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Mold Your Mind

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path.

Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

—Ryan Holiday

This quote was pulled from the book, “The Obstacle Is the Way,” by Ryan Holiday. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it as Holiday discusses how to gain an advantage when faced with adversity.

Believe it or not, you are going to be faced with difficult challenges, countless obstacles, and various forms of adversities throughout your lifetime. Unfortunately, you never know when they are going to present themselves nor what form they will come in: fatigue during a performance/workout, having your identity stolen, losing your job, or receiving negative criticism, to name a few. These adversities are meant to test your character and your mettle. The key is to prepare for these situations, to be comfortable in the situations and to turn those negatives into your own personal gain!

Begin by developing an understanding of what you control: how you view your adversity, how you respond to your adversity and how well you can keep yourself composed during adversity. Start by changing your self-talk and how you approach these situations. For instance, instead of viewing these situations as a threat, view them as a challenge; instead of viewing them as a crisis, view them as an opportunity. Next, respond how you WANT to respond! No person or situation can force us to feel or react a certain way; we choose how we respond, and how you respond will determine how successful you will be in overcoming or thriving in these situations. Finally, see the good in the situation! I am sure you have heard the old adage, “things happen for a reason.” Well, find that reason! Recently, a small fire in our attic displaced my mother, stepdad, and me from our home for a month. Things could’ve been a lot worse—after all, we’re still alive! Instead of focusing on the damage the fire caused, we chose to see the good in the situation: we get new carpet, new electrical, new walls and new paint!

I played basketball all four years in high school, the last two at the varsity level. To this day, basketball is my greatest joy (other than my nephew) and words cannot describe how much the sport means to me. I made the varsity team my junior year, and I couldn’t have been more excited because I didn’t think I would make it, not to mention I would be playing with my five best friends. Life was good! During that season, I was pretty low on the depth chart and knew I wasn’t going to play that often. I took it upon myself to work as hard as possible in order to help my teammates improve, and I was the loudest cheerleader in the gym. I was voted Most Inspirational that season.

Going into my senior year, I expected my playing time would increase drastically, but it didn’t. I was told after tryouts that there was a possibility I could start, but I didn’t. I spent my senior year riding the bench, wondering what I was doing wrong and why I wasn’t playing. It all culminated in our sectional playoff game, where one of our starters was in foul trouble at a crucial point late in the game, and I thought, “This is my time.” Instead, my coach went with the unproven sophomore, who essentially caused us to lose the game during those three minutes he played. I was devastated. Not because my basketball career was over, but because all I wanted to do was play … but I never got my chance.

What was the adversity, you ask? Well, I wasn’t able to play the game that I loved, and I let it have a negative impact on me. I would sulk after games; sometimes I would cry because I wasn’t playing. Many times I wanted to quit. Because I was focusing on what I was doing wrong, I missed out on the enjoyment of my senior year, playing with my five best friends, and I will never get that time back. Instead, when faced with the adversity of not playing, I should have chosen to focus on what I could do to help my team, much like I did my junior year. At the first sign of adversity, I cracked and let it ruin my final season of playing organized basketball rather than making the most of my situation.

When we are faced with adversity, our tendency is to stop, quit and move on to something else. However, working through these situations is where we build character, confidence and mental toughness. As Joan Borysenko, a best-selling author and leading expert on stress and the mind/body connection once said, “We emerge into the light not by denying our pain, but by walking out through it.” The next time you are placed in a challenging situation or faced with adversity, welcome it with open arms and use it to your advantage!

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