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Mentor’s wisdom: Dealing with adversity

ACE mentors share their advice and wisdom for startups & scale-ups! 

Welcome to the ‘Mentor’s Wisdom’ blog, where ACE mentors discuss topics that entrepreneurs deal with when starting and growing a business.

Lennaert Jonkers is an experienced entrepreneur with a passion for developing the mindset & learning capabilities of people, teams and organisations. He is currently active in promoting purpose driven strategy & entrepreneurship. Lennaert is a guest lecturer at several universities and provides mentorship at various startup & innovation hubs across Europe.


Teaching from experience

Being an entrepreneur myself, I’ve had to learn how to deal with some adversity along the way. For me, at first it was about choosing to either persevere or give up. Only later in my journey did I learn that there is a different way to view adversity. A way that makes it a driving force instead of a limiting factor.

What is adversity?

Adversity pushes our emotional buttons and most of us experience it as hitting a wall or meeting resistance. There are many ways we experience adversity and it is often being portrayed as an external force or situation that we have to deal with head on. But is this always the case? The question I ask myself on a daily basis to help me define the type of adversity I’m dealing with is:

“Am I currently focused on things that I can change or affect, or am I focusing on things I do not control?

The control threshold

When you answer this question, chances are that you find you are focusing on things that you can’t (substantially) control. When you understand what can and cannot be controlled it becomes easier to decide where to focus your efforts and what you simply need to accept. This is why it is important to differentiate between the following:

1.) Self-imposed adversity: Relates to your own attitude, emotions, actions and perspective on things. These are all internal aspects of yourself that you can change at any given moment.

2.) External adversity: Are the effects of some external force or event that you can’t (substantially) influence but might be depending on.

It can be difficult to change our reactions and behavior even when we are aware of what can be changed and what not. The reason for this is that we are primarily driven by our subconscious emotions. Understanding what they are and how they affect our behavior is what will allow us to become more effective in dealing with adversity.

Habits and limiting beliefs

The thing about adversity is that it often reflects our own perception and the emotions or meaning that we connect to instead of what is actually happening. Often we experience situations that lead us to feel deep emotions such as fear, anxiety, frustration or anger. Many times when you look back on these situations, you feel completely different about it in retrospect. This usually happens when you consciously reflect on it or when you look at the situation without feeling the initial emotions.

How to deal with adversity

Understanding your own pain points (what triggers you) and subsequently, your own behavior (how you act) is key to figuring out how you can best deal with adversity. Taking time to reflect is necessary for developing the right mindset that allows you to more easily deal with adversity.

I have found that viewing adversity as a teacher and mentor helps me to gain understanding of myself and makes me deal more effectively with adversity.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share your own experience or follow me on LinkedIn

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