Bob Marley said, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have”. And he was not wrong, because the truth is that we never know until where we can make it, and how much we can grow until we have the need to do it.
Adversities make you stronger
A study conducted by psychologists at the King College Hospital in London and the Royal Mardesen Hospital in Sutton analyzed how women with breast cancer responded to the disease. They have thus identified five different ways: combative spirit, fatalism, despair, anxious concern, and denial.
These psychologists have found that when the initial clinical conditions were similar, women who faced the disease with impotence, despair, and fatalism were worse off. Conversely, those with a combative spirit and a resilient attitude had a better prognosis.
They also found that who had suffered major traumas in the past and passed them was more inclined to resolve any problems that would arise in the future. This was not only because the suffering had made her stronger, but also because it had taught her to have confidence in her abilities, told her that she could move on.
In this regard, Ernest Hemingway said: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places”. In front of adversity, we can collapse and complain about what happened or we can take advantage of the situation to get strengthened.
A recent study conducted by the universities of Buffalo and California confirms that what does not kill us makes us stronger. These psychologists analyzed as 2,398 people aged 18 to 101 faced with stressful situations and the traumatic events of their lives.
They discovered that those who had experienced negative events during life had better mental health and greater prosperity compared to people who had to deal with current problems but had no serious problems in the past.
People who had experienced severe adversity in the past showed less anguish, had no symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and showed greater satisfaction in life. They also managed better the problems of the present.
There is no doubt that adversity gives us good lifestyle lessons. On one hand, they allow us to test our resources and, on the other, give us confidence. When we have reached the bottom, the confidence we can go up again is essential to continue fighting.
The 40% law
The Navy Seal are famous for their extremely hard physical preparation, which often leads them to the limit of their strength. According to them, we can endure much more than we think and go beyond what we propose.
These soldiers argue that when our mind says “enough” we actually only reached the 40% of our capacity. Therefore, when we believe that we can no longer continue and are ready to throw the sponge, we still have a wide margin of opportunity: 60% more.
Of course, these figures are indicative, the most important thing is the message at the base: in certain situations, when we are going to abandon everything, what stops and demotivates us is not the lack of energy, but only a mental block.
The 40% law is a very useful tool when we are in difficult situations because it helps us overcome our limits and change our perspective, tells us that we can take a step further, and then another and another…
Newt Gingrich, an American politician, could not summarize it better: “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of the hard work you already did”.
Of course, this does not mean that we have to look for adversity or resist stoically against winds and tides, but when problems knock on our door, we must be ready to learn the lesson and above all know that we can rely on our strength.
Seery, M. D. et. Al. (2010) Whatever does not kill us: Cumulative lifetime adversity, vulnerability, and resilience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 99(6): 1025-1041.
Taylor, S. E.; Lichtman, R. R. & Wood, J. V. (1984) Attributions, beliefs about control and adjustment to breast cancer. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 46: 489-502.