Saturday Series “How to Use Adversity to Your Advantage”: Part 1: Why Catastrophe Happens.

All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. – Walt Disney. 

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(This is the first in an 8-part series titled “Why Catastrophe ROCKS!  An 8-part Series on How to Use Adversity to Your Advantage.” by Sarah Novak, a Cancer Coach who is igniting a CanceRevolution at She focuses on the upsides of adversity as an empowering alternative viewpoint for embracing change and hardship).

In my teens, I fantasized about having three magic wishes from Aladdin’s lamp. 

I knew exactly what I’d wish for: the capacity to eat anything I want and not gain a pound, to own a money tree and the ability to prevent anything bad from happening in my future.

I am sad to report that, to date, none of these wishes have come to fruition.  

For today’s purposes, we’re going to focus on the latter of these 3 wishes because while I have not learned how to prevent catastrophe from happening, I have learned the next best thing – how to control my response to it. Before we can go there though, we need to understand what causes catastrophe to arise.  

In short, there are two reasons why catastrophe happens (please note, I’m going to use the words adversity & catastrophe interchangeably in this post): 

  1. Due to uncontrollable events/bad luck/the Universe/God (choose which one fits best based on your beliefs). This category encompasses all of the things that are out of our control – natural disasters, death of a loved one, illness or injury and much, much more.  
  2. Due to health issues that arise from internal dissonance that is ignored for too long (translation: our body gets sick of us ignoring the problem and forces us to do something about it by presenting us with a health issue).  

Let’s look into both of these more closely.

Uncontrollable events are what we most commonly view as the cause of adversity. 

With uncontrollable events, there is an external source bringing the adversity upon us – often leaving us in a place of victimization and self-pity. Adversity from internal dissonance can also leave us with that same result, despite the fact that the adversity is derived from the internal source of us ignoring a problem for too long. 

I should clarify at this point that I’m not saying ALL health issues are self-induced, merely that they are more common when the body is in a run-down state. 

Our body CAN and WILL increase our physical symptoms to force us to remedy the problem or state of internal dissonance within. 

I learned this the hard way back in 2005. 

I was running myself ragged in a job that gave me no fulfillment so that I could buy things to impress other people and get the validation I so desperately sought. Let’s just say this was a recipe for disaster! For the better part of 3 years I ignored my soul’s pleas to get my life on a path that was in greater alignment with my values and passions.

Did I listen? 

Heck no. 

I just kept plugging along, certain that at some point my life would start to feel as good to me as everyone else thought it was. Since I was determined not to listen, my body stepped in and forced me to do something about it.

I plunged into a period of deep depression for two years, complete with debilitating anxiety and full-blown panic attacks.

Suffice to say, I started to listen. I addressed the dissonance, put myself on a radically different path that was oodles more fulfilling and vowed to always listen to my body in the future.

Lest you think I’m the only one this has happened too, I can also recount dozens of client stories where something similar happened – feeling nauseous every day when they were driving to a job they hated, strange pains when they were doing things that were not on-purpose for them… I could keep going, but I won’t. 

Just know it’s more common than you may think.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter WHY catastrophe comes into your life, it simply matters that you recognize that there is more than one way to respond and that the response you choose can catapult you from VICTIM to EMPOWERED.

In the coming weeks we’ll explore what those responses are and how to make sure you’re choosing the one that gets you out of victimization and into a place of empowerment and transformation. 

We’ll also dig deeper into the unexpected benefits of adversity and I’ll spell out why I think ADVERSITY IS THE BEST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. That may sound like crazy talk right now, but I’m confident that by week 8 you’ll be lovin’ yourself some adversity too!

I’d love to hear from you – has adversity helped you in any way? Please share below in a comment and like/tweet/share this post with others, thanks!

As a Cancer Coach, Sarah Novak is committed to helping female cancer survivors use their experience as a catalyst for transformation in their lives. Although we cannot control our circumstances, we CAN always decide how we choose to be with our reality.

Visit her website to learn about her private and group coaching programs + receive her free guide: “Coping with the Everyday Fears of Cancer: How to Minimize Fear and Anxiety by Transforming Your Thoughts.”

** Want MORE BLISS and less stress in your life? Inner Sparkle: The 21 Day eCourse is made for you. Click here to get inspired. Happy. Sparkly. **


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  1. says

    Thanks for the question, Sarah! I’ll share an adversity that turned out well for me (that I shared in the KCC group).

    I failed my pre-board exams in high school and wasn’t allowed to sit for my boards unless my dad requested the principal to let me sit for them. Dad refused to ask, on principle.

    I felt like my life was over and I wanted to die of embarrassment. A bunch of other kids in my sitch got to take their exams ‘cos their dads did the needful, but I had to repeat a year.

    As a result I ended up in the same year with 3 girls who have been my fribblings (friends/siblings) ever since. My life would not be the same without them!

    Till then, I had good friends but not a sisterhood like this one and I am so so so so grateful that this adversity brought me what I needed. Funny how in retrospect we can see exactly why something happened and that it really was perfect in its own way!


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