What It Really Means to Find Opportunity in Adversity

Opportunity in Adversity


Ask friends or family what resilience means to them and chances are most will say it has something to do with “bouncing back” from a crisis. This is a popular theme, and the image of a rubber band being pulled back before it goes forward is easy to visualize.

Unfortunately, many take this analogy literally and focus all their energy on bouncing back to the way things were before they were blindsided.

Of course, it’s perfectly understandable to want to return to a place of familiar comfort and sense of normalcy, but the reality is that sometimes our lives are irrevocably changed by these events and we are challenged to redefine what “normal” looks like, just ask the newly divorced, unemployed or a family who recently lost a loved one … just ask Amy Purdy

You never change things by fighting existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. ~Buckminster Fuller

Amy Purdy Danding With the StarsMany people first became aware of Amy from her amazing performance and accomplishment as season runner-up on Dancing With the Stars and her interview with Oprah.

But to really learn from her experience you have to look beyond the image of this dynamic young woman as she is today, a successful athlete, entrepreneur and newlywed.

Amy has been through hardships that most of us will never face — or can even understand – and she has an important story to tell, but it requires looking beyond her designer prosthetics and bubbly personality to find a highly resilient young woman who refused to let even a catastrophic illness stop her. In this inspiring TEDx talk “Living Beyond Limits” Amy challenges us to accept that our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by the choices we make and how imagination allows us to break down borders, to move beyond our circumstances to achieve big dreams.


It’s not about breaking down borders but pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might take us. ~Amy Purdy

Today, Amy remains passionate about sports and is currently the top-ranked adaptive female snowboarder in the world. She also On My Own Two Feetco-founded Adaptive Action Sports, a nonprofit organization that provides her with the opportunity to help other people with physical challenges get involved with action sports such as snowboarding, skateboarding, and wakeboarding.

The way Amy has continued to challenge herself while making a positive impact on the world is a true testament to her spirit, and if you’d like to learn more about her I encourage you to take a look at her book On My Own Two Feet (affiliate link).

Closing Thoughts

How big is your dream?

Is it so vivid, so real to you that you can taste, touch and imagine it in living color and just thinking about it gets your heart thumping?

Is your dream built on what you believe is realistic for you to achieve based on your circumstances, or is it BIG enough that to achieve it will require mustering the courage to venture well beyond your current (perceived) borders?

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.


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39 Reader Comments

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  1. Thank you so much for letting me know how much you enjoyed Amy’s book Lenie! I’m actually working on a list of carefully selected books about everyday hero stories to have available here and Amy’s is definitely on that list. 🙂

  2. lenie

    Marquita, just wanted to return and let you know that I’ve just finished reading Amy’s story and all I can say is WOW. I loved reading about how visualization saw her through some really difficult times and how she was able to focus and stay in the moment. As I mentioned, I don’t watch DWTS but know a number of people who do and I recommended they read the book.
    Thanks for sharing this – I never would have heard about it otherwise.
    lenie recently posted…Vegetable Gardens for Small Space GardenersMy Profile

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful insights Joyce. I’m so glad you found value in the post and Amy’s story.

  4. So glad you enjoyed the post Mark, and I certainly agree that Amy’s story is an inspiring example for us all. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and contribute to the conversation.

  5. Wow, thanks for taking the time to let me know that Amy’s story touched you in such a meaningful way Devin!

  6. Joyce Hansen

    In life so many of us want comfort and predictability. Yet, life is not static and is changing all the time. It’s when things get up-ended that we find ourselves immobilized and in trauma. We do not expect it, we do not plan for it and we fall into pity and depression because it has happened to us. Adversity challenges us and it is up to us to grow. Thank you for sharing the story of Amy Purdy and the quote from Buckminster Fuller. Yes, we need to make a new model.

  7. Mark

    What a truly inspiring post M!

    And I loved Amy’s talk, energy and passion! Her story is
    beyond inspiring!

    And she really is making the most of things, in so many ways!

    Talk about turning your lemons into lemonade!Her courage and dogged
    determination, serves as a positive inspiration for us all!

    I honestly think, she’s probably on track to do more good, and help and inspire so many more, than if she hadn’t suffered and survived such a tragedy!

    Thanks so much for featuring her
    Mark recently posted…Ways To Increase Profits:How Savvy Entrepreneurs Consistently Uncover Hidden Profit Opportunities!Part TwoMy Profile

  8. Devin

    Do you have a dream for your future? Yes I do. 🙂 And your blog helps clarify things. Amy’s Tedtalk made me cry, LOL, get goosebumps, and then applaud the computer screen. Geez Louise, I need some red wine and rock n roll to think about this experience!
    Devin recently posted…Imagine Failing, And Loving Every Minute Of ItMy Profile

  9. Teresa Salhi

    Such a powerful and thought provoking story. And what a beautiful example and story about Amy Purdy and the true art of resilence. Thank you for sharing the inspiration.

  10. Thank you for your kind words Roslyn, can’t think of a better compliment. I certainly agree with you about the value of making room for everyday heroes in our lives. They not only help to show us the way, they provide valuable encouragement – if they can do it, then so can we!

  11. Adaptability is certainly one of the key traits of resilience Beverley, as is effective decision-making and problem-solving, self-care and building an effective support system. I’m glad you found Amy’s story inspiring and I agree with you about that quote, it’s a powerful one for sure. Thanks so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation!

  12. Thank you so much Sarah for taking the time to let me know you found value in the post and Amy’s story!

  13. Glad you enjoyed the post and Amy’s story Donna!. Always value your thoughtful insights. 🙂

  14. Roslyn Tanner Evans

    Your posts always have me stop & reflect. I totally understand emotional resilience & hadn’t given much thought to other types. I know I have never bounced back to the way things were because those were the painful times. I owe the life I have today to my ability to make good choices, move forward & resiliently leap to the future.
    I am always inspired by the courage shown by people with physical hardships. Their challenge shows on the outside, emotional is hidden.

  15. Amy Purdy is a wonderful example of resilience, Marquita. She was one of the featured speakers at our annual USANA convention this year and very deeply moved the audience of 10,000. For me, resilience is about adaptability. About having the perseverance and persistence to move forward, or to find the way through whatever challenge you are facing. Or as Amy Purdy says: “It’s not about breaking down borders but pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might take us.” Somehow I totally get this, especially in relationship to my health. Funny that I have never thought of resilience as bouncing back. Maybe that is because of the experiences I’ve faced in my life and the meaning the word took on for me. Appreciate the thought-provoking post!
    Beverley Golden recently posted…Hippie: Think Values Not LifestyleMy Profile

  16. Sarah says:

    What a powerful post. I so agree that our lives are defined by the choices we make within the change that happens to us. Very thought provoking!

  17. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    “Bouncing Back” does seem to imply that we get back to exactly where we were after some hardship or loss.

    Not only is that not the way it really is, but it’s not even an ideal resolution of our problems.

    Problems, whether divorce, illness, financial turmoil… all problems are unwanted and while it may be ideal to “bounce out of” the problem itself, we should ideally be looking for ways to restructure our lives to prevent winding up there again.

    I love your story about Amy Purdy. It really shows the power of embracing your “new normal” instead of just returning to the way things were.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…4 Ways To Spot Trends For Your Blog – And How To Use ThemMy Profile

  18. Glad you found value in the post Rose and I’d love to hear what you think about Amy’s story.

  19. I understand the point of quote, just happen to believe that there’s more to be gained from life that focusing on failure as a motivator. However since I happen to be one of those annoyingly “positive and upbeat” people, I am able to say to you with all sincerity … whatever floats your boat William. 🙂

  20. What you said about returning to normal resounded with me. We really don’t return to what we were before after going through a life-changing experience. Whether personal physical trauma, a family member’s trauma, grief…it all makes us a new person and it’s finding that balance that can be so very challenging.
    I was unaware of Amy Purdy (I don’t watch “Dancing”), but will watch her TED talk.
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Sights and Colors of Kauai, HawaiiMy Profile

  21. William Rusho

    I love the quote from the movie “Batman Begins”, which is “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
    As for me, I could not achieve anything, without some form of negative influence. If I did not have these negative impacts on me, I would become complacent. It is not the achievement I look for, but the struggle for it.
    Thanks for sharing this post with us.

  22. Well said Erica. It’s so easy to take the journey for granted when we see someone whose achieved a measure of success, when the truth is we gain the greatest inspiration from their backstory. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation.

  23. Glad you enjoyed the post Tuhin. I agree that we can never have too many inspiring stories like Amy’s to help us push through our own challenges in life. 🙂

  24. Yep, there’s no question that life is filled with surprises and if we can find a way to make peace with change and uncertainty things will go a lot easier for us. Fortunately, it’s very rare that a complete paradigm shift is necessary, and that’s a good thing considering how hard most people work to avoid change. To a great degree resilience is an attitude. When we believe a thing is going to be hard – if not impossible – to do, we’re far less likely to give it our all or to remain open to creative possibilities to make it happen, in turn creating our very own self-fulfilling prophecy. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation Jeri!

  25. Thanks for taking the time to let me know you found value – and a bit of inspiration – in the post Dave. Truth be told we all need a bit of that cozy comfort zone in our lives, it’s like treating yourself to a few extra minutes under the warm covers before climbing out and putting your bare feet on that cold floor and pushing yourself out of the bed and into the day. We know we have to do it, and most of the time we’re really glad we did, it’s just tough to take that first step. 🙂

  26. What an inspiring journey you’ve designed for yourself Catarina! You are right that many people live with a rigidly fixed mindset, and for them coming up against unexpected change can be absolutely painful. I used to lose a lot of sleep at night trying to figure out ways to get through to clients with this mindset, until someone much more experienced gave me a life altering bit of advice: The person you’re trying to help, must want it (the goal, change, recovery, whatever it may be) more than you want it for them or you’re just wasting your time. Thanks for sharing, I always value your thoughtful insights.

  27. I hope you enjoy Amy’s book as much as I did Lenie! We can never have too many stories of everyday heroes to show us that it is possible to overcome life’s challenges. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  28. I agree Beth, Amy really has a great attitude and it’s inspiring to see how far she’s come. What I especially like about her talk is she didn’t try to gloss over the difficulty she had before accepting, and ultimately challenging, her new reality. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  29. So glad you found value in the post Donna, and I love your phrasing – thriving in a new normal. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation.

  30. Glad the post stirred you to think about the topic Phoenicia. Most people change more than they realize following an event – positive or negative – in their lives. We’re just so focused on big changes that unless we’re particularly self awareness the small changes are easy to miss. Every new experience changes us in some way.

  31. Erica says:

    I love Amy Purdy. She really is amazing to watch and she does teach such a positive lesson. Because you make a great point that even though she makes her accomplishments look effortless, she probably had to face so many fears to get where she is today. And that just because she presents to the world with a big smile and a positive attitude, you can’t forget the courage it took for her to get there.
    Erica recently posted…6 Diet Tricks You’ll Wish You Knew SoonerMy Profile

  32. Tuhin

    Thanks a lot for this amazing inspirational post. Most of us in spite of having everything do not value life and go on wasting our time and resources. People like Amy are always a source of inspiration.
    I hope a lot of people will learn from her.
    Tuhin recently posted…Psychological Wounds Due To Child NeglectMy Profile

  33. Jeri

    My motto has largely been that uncertainty is the only thing that’s certain in life, so it was pretty ironic that I worked so hard to have a life of stability after growing up with an unstable mother only to find out my ex was of the unstable variety as well. I bounce back and all that, but as you write, what is more important is the ability to build a new model. It is extremely difficult to undergo a complete paradigm shift in one’s life.
    Jeri recently posted…#Publishing: Romance Books by the NumbersMy Profile

  34. Dave

    As always, a very interesting shift in perspective for me with your thoughts, Marty. I am one of those that sometimes gets lulled into the – let’s make it back to the way things used to be mentality.

    Sometimes, that’s possible and sometimes it simply isn’t. And, as you state, most of the time (if not always) it’s not what we really want or more importantly need in our lives. At least, that’s me speaking from experience 🙂

    It’s “easy” to want to go back to somewhere we were before, where we were “happy” and “comfortable” with the way things used to be. It takes immense work and courage – whether it’s in the realm of a relationship, career, or other personal endeavor – but, this story and your thoughts certainly provide the perspective needed to see resilience and the concept of opportunity amid adversity in a new light. Thank you, Marty.
    Dave recently posted…A Life Intercepted (Book Review)My Profile

  35. Catarina says:

    Great post that I thoroughly agree with.

    Unfortunately most people lack the flexibility to open up to new possibilities in areas they would have never even contemplated before. That’s why unemployment has been a disaster to millions of people world wide. They, for instance, try to get back into professions that are being taken over by robots and technology.

    The sooner all human beings fully comprehend that the only thing that’s certain in life is uncertainty the better. Originally I was a business journalist and gradually moved into senior executive positions in corporate communications and business development on a global scale. Now I’m getting old so I just want to do a bit of that and instead contribute to improving society in Sweden by making a contribution to making refugees integrate.

    So, as you know, I teach asylumseekers Swedish. Have now gone back to university to study Swedish and will also get a degree in teaching/pedagogics. That way I can grow old making a difference in society and also amuse myself with writing fictional books based on my life on high levels in global politics and in the jet set. When there’s a will there’s a way. But not if you don’t believe in yourself.
    Catarina recently posted…How inspiring leaders workMy Profile

  36. lenie

    Marquita, what an amazing story. I don’t watch TV, other than the evening news, so have not heard about Amy before. I’ve ordered the book from the Library and hope to read it over the weekend. What an inspiration and her being so young when she went through the illness that cost her legs. At the time she must have asked why but seeing all she has been able to accomplish since, she definitely had a destiny. Fortunately for many she grabbed it. Thanks for sharing.
    lenie recently posted…Vegetable Gardens for Small Space GardenersMy Profile

  37. Beth Niebuhr

    It’s not about breaking down borders but pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might take us. – What a wonderful philosophy. Ama was so inspirational on Dancing With the Stars and it is a treat to learn more about her here.
    Beth Niebuhr recently posted…Encore Women? Who Are They?My Profile

  38. Donna Janke

    I love your posts that define what resiliency really means. I find them inspiring and I’ve really needed to hear the words over the last couple of months. Sometimes life is not about bouncing back to what it was but finding and thriving in a new normal. I also like the quote giving up who you’ve been for who you can become.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Snowbirds Land in Rural PanamaMy Profile

  39. Phoenicia

    Your posts always lead me to reflect. I find your point on people wanting to return back to their former life interesting. It is true in some cases that life will never be the same again. One then needs to build an element of resilience and identify how they will move forward.

    For every person who has seen a family member recover from a serious illness, there are 100 who have mourned their loved ones who did not pull through.
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