Lying awake this morning at 4am, from her bedroom I can hear my youngest daughter Bettina giggling. This is like listening to the best music! This was not always the case, 20 years ago at this time of morning it was likely to be the sound of crying, which would make you feel quite desperate for her.
Due to her complex communication problems through her learning disabilities and her severe autism, she couldn’t tell you why she was feeling the way she did. For the first ten years of her life, without exception, nights would contain at least one occasion where Joyce and I would get up to help Bettina (our natural pattern became that Joyce would be aware of Bettina waking up until 3am and I would naturally hear Bettina from 3am until it was time for the household to rise).
As Joyce always says, this is not about us, but about Bettina and the adversity she faces coming to terms with her life and how she is feeling. What we can do is always be there for her and support her through her adversity with unconditional love.
Perhaps one of the first lessons I have learned from being Bettina’s Dad, when it comes to facing adversity as she did (and does every day of her life) is that you need courage. Bettina feels fear as she tries to comprehend how she feels and how she will deal with her challenges but as always she faces up to it.
Hanging out with Bettina as much as I can, I have learned from her how she faces adversity and I use these lessons when I face adversity in my work. I would like to share with you what I think are Bettina’s five lessons on how to face adversity:
Bettina’s Five Coping Mechanisms in Adversity
- Smile and use humour when you are in a pickle. I have observed Bettina’s humour develop over the years. When I follow Bettina’s lead and do this, the adversity I think I am facing takes on a different perspective and this changes my mind-set.
- Accept that you can only deal with that you can control. However, you must focus unrelentingly on that over which you have control.
- Surround yourself with people you trust and who are there rooting for you. Bettina is never alone and has people who are there for her and who she can call on
- Take responsibility and ownership for your situation and how you will move forward – but remember to reach out to those around you and share with them the adversity you are facing. Bettina has battled through her conditions to the extent that she can communicate how she is feeling.
- Be Optimistic – Be Positive. Let’s face – it what is the alternative?
So will Adversity make you a better leader? It has for Bettina! How?
- When you have faced down adversity it makes you feel more confident
- You are building a portfolio of tough experiences that you can call on in the future. How did you deal with it last the last time? Did it work? Then do it again
- You are taken out of your comfort zone and you are literally forced to learn new skills and knowledge that you might not have done if you were not facing adversity
- You get things into perspective – will this situation still have the same force in 6 months’ time?
- It has made Bettina more patient – she knows that her adversity takes time to manage but from her wealth of experience she knows she will get through her situation eventually.
I hope that by sharing our family experience with you, this may help you with the adversity you are facing at the moment or perhaps in the future.
As a family, our experiences and the lessons we continue to learn through Bettina have made us stronger, positive and more confident that we can face future episodes of adversity.
Lastly, Bettina had to come to terms with her Autism at a very early age. We could see it was painful for her, but she remained determined and won despite the odds. With that came a calmness which presents itself as an aura that is always felt when you are with Bettina.