Life Lessons for Dealing with Adversity

My Proud Moment

One of the things I enjoy most in life … and which makes me feel the proudest (if the outcome is good), is the opportunity to teach kids important life skills and life lessons.

This last week I had the opportunity to do both via remote video call for a group of teenagers around the world.

The teacher gave me quite a BIG challenge. I love challenges. Here was the email I got.

Dear Dr. Barnard. I hear that your research focuses on identifying the biggest mistakes we make when making life decisions, and that your passion is to develop simple methods and apps to help people avoid such mistakes. Most of the kids in our school face very challenging conditions in their life and often, as a result, have to make tough decisions. Would you be willing to share with them a few of these decision mistakes we all make and the life lessons that can help them avoid these mistakes?

PS: Please try to keep it very simple and practical. And if you can teach it via a story they will remember, that would be great!
Warmest Regards, Angie

Below is the lesson I shared:

Did you know that most people go through life, unaware that a simple equation will determine their life outcomes?

[They didn’t know this … but were curious to learn the “equation” :)]

The equation is: E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome)

E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome)

I explained that: “Events” are those negative and positive things that can happen to us in life. “Response” are the negative or positive reactions we can have to events. “Outcomes” are what will happen, as a result of our reaction

Our “Response” is the only thing we have full control over.

Sometimes we can influence the events, but mostly, the events we will encounter are just luck.

I asked the kids to use the equation to think about mistakes we make in life and the life lessons from them. After some discussion, they figured out 1.5 of the 3 biggest mistakes I’d planned to share with them.

Here are the three mistakes and life lessons from E+R=O

1. Life Events and Life Outcomes

Mistake #1: Assuming that Life Events = Life Outcomes

Life Lesson #1: Remember that our circumstances and the events that happen in our life – don’t determine what will happen to us. Our choices do.

If you were unlucky to have many bad or really bad starting conditions, don’t assume your life will always be bad. There is always something you can do to make it better or much better!
If you were lucky to have “good” or even “great” starting conditions, don’t assume your life will always be good or great. There is always something you can do to make it worse or much worse!

2. Negative Responses

Mistake #2: To have negative responses to events.

Life Lesson #2: Negatives responses are never helpful, just harmful.

We should never allow negative events, that will happen to all of us in our lives, to change us negatively.

I shared with them a story my grandfather told me when I was a kid. I had asked him for advice on how to deal with something really bad that had happened to me. This is the fable he told:

Imagine a Carrot, an Egg and Coffee beans being thrown into boiling water for 20 minutes… what will happen?

A carrot will become soft and weak.
An egg will become hard and blue (mean and resentful).
Both the carrot and the egg allow their negative circumstances to change them negatively.

The coffee beans reacted very differently. They caused the boiling water to change to become aromatic coffee that is strong and brings happiness to all those that have it.

But remember, we should also not waste the positive events that happen to all of us in life.

When there is a positive event, capitalize on it.
If you are giving a sincere compliment, accept it don’t dismiss it.
If you are given an good opportunity, welcome it don’t reject it.

3. Learning

Mistake #3: After you’ve made mistakes 1 or 2 (as we all will from time to time), don’t think it’s too late or keep blaming yourself.

Life Lesson #3: Remember, it is never too late to try to fix your mistakes by taking positive actions, learn from them, and share those lessons with others.

Good luck!

If you liked this post, check out my other Proud Moments like last weeks Collaboration to Fight COVID-19.

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