How to Succeed in “less than ideal” Circumstances

When I’m not traveling or speaking, I enjoy competing on the Golf Channel AM Tour. It’s thrilling for me to test myself against a game that can never be mastered. Sometimes prior to an upcoming event, I will start getting texts from fellow competitors informing me of the weather forecast for the tournament. Most of these texts carry a tone of concern especially when rain or wind is in the forecast. One of the latest ones I received simply said, “Less Than Ideal.”

The interesting thing I have noticed is that the players who focus on and complain about the conditions don’t seem to play well. On the contrary, the players that take the conditions for what they are and focus their attention on playing the best round possible, seem to come out on top. Even more, the players who have competed in less than ideal conditions previously seem to draw positive energy from those past experiences and it helps them in their current situation.

So, what does this have to do with succeeding in “less than ideal” circumstances? Well, it’s simple … everything. Unfortunately, in the course of our lives, we all have many days where the rains fall and the winds blow. Situations arise that are out of our control and many times life just doesn’t seem fair. We long for the road to success to be smooth and paved with ease. However, it’s surviving the “bumps in the road” that creates in us the ability to endure and ultimately succeed.

All of us love it when the cards are stacked in our favor … when the calls go our way and the tide rolls in our direction. Success is sweet and easy to obtain under favorable conditions. But what about the periods in our lives when the sun doesn’t shine and the circumstances are “less than ideal”? Do you have what it takes to find success under these conditions? If you are an American you should. In fact, it’s part of our heritage and passed down through our DNA.

If you are an American, chances are that your ancestors arrived here under “less than ideal” circumstances. If you are of African-American descent, chances are that someone in your family arrived here on a slave ship and was considered the property of another human being. Likewise, if you are from Irish-American descent, someone from your family may have arrived here as an indentured servant and was treated less than humane. If you are Asian-American or Cuban-American, chances are that someone from your family arrived here fleeing from the oppression of Communism or civil war. And the list could go on and on and pertain to almost every ethnicity.

The point I am making here is that all of us have the privilege of being an American because someone in our family arrived here under “less than ideal” circumstances. As Bill Murray says in the movie, “Stripes”, “We are the wretched refuse … we’re the underdogs … we’re mutts. We were kicked out of every decent country known to man.” And that being true, we have in our DNA the ability to succeed even when the odds are stacked against us. But although our ancestors passed along to us a rich heritage of “survival under duress”, we can sometimes find ourselves forgetting that “the glory is in the struggle.”

Even the animals know that we never reach our potential in comfort and security. When a mother eagle decides it’s time for her young to fly, it becomes quite the experience for the young eagle. He has been living in the comfort of the nest for weeks … warm and well-fed. Then one day, for no apparent reason to the young eagle, the mother flies over, picks him up, takes him to the edge of a cliff and drops him. Not having yet developed the ability to fly, the young eagle falls uncontrollably. Then suddenly, right before the frantic young eagle hits the ground, the mother swoops in and rescues him. This process continues for quite some time.

And then, after observing the mother eagle’s ability to fly time and time again, the young eagle begins to flap his own wings. Unsteady at first, he soon begins to develop the ability to fly and over time, the ability to soar. Ironically, the young eagle would have never reached his potential in the comfort of the nest. It took the struggle of failure to produce the fruit of success.

Understanding this principle can give us a new outlook when the situations or circumstances in our lives become “less than ideal”. We can look at them as opportunities for growth and not excuses for failure … welcome them as friends instead of avoiding them as enemies. Is the process a pleasant one? Of course not. But finding meaning in the process can be the difference between being an overcomer and simply being overcome.

So, here are three things that all of us can do to increase our chances of success when the “less than ideal” situations come our way.

View the situation as an “opportunity for growth” and not an “excuse for failure”. The easy thing and the instinctive thing to do when life throws us a curve is to whine and complain. Although this activity may feel good in the moment, the fact is that it very seldom guides us to a solution for the challenges we face. Moreover, it actually consumes energy that could be used to produce the solution to our current challenge. And let’s be honest, no one likes to associate with a whining, complainer. Your high school coach said it best … “Life is not fair.”

When I was just a few months old and my father deserted me, my mom and my sister, that wasn’t fair. But I have never used that as an excuse to fail. In fact, I learned to use it as a springboard to subconsciously say, “Look at what you missed”. I know a guy who was on my basketball team in high school who was dropped off at an orphanage at the age of 2. He had every reason to be bitter and give up on life. But instead, he became one of the “mentally” toughest guys I know and went on to be the owner of a very successful construction company.

The point I am making is that rain falls on all of us in some form or fashion. How we respond is up to us. You can blame your failures on your family background, your ethnicity and even the government if it makes you happy. But I can promise you that it won’t make you successful.

Ask “empowering” instead of “disempowering” questions. It has often been said that the quality of our lives is equal to the quality of the questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis. What kinds of questions do you ask yourself? Are they “empowering” or “disempowering”? Do you find yourself asking questions like, “Why does this happen to me?” or “Why doesn’t anything ever work out for me?” or “Why can’t I find the right person to date?” Be careful. Your brain will come up with an answer, even if it’s not the right one and sometimes, it can contain the word “loser”.

Make a habit of asking empowering questions like, “What is good about this situation?” or “What can I learn from this to help me move on?” or “Now that I know what doesn’t work, what is the next step to lead me to what will work?” These types of questions cause your brain to develop solutions not criticisms.

Understand that the situation is temporary not eternal. The late Jim Rohn once said, “Life is comprised of difficulty, mixed with opportunity. Sometimes there is more difficulty than opportunity and sometimes there is more opportunity than difficulty. But, one will always follow the other. When you understand this you have an advantage on other people.” Yes, you may currently be in a difficult time but like everything, it will pass. You may be enjoying a wonderful time of success and happiness but it also will pass. The key in both situations is to remain actively present in the process and keep taking the small steps that lead you closer to your goals and dreams. Because face it … if every day was great then no day would be great … they would all be just ordinary. We need the struggle to appreciate the victory.

One life … One shot … Make It Count!

© 2018 Dave Davlin  All rights reserved.


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