We learn from adversity


I once rode a beautiful but challenging horse around a track at an outdoor school. I knew it was a very difficult horse to ride and that it was very sensitive and easily spooked.

The track was in a circle and was bordered by an 8ft broadleaf hedge with a gap a few metres wide for access. Unfortunately, as I was riding around the track some people suddenly appeared in the opening laughing and making a lot of noise. The horse was spooked, spun round, cleared the hedge and on the way over flicked his body catapaulting me into the air. I landed flat on my back on the track. I lay there able to see everything but unable to move. People came running but stopped a few metres short and just stood and stared. After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably only a few seconds, I was able to move my arms. I remember hearing a gasp and someone say, “She’s alive!”

Luckily I’d had the sense to wear full body protection as well as a hat and I’d just been badly winded with no serious damage.

I got up and I knew there was one thing I had to do. I had to get straight back on the horse. I knew that if I didn’t I was admitting defeat and might never ride again. So I completed my session and enjoyed many more hours of riding in the days and years that followed.

The experience undoubtedly made me a better rider. I was able to think about what had happened and what I would do differently in the future. I could easily have avoided going on the horse in the first place and stuck to quiet easy to ride horses or not ridden at all. It was embarrassing falling off but at least I tried.

We don't develop resilience by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.

It’s a lot like this with habits too. The really important thing about habit and habit change is the thing you are training is not the behaviour but the failure of the behaviour. It’s getting back on the horse after you have fallen off rather than never falling off. For example, if you want to stop smoking, or you want to lose weight you don't say "Oh I'm addicted I can't give up!" - you try, you fail, then you try again.

 You just keep getting back up on that horse.

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Two waves forward, one wave back (surviving adversity)


My daughter spotted a small sea creature struggling to return to the sea. We could see its little legs sticking out of the shell scrabbling about, trying to right itself and move forward. But then a wave would come and wash it back again.

“Please pick it up and help it,” my daughter pleaded. But, as I watched, I noticed something interesting. The tide would ebb away and the creature would again put all of its efforts into moving forward. Then the tide would come back and wash it back again but it never washed it back to where it started - it had always managed to move on a bit.

I stood and watched it, until, through sheer determination, it was back in the depths of the ocean.

It made me think about how sometimes we have to downgrade for a while in order to upgrade. Sometimes we have to ride the wave and see where it takes us.

I thought about what would have happened if we had picked it up and helped it on its way. What if that had happened all its life? What if someone had always been around to help it get where it wanted to go without it having to struggle? It would probably never understand how determination and effort can achieve the seemingly impossible. But, what if one day nobody came and the little creature just sat there waiting for someone to help? It would be afraid of the unknown, not understand that sometimes it needs to make an effort itself and so it would be stuck and would probably die. 

Sometimes struggling can make us stronger and more resilient.

People who live ‘safe’ lives, children who never have to do anything for themselves, people who are stuck in their ‘comfort zone’ - can they ever be truly successful?

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️