thirty years later, people actually want to be on my team! I have coworkers requesting to report to me. Over the years I’ve stopped fearing failure. I have experienced challenges, overcome and have grown self-aware. I’ve learned that contributing to the growth of my team — both personally and professionally — is fulfilling for me. I am passionate about their success. It’s clearly evident to the team which results in people having a favorable impression of me. It’s funny how things turn around once you become self-aware.

Thank you even though you were an asshole.

Tony Robbins has said that you should thank the person that has caused you hardship because you owe your current success to them.

I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy. — Tony Robbins

My husband has had his fair share of struggles in childhood. Despite the hardship, he is thankful for it. He says without the struggle, he wouldn’t have been able to make the decisions needed to improve his life. I have gone through struggles myself and they have been challenging. It’s hard to be thankful for hardship but painful occurrences in your life are ultimately responsible for your growth. And growth eventually leads to fulfillment.

Without struggle, there is no fulfillment. If you haven’t struggled, you need to find challenges so that you can overcome.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a comfortable life. As a result, I’ve made it a point to find challenges and learn new skills so that I can push myself out of my comfort zone. Though I often wonder why I do this, I’ve grown as a result. I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned what I find fulfilling and am focused on finding more fulfillment. This fulfillment is my success. I consider them one and the same.

In the book, The Passion Paradox, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness talk about embracing failure for chronic gains.

In order for muscle to grow, you must push it beyond it’s normal bounds. In exercise science, this is called training to fatigue. Muscle fatigue serves as a critical signal telling your body it must grow and adapt in order to withstand future challenges. Your body can’t really grow unless it fails. This principle holds true far beyond your muscles.

In our small town, we know several business owners. One of them has mentioned that his cafe, which is hugely successful, is his 4th attempt at starting a business. He failed 3 times before seeing success. His struggle with business ownership resulted in his current success.

If you think that is failure, let’s talk about Sir James Dyson. He had 5,126 failed prototypes over 15 years before creating the Dyson vacuum we all love.

Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected by 30 publishers before being published.

Clearly there are many examples of people who have failed before finding success. They have overcome, grown, become self-aware, found their fulfillment and became successful as a result.

There are two types of people. Some treat adversity as a negative experience and some focus on the positive.

There are going to be frustrations in life. The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive? — Dalai Lama

Those that treat adversity as a challenge and focus on conquering that challenge end up having more fulfilling lives. Think about it, each time you face a challenge and overcome, don’t you feel satisfaction?

If we look at athletes who are world-class in their youth and also as adults — also known as super champions — we see that they have an almost fanatical reaction to challenge. They are never satisfied. They want to push themselves to discover their best. Athletes that were world class in their youth and not as adults — almost champions — tend to blame setbacks on external factors.

I want to face challenge like a super champion. I accept that the journey to personal growth and fulfillment has challenge and failure along the way. It may be a slow journey but it’ll be worthwhile.

Written by

Indian American. Mama. Wife. VP of Product. I write about personal growth, life lessons, parenting and love.

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