(photo credit Kelvin Trautman)

It’s often said that if you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen. Visualise it, believe with all your heart, do all the necessary groundwork to prepare for it, and you will make it a reality.

I do believe that, and I live by it. I believe positivity attracts good things, and that self-belief is the way forward. There’s no point dreaming about goals and hoping that by some flash of chance they’ll just happen. It takes hard work, determination, planning, passion, purpose and a lot of perseverance to make those dreams real.

The journey will not always be a smooth one – there will be bumps and hiccups along the way. That’s guaranteed. Obstacles, whether big or small, are inevitable, and they can come our way when we least expect them. It’s less the type and size of these obstacles that affect us, than how we deal with them that determines whether we flounder and fail, or gather ourselves up and grow stronger from them.

Challenge is unavoidable. Adversity is guaranteed. Obstacles are a reality of life, and as they tend to come at us unexpectedly, our handling of them determines how well we progress onwards from them.

It’s easy to get emotional about things that are out of our control, to blame them for bad performance, use them as an excuse to pull out of doing something, or make them the reason we cancel our plans completely. But obstacles don’t have to stop us – how we behave in times of adversity depends on how prepared we are for the unexpected.

Adversity is simply part of the picture, part of the rich tapestry that makes up the challenges of life, and of our chosen path. We need to accept it. It’s how we manage and overcome the adversity that counts.

American basketball star Michael Jordan said it best: “If you run into a wall, don’t just turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Just as our coping skills are critical during times of adversity, so our management of failure determines how well we move forward, if at all. Failure is inevitable – somewhere, sometime along the way, we will fail. We all experience failure, and we all need to experience failure.

No matter how well we may plan, prepare and perform, the reality of failure is always in the background. Sometimes we have no control over whether we succeed or we fail – sometimes things are simply beyond our control, like bad weather, power outages or sudden illness. Other times we fail because we’ve simply had enough so we choose to opt out of the race, the chase, or the determined struggle. That’s our choice.

Failure teaches us valuable lessons. Far more can be learned from failing than from winning. Failure should serve to strengthen, fortify and focus us, reminding us of our purpose. And it requires passion and perseverance to pick ourselves up from failure and try again. That’s not easy, but will that comes guaranteed personal growth.

Failure fuels growth, it brings learning. Every failure presents an opportunity for us to take stock, re-evaluate our plan, and eliminate a path or approach that, for whatever reason, did not work for us. The critical lesson is that we learn from our mistakes, so that when we try again, we don’t go that same route – instead we use a different way, careful not to repeat our same mistakes. Through adversity we gain a better understanding of tough situations, and we are better prepared for them when they next come our way. Adversity can empower us, help us strengthen and become more resourceful. Hardship can bring out the best in us.

Failure, disappointment and adversity teach us determination, resilience, self-discipline, persistence and perseverance.

How we handle our failure is an important start in our path towards that positive growth. The first step is to accept that we have failed. Acknowledge it, and don’t be angry about it or put the blame for your failure on anyone or anything. You have failed – it’s not the end of the world; you now need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and step back up. Think through what happened, and how it happened. Assure yourself that you will recover, and you want to grow from this – you want to gain knowledge, insight and experience. Visualise your failure as a stepping stone to a stronger, more resilient you. Focus on getting up and trying again. And again and again, if you have to, until you succeed.

Another useful aspect of experiencing adversity, disappointments and failure is that we don’t have to make the mistakes ourselves to learn the lessons. We can learn better ways of doing things from observing other people’s behaviour, from situations we hear about or watch unfold, and by taking advice from those who’ve learned valuable lessons themselves.

Over the next few days take some time to think about how you perceive adversity, and how you have handled disappointments in your life. Think about what you felt, how you reacted, and how that obstacle changed your approach or behaviour. Did you resign yourself to the circumstance, or did you look for a way around it? Did you allow it to beat you – or did you stand tall and strengthen from it?