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Crisis, the flip side of Opportunity? Part 1

If you’ve lived on this earth for any length of time, you’ll have realised this by now – adversity is part of life. It may seem redundant to say that, but it bears reminding ourselves as we go through this challenging time. This too shall pass. We will come out on the other side. Before […]

If you’ve lived on this earth for any length of time, you’ll have realised this by now – adversity is part of life. It may seem redundant to say that, but it bears reminding ourselves as we go through this challenging time. This too shall pass. We will come out on the other side.

Before the COVID-19 crisis broke loose on humanity earlier this year, my family experienced our own crisis. On 14 November 2019, my husband had routine arthroscopic surgery on his knee. It was a day case. He went into theatre first thing in the morning and by early afternoon we were home. And that was supposed to be that.

Except, two weeks later, he developed an infection in the knee, and everything went rapidly downhill. Over the course of the next two months, my husband was hospitalised three times and underwent seven more surgical procedures. What made matters worse is the fact that my husband and I are both medical doctors. He’s an orthopaedic surgeon, so this was right in his field. We knew what was going on. There was no way our attending physicians could sugar-coat the possible outcomes as the infection raged throughout his entire body, refusing to respond to any of the various treatments, and his knee developed further complications.

To say that things were tough is an understatement. At one point his physical and mental condition was touch and go. I could see the man I love fading away in front of me.

Today, my husband is back at work. He’s still on the mend, but those darkest days are a dim memory. As many of us battle the onslaught of the corona virus, I want to share three things that helped us make it through.

NUMBER 1: FAITH

To make it through adversity, you need faith. I’m not necessarily talking about religion or spirituality, although for my family, our faith in Jesus Christ was the cornerstone of our fight against trouble and fear. By faith, I’m referring to the unshakeable belief you must have that things are going to get better.

To make it successfully through hard times you must maintain an attitude of optimism regardless of the circumstances. Scripture says, “In everything give thanks”, and science has proved that people who go through life with an attitude of gratitude do better than those who don’t.

Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman conducted a ten-year scientific study into the nature of luck. He wanted to know why some people seem to be consistently lucky, while for others bad luck seems to follow them wherever they go. The results of the study revealed that, to a large extent, people make their own good or bad fortune, and that it is possible to enhance the amount of luck that people encounter in their lives. It’s all a matter of attitude.

One aspect of the research that’s particularly relevant at this time, compared the way lucky versus unlucky people use what psychologists refer to as counter-factual thinking to deal with bad fortune. For example, research has shown that athletes who win bronze medals at the Olympic Games are happier than those who win silver medals because of the way they view their performance.

Silver medallists focus on the idea that if they had performed slightly better, they might have won a gold medal. Bronze medallists focus on the thought that if they had performed slightly worse, they wouldn’t have won any medal at all. Bronze medallists are simply happy to be on the podium.

Our ability to imagine what might have happened rather than what did happen is described as counterfactual. Lucky people use counterfactual thinking in positive, empowering ways.

In Professor Wiseman’s studies, participants were presented with a bank robbery scenario: “You are waiting to be served in a bank when an armed robber suddenly enters, fires a shot and the bullet hits you in the arm. Would this event be lucky or unlucky?”

Unlucky people focussed on the negative. It was their usual bad luck to be in the bank at the time of a robbery. Lucky people on the other hand, focussed on the positive, and how the situation could have been much worse. One lucky participant commented, “It’s lucky because you could have been shot in the head – also you could sell you story to the newspapers and make some money.”

As Professor Wiseman reports, “The differences between the lucky and unlucky people were striking. Lucky people tend to imagine spontaneously how the bad luck they encounter could have been worse, and in doing so, they feel much better about themselves and their lives. This, in turn, helps keep their expectations about the future high, and, increases the likelihood of them continuing to live a lucky life.”

Having faith doesn’t mean you’re unrealistic, ignoring the gravity and hardship of the prevailing circumstances. Operating in faith means you choose to look beyond the current circumstances, to focus on a higher, more empowering truth. And the truth is this: you are resourceful. You have made it through every crisis you have ever encountered in your life up until now. That is why you’re still here, reading this article. You have a one hundred percent success rate when it comes to overcoming crises in your life.

In part 2 of this series, I’ll show why understanding your innate resourcefulness is central to identifying opportunity amid crisis and coming out on the other side, stronger than when you went in.

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