Alicia Karwat Alicia has over 15 years of corporate experience and has been helping professionals, managers and executives identify and develop extraordinary powers they didn’t even know they had, for over 5 years. To find out more view Alicia's full bio or visit Alicia's website

How Do You Deal With Adversity?

By Dr Alicia Karwat, KeySteps Pty. Ltd.

Apparently how you are dealing with adversity can tell a lot about how successful you are and will be in your life. Good news is that it can be measured and changed with a combination of self-awareness, discipline, focus and practice.

Research shows and the anecdotal evidence confirms that how you handle adversity, challenges and setbacks on your average day, is a good predictor of your personal effectiveness. The way you handle adversity affects the level of success you achieve in your life and even how happy you feel. Factors such as speed of promotion, work performance, leadership performance and income are all correlated to your resilience to adversity, although not entirely determined by it.

So, if the resilience to adversity visibly impacts your life, it makes sense to know how to measure and how to improve it. There is such a measure; it is called the Adversity Quotient (AQ).

The Adversity Quotient measures resilience to adversity as the attitude and the ability to act and overcome setbacks, step up to adverse circumstances, embrace and enjoy challenges rather than being exhausted by them.

AQ measures four important facets of the resilience: Control, Ownership, Reach and Endurance. These dimensions of dealing with adversity equally apply to private life as well as to work. It is worthwhile to understand the components:

Control: having a strong sense of Control means that you believe in your ability to influence events and their effects. Do you give up and give in easily or assess all aspects of adverse situations that you can potentially influence? Do you usually find some ways to improve things for yourself? How much control do you perceive you have?

Ownership: it is the extent to which you own and take responsibility for the outcomes of adversity and how you respond to setbacks. Those who have a strong sense of Ownership take initiative and step up when difficult situations arise. Do you take responsibility for how things play out? Are you more inclined to think “it is not my problem” or “it will go away”? Do you often feel victimised and helpless? The avoidance of taking ownership is one of the main reasons for underperformance at work, receiving bad performance reviews, being overlooked for promotion and having low job satisfaction. It is amazing to observe how your life starts to improve when you consistently take ownership for the outcomes of adversity, problems faced and setbacks encountered.

Reach: the Reach facet tells us to which extent we let a setback in one area to reach over to another area of your work or life. Do you bring problems from home to work and vice versa? Do you catastrophise and destruct unrelated areas of your life by extending the adversity beyond the situation at hand?

Endurance: the Endurance dimension tells us how long we are affected by adversity encountered. Those who have low resilience to adversity see setbacks as long term problems and often as a permanent feature of their lives. Do you maintain hope and optimism when facing work and life difficulties?

It is worthwhile to understand Adversity Quotient (AQ) components. You can make some assessment of yourself and others in situations where resilience to adversity was evident and where it was not. Are there any conclusions coming to your mind? Do you see any patterns?

What do you think?

The debate is going on whether the resilience to adversity is part of emotional intelligence or not. If you think it is, you are probably right. The intellectual debate aside, the AQ measure seems to have sufficiently significant impact in our life to earn attention and to stand on its own as a self-management tool. Research shows that we can improve our resilience to adversity through cognitive psychology and knowing “what and how” helps.

What are your thoughts on the AQ concept and the impact of resilience to adversity on your life? Maybe you would like to share your thoughts with others. We would love to hear from you.

Further reading:

Paul G. Stolz, Adversity Quotient @ Work: Make Everyday Challenges the Key to Your Success, William Morrow, 2000.

Paul G. Stolz, Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities, Wiley, 1997

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