Overcoming adversity: no struggle, no progress

When times get tough, Tamecah looks for silver linings. Read her blog to find out how you can do the same.

Written by Tamecah O. |

Sunlight breaking through clouds
"Be mindful of your strengths and abilities. Self-efficacy is the belief in your ability to manage and execute what is required to achieve your goals."

I believe silver linings pierce through grey clouds, always. The silver lining may not appear at first sight, but if you manage to weather the storm, you will see it. The silver lining is a metaphor for optimism, the grey clouds symbolise adversity. Weathering the storm is the ability to see the positive aspects, and be hopeful and confident that a successful outcome will occur.

As students, it takes more than optimism to achieve impressive grades and if, by accident, you cut off your finger, optimism will not grow it back. There is work involved with overcoming adversity and a positive mindset is a powerful start for success in academia and life in general. Challenges that we may face at university include balancing school, career, family, and staying motivated. An advantage to studying remotely is the flexibility, however, a disadvantage can be the lack of face-to-face interaction with peers. The feeling of not being accountable to anyone can be problematic, so taking the initiative to be a more socially engaged student is up to you.

Firstly, be cognisant of the areas you need to improve on and potential risks or problems you may be faced with in the future (‘stay woke’); secondly, value your goals, place them on a higher status than the adversity (keep your eyes on the prize); and lastly, treat your academic journey like a business. Time and money have been invested with the intent to receive a return on your investment. Whether that return is a degree, professional designation, knowledge or all of the above (proceed with purpose).

Maintaining self-awareness, keeping your eyes on the prize and proceeding with purpose are great aspirations, but, the events from 2020 induced feelings of uncertainty across the globe. During the lockdown, I spent a lot of time monitoring the current state of affairs and I have concluded there are two popular views of the world today:

  1. We are a world divided by racism and socio-economic imbalance
  2. We are a world uniting in the fight against racism and social injustice.

Both perceptions are understandable, will overlap and may change depending on the headline. This is why I appreciate ‘silver lining’ metaphors and poetic sentiment of the virtuous kind that inspires us to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty. Adversity is inevitable and perhaps the key to success is not a ‘get through it’ mindset, which seems vague and uninspiring. Maybe the key is maintaining that sense of joy and productivity that existed in you before adversity showed up.

Think about others for inspiration and motivation. For example, the life of Frederick Douglass, an iconic African American figure from the 19th-century. He was an abolitionist, republican, author, suffragist and more. He explicitly believed there could be no progress without struggle, and I choose to believe him because the idea of ‘struggling’ is not as antagonistic as before. Today the feeling of struggling is a clear sign to improve, try again, work harder and so on. This requires a certain amount of self-awareness to find a constructive solution to overcome the problem.

Be mindful of your strengths and abilities. Self-efficacy is the belief in your ability to manage and execute what is required to achieve your goals. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, manage and use your emotions positively to communicate effectively and overcome challenges. If you are unfamiliar with either term – like me,  a few years ago -  I urge you to research these empowering concepts, self-efficacy and emotional intelligence. Remember, seek to find the silver lining in the grey clouds and when adversity comes knocking, remember to knock back!

Tamecah is studying the LLB in Canada.

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