How to Build Your Capacity to Manage Adversity

Written by on October 9, 2016 in Accountability, Sense of Purpose

Build Your Capacity to Manage Adversity


It does not discriminate. We can neither deny nor avoid it no matter how smart we are, how optimistic, or how much money or resources we may have, at some point in each of our lives we will come face to face with adversity.

You may not always have the luxury of choosing the circumstances you must face in life, but you will always have the choice how to respond.

It is when you learn to respond positively and constructively to your most pressing challenges that the qualities of inner strength, courage, and determination emerge from within, and you experience your greatest growth.

Wow! Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

Let’s be honest, it is a whole lot easier to embrace this philosophy when you aren’t in the process of slogging your way through a sucky mess.

But this is where making the choice to build your capacity for dealing with life’s inevitable challenges can make it so much easier to avoid getting stalled, detoured or mired in feelings of helplessness so that you can quickly get down to the business of dealing with what’s before you.

The notion that adversity makes one stronger is a myth. Growth comes not from the experience of adversity but rather from our response to it. ~Marquita Herald

Capacity Building and Positive Growth

Before I get into strategies I think it’s important to clarify the nature of capacity building as it relates to your ability to manage adversity, or for that matter, any effort to increase your strength and abilities.

Basically, capacity building is about change and promoting positive growth in all areas of your life. A relevant example would be building your capacity for decision-making.

You make dozens if not hundreds of decisions every day, so you already have a certain capacity for decision-making. But when you’re dealing with a problem or crisis situation, your ability to make sound decisions in a short time, maybe under extreme pressure, becomes critical.

So here’s where capacity building comes into play. You are the only one who can know how effective you are now at decision-making, so take a moment to consider the following question.

Do you feel confident about making decisions regardless of the circumstances, or do you tend to react poorly when under pressure, second-guess yourself or procrastinate?

If the later pings a sensitive spot, then you may want to invest the time to work on building your capacity by increasing your confidence and ability to make sound decisions … and the only way to do that is to push through the discomfort and make more decisions.

If I have a belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning. ~Mahatma Gandhi

How to Build Your Capacity to Manage Adversity

Accept That Adversity is Inevitable in Life

The one guarantee we have in life is that there will always be challenges to overcome – health or financial issues, demanding relationships and change, often unexpected and not always pleasant.

What I’m talking about here is developing an accountability mindset. Ultimately you have two choices. You can either accept the effects of whatever fate happens to throw at you or make up your mind to take responsibility for your life and be the one in the driver’s seat.

Build Your Internal Resources

Following is an example of the characteristics that enable you to develop resilience and effectively manage adversity.

  • Confident decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  • Able to understand and effectively manage emotions.
  • Driven to cultivate and expand self-awareness.
  • Recognize the importance of making self-care a priority.
  • Able to see opportunities for growth in all experiences.
  • Capable of finding strength through a sense of purpose.
  • Accept responsibility for choices and behaviors.

Don’t worry, it’s not uncommon to feel a little overwhelmed when first contemplating the scope of these characteristics based on the expectation that you have to master them all, and that is not the case.

Building your inner strength is not about achieving perfection. It is, however, becoming intentional about the way in which you choose to live your life. So rather than viewing this from the perspective of a “task” list, try to see it simply as a way to help you identify areas that you’d like to strengthen or better align with your core values in order to improve your overall quality of life.

If there is no particular area that immediately comes to mind, think about times you’ve had to deal with problems and identify anything you would like to have done differently, or ways you could have improved the outcome.

Build Your External Resources

A personal support system is one of the most valuable, and yet often overlooked external resources. While there are many benefits to developing a support system the most basic is simple peace of mind.

No matter how independent we may be, everyone needs help from time to time, so doesn’t it make sense to intentionally build a support system of trusted relationships instead of just hoping you can find help when you need encouragement or assistance?

Learn From Others Who Have Overcome Similar Trials

Learning about people whose lives have followed similar paths help us to realize we are not alone.

Their stories inspire us to embrace our inner strength and to push through our own problems, knowing that others have experienced similar or even greater challenges and if they can make it through, then surely we can too!

Share What You’ve Learned With Others

Compassion, for others as well as one’s self, is a constant theme among the highly resilient, many of whom have overcome extreme tragedy, and gone on to find their purpose in life by helping others.

You may believe this doesn’t apply to you but the way in which you live your life, your values, and experiences, all have the potential to provide insightful lessons and encouragement.

In fact, there are endless opportunities to share your wisdom and caring through coaching, mentoring, volunteering, writing, speaking, and volunteering and simply through your friendship.

The bottom line …

You don’t need to be facing a problem or major life change to decide you want to become stronger and more resilient. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll never find yourself facing another problem.

Highly resilient people face occasional setbacks just like everyone else. The difference is that they experience faster recovery time and are often able to find opportunities for growth in the process, confident that whatever life happens to throw their way … they will be okay.

If you’re new to here it’s worth noting that my approach to developing emotional resilience is about growing forward rather than the popular notion of bouncing back.

The reality is that you can never go back to the person you once were because every experience changes you in some way. And really, if you think about it, why would you even want to?

Why do the work to stand up to life’s challenges only to end up comfortably settled back into where you started?

Related articles:
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita 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.


Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Lydia Brown

    Hey Marquita, i know I have grown when I encounter a problem and handle it differently from other similar events. I also know that when I don’t address matters appropriately God manages to give me another opportunity to get it right. I feel my growth inside well before I react. That makes me feel comfortable with my decisions and reactions when faced with adversity. Not an exact science because more is always revealed to learn where opportunity for change is needed. Thanks for this post.
    Lydia Brown recently posted…Senior Citizen Gambling is a Serious ProblemMy Profile

  2. ikechi

    Hi Marquita

    Adversity can look so big yet I do agree that building capacity does help to move forward with all the courage and strength one can muster.

    I do agree with the tips you have shared. Growing to a point where we can become confident to make decisions despite the situation is indeed so cool.

    Thanks for sharing. Take Care
    ikechi recently posted…4 Crazy Things You don’t Know When You Waste Your LifeMy Profile

  3. This is interesting, Marquita.

    It seems like you’re suggesting that we are able to get stronger through adversity by focusing on those internal and external factors that we develop to move forward.

    It’s much like making the ability to overcome adversity starts becoming a habit. It kicks in the next time we face adversity because we’ve learned a new response to it, and made it part of our new self.
    David Merrill recently posted…Udemy vs Teachable | Profit From Your Online CourseMy Profile

    • Well said David! Thanks for stopping by, and now I’m going to pop over to your blog and read your latest article because I am just about to set up a course on Teachable so I look forward to reading your review!

  4. Mary Sloane

    Another great article Marquita
    I think the thing I usually forget to do is reach out. When I think about it i know that many people go through the same things I’m going through and would be happy to provide me with their insight and support. but my go to response is to be a lone wolf… thinking it is a sign of strength.
    I keep forgetting that daring to be vulnerable can be the greatest sign of strength.
    This is where Hillary is crushing Donald. She is no prize but she is at least willing to admit it, at least to all appearances.

    To Great Success

    Mary Sloane recently posted…4 Pillars of Online Business SuccessMy Profile

  5. Great insight into what can help us manage adversity – we can’t always overcome it, and need to be more chill about that acceptance. No point in stressing – and naturally, once you can get past the stressing, it’s the first healthy step in managing what ails you!
    Krystyna Lagowski recently posted…Prowling around town with the nicely tweaked 2017 Subaru BRZMy Profile

    • Well said Krystyna! There is tremendous freedom in learning to be adaptable. Many people mistake adaptability for giving up, but that’s not it at all. It’s about being honest with yourself about your situation and what you do and don’t have control over. From that point you can do the work to push through the problem without resistance slowing you down. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  6. Erica says:

    It is so easy to second guess decisions. I’ve been there in life and it is not a happy place to be. And when you do so, you’re so stuck in the past that it is almost impossible to move forward. I like how you talk about building resilience. It is helpful to remember that obstacles are part of life and the ability to move forward is more important than making the perfect decision every time.
    Erica recently posted…Makeup For Health AND BeautyMy Profile

  7. William Rusho

    I am not sure we really learn that much from others, adversity is like playing a sport. You can get advise about how to play it, but that will not help with actually doing it. Adversity has to be experienced, and then when the next one occurs, you have experience from the last one on how to deal with it. The more we have, the better we can overcome them.

    • I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one William. I understand the point your making, but to close our eyes to the lessons of others who have had similar challenges is to attempt to live in a vacuum. While it is true our specific circumstances may differ, there are still things we can learn, in particular, that we are not alone in our experiences. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, always appreciated! 🙂

  8. I love the Gandhi quote, Marty. It’s such a great attitude to adapt. Just like the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” Determination, perseverance, and the desire to succeed are the formula to success in virtually any avenue we find ourselves on. Thx for the great post.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Ottawa–the eclectic Canadian capitalMy Profile

  9. Paula

    Yep, you have some keenly insightful strategy. Last night my daughter who has been through hell and back calls me around midnight. She was on,her way to the hospital, which is,an hour drive to spend,the night with her baby. Trooper pulled her over for swerving, not so, my car pulls,to the left and she was recouping. Then is,told her licence isn’t active, even though her lawyer allegedly corrected the problem 6month or more ago. So, I had to drive out with my,hubby whose back is spasming….pick up car and take her to the hospital. Lol, we all laughed…..what else can you do. Now she has a $166 ticket for driving unknowingly without a license. Oh well, could be,worse…..but we all just laughed aND my daughter said of her lawyer, he is,getting old mom…who knows what happened?
    Paula recently posted…Steel Gray Clouds and Choppy Gray WatersMy Profile

    • Wow what a night! It’s good that you can manage to laugh about this experience, and you are right, it’s far better than the alternative. I would hope that your daughter has addressed the problem with her attorney and I can’t help but wonder if it might help to drag him to court to explain the “oversight” to the judge. It may not get the ticket dismissed, but it could lower the amount. Just a thought. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story with us Paula!

  10. Good read once again Marquita.I agree with you, that as far as I go I did on many occassions allow myself to be bogged down by circumstances rather than keeping a positive mindset and pursuing my passion further.So, I will keep this in mind in terms of my personal goals this year and reread ur articles each time I feel low and work harder to meet my goals.I do not know if I am deviating from this topic but I have to say that some things are not in our hands and accepting them as destiny feels like a way to bury them somewhere in the space.An example would be loosing a dear one who tried her best to fight a life threatening disease but lost her life.Or a person who is being resilient and struggling with an acute,chronic pain ,been to all the experts and does everything he can to keep up but the cause of ailment is not known.A person who was an eye witness to a murder committed by a bigwig who fought till the end for justice to be served but was eventually killed and his death got completely covered up.A destitute child who was born in the wrong place and raised by wrong hands does end up living a miserable life as he has not seen good and doesnt know how to come out of his situation.Kids born in poverty did not make a choice to be there and might not have means to come out of it.they continue to be oppressed and are forced to lead a life of suffering.Are these very negative and extreme examples to quote ? Is it better to overlook them?
    Priya Prabhu recently posted…Subtle experiment – Are tattoos good for us?My Profile

    • I welcome your thoughtful comments Priya! You have definitely raised some powerful examples. Still, the fundamental principle remains the same, there will always be circumstances we have no control over, but we do have control over our response to those circumstances. There are many stories of people who have suffered horrific experiences and have gone on to live rich and rewarding lives, maybe not in terms of material wealth, but in terms of the way they chose to live their lives. Certainly, Wilma Rudolph is an example of this, but there are countless others. William Kamkwamba for example, who built a wind turbine basically out of junk to power a few electrical appliances in his desperately poor village in Africa and went on to become an author, inventor, and engineer, or William Mitchell who lived through not one but two devastating accidents that left him paralyzed and badly burned over 60% of his body. He was left so scared children chanted “monster, monster” at him. Yet he went on to share a story of hope and grace with audiences as a speaker, became an advocate for the environment and served in politics.

      There are endless stories like this from all over the world, and by highlighting them it is not my intention to minimize the fact that there are people who suffer terribly in their lives, but we each have a choice whether to live with grace and dignity or to become victims of our circumstances. It really comes down to what we choose to focus on.

      I’ve known many people who wring their hands over the plight of people suffering in the world and ignore those in need right in front of them and end up doing nothing to help anyone. I choose to focus on stories of hope and resilience because if I can encourage even one person to believe, really believe, that they have the power within them to create the quality and course of their own life journey, then I’ve fulfilled my mission. Thank you so much for contributing so beautifully to the conversation. 🙂

  11. Sushmita

    “You may not always have the luxury of choosing the circumstances you must face in life, but you will always have the choice how to respond.”
    So well said.
    You are right Adversity is inevitable. It may attack you anytime but making the best of it is up to us!
    Thank you for sharing the post. This advice will help out many.
    Sushmita recently posted…Advertising & Marketing Trends 2016My Profile

  12. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty!!
    Awesome Post once again my friend! As Donna has stated we all have to face adversity at some point, in fact probably every day and there will always be someone we can turn to if we cannot handle it alone!

    For instance, my son, his wife, my siblings, my neighbor, the list goes on and on!

    Being accountable to me means to have that positive mindset to over come anything that gets thrown at me. And If I cannot do it alone well then like I said above, I find someone to help me out.. Yeppers always in the driver’s seat as you say..

    Awesome Share.
    Thank You
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Are Negative Influences Affecting Your Online Business?My Profile

    • Yep, I also agree with Donna, which is why that is the entire focus of the first paragraph in the post. 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us – always appreciated!

  13. Joy Healey

    Hi Marquita,

    I’ve been reasonably lucky not to have faced too much adversity in my personal life – certainly not as much as many people face. Luckily I have a great support network of family and friends for when disaster has struck and I agree they have been wonderful to have around.

    However I do seem to stumble over more than the average number of adversities in my blogging career! Still I have a great support network in PAC and some other great blogging friends. Even if they can’t offer practical help, their moral support is wonderful.

    And yes, I have learned something from practically every adversity.

    Thanks for a really interesting and relevant post.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us Joy. I know firsthand that there’s a lot more to growing a successful blog than most people understand going in so I’m glad you’ve found a supportive group to help you. 🙂

  14. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    Sage advice once again! We all have to face adversity each day in some way or another. I do think that when we are in tune with ourselves, especially emotionally, it comes easier.

    If we find ourselves stuck, there is always someone out there that we can lean on…we just have to take that step.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…Workspace Design For BloggersMy Profile

    • Yes we surely do, like I said in the article, doesn’t matter who you are you can’t escape life’s inevitable challenges. I also agree with your point about being willing to ask for help, at the same time, I strongly advocate being proactive about intentionally building a support network rather than waiting until you’re hit with a problem. Thanks for sharing, always appreciated!

  15. Wonderful pearls of wisdom here, Marquita–from the opening quote to not “bouncing back.”
    I am blessed with supportive family and friends–people who tell it like it is and support me even when I’ve made mistakes.
    Am reading, “Choose Joy,” about a young woman with a terminal, debilitating illness. Her integrity and resilience in going through this is astounding. I’m learning from her core sustaining beliefs and how she copes.
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Open Doors Pittsburgh-Architecture Behind the ScenesMy Profile

  16. Janelle says:

    I agree with this blog.Not many people know how to face adversity well. I know this from myself at times. But I do like reading what other people faced with their adversities to help me get through my own.

  17. Sabrina Quairoli

    I personally have to make time to do some research to get clarity on what to do. It doesn’t stop me, though, it just delays my action. I rather take action but sometimes I need to stop and think about it and how it affects the big picture.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Quick Potato Skins RecipeMy Profile

    • And that’s a good thing, Sabrina because you understand your decision-making process. The one thing you need to continue to be aware of is how much time you invest in research because I know from personal experience that alone can take on a life of its own. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  18. Ken Dowell

    I don’t have a problem making decisions. I think one of the important things in being a confident decision maker is to not keep revisiting the same decision or second guessing yourself. Yes, you should learn from your mistakes but you also have to make a decision, pursue it and not look back. We all make bad decisions sometimes, So what. Move on.
    Ken Dowell recently posted…What is Civic Tech and Why Do We Need It?My Profile

  19. Emily

    I agree with Dave; I like the concept of moving forward instead of bouncing back when it comes to resilience. I think it is a great approach to facing adversity because it positions whatever challenge that you are facing in life as a learning opportunity as opposed to a setback.

    Emily |
    Emily recently posted…So There She WasMy Profile

  20. Mark

    First of all I love the headline of your blog post M!

    It’s very illuminating. And I can totally appreciate and relate to your approach, where you provide guidance of growing forward, as opposed to bouncing back!

    That is an awesome and truly inspiring perspective!And as you pointed out, it’s so true, it’s not if life is gonna throw some type of adversity our way!

    It’s definitely more a matter of, how we will respond when it does.You so nailed it!Thanks!
    Mark recently posted…Email Marketing: Seven Potentially Profitable Reasons For You To Constantly Test!My Profile

  21. Phoenicia

    Adversity is inevitable. We all face it and on various levels. You mentioned some of us bounce back easier than others therefore on the outside it may appear life treats such people with a better hand. It may well be they have developed coping mechanisms in order that situations do not consume them.

    I am working on the way in which I deal with life’s challenges. Looking back it consumed far too much of my life and contributed to my anxiety.

    Thank you for this thought provoking post.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Stop worry and anxiety in its tracksMy Profile

    • I am quite confident that if we knew the backstory for most of those people we see as having things a bit easier, we would find they have as many challenges as the rest of us but have simply learned to manage them better. Good for you for being aware of your strengths and weaknesses Phoenicia, and especially doing the work to increase your capacity to manage the challenges in your life!

  22. Dave

    I really like your view of growing forward instead of bouncing back, Marty – that’s simply brilliant and eye-opening!

    I have come to the realization that someone doesn’t necessarily need to become a coach or mentor to positively influence another person’s struggle with adversity. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed or heard about someone else’s plight and have been inspired by their resilience without having them done a single thing other than “choosing” to persevere and work through whatever difficulty they have been facing.

    You’ve actually stumbled upon a very relevant decision in my own life – that is the ability to make timely decisions without getting bogged down with something being perfect and/or ideal. I’m looking forward to putting some of your wonderful suggestions into practice and thank you greatly for your motivating and encouraging thoughts!
    Dave recently posted…Infinite HopeMy Profile

    • You know Dave there is a terrific TED Talk about the point you raised about the different ways in which we inspire and motivate others. I can’t remember the name, but the title is something like, So You Don’t Think You’re a Leader. I’m going to look it up and share over on Facebook, I think you’ll like it. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know you found value in the post, always appreciate your thoughtful insights. 🙂

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