Turning Adversity into Adventure

In the last post, we discussed the ‘Circle of Concern’, made smaller by the ‘Circle of Influence’1.  I will likely discuss this further in a later post, but for now I promised to reflect on what I coin ‘Turning Adversity into Adventure’.  This simple slogan helped my wife and me to change our paradigm and ease the stress of a pending layoff.  It worked so well, I have used it several times when faced with problems that seemed to be moving outside my circle of influence, but was clearly well planted in my growing circle of concerns.


Air Canada was going through a pilot downsizing and after 7 years of service, my seniority had withered so that I was no longer on the active pilot list.  Initially there was job sharing, but my days were numbered.  A layoff seemed imminent and we needed to make some plans.


I drew out a worst-case scenario. It foretold of a forced move to Toronto and then possibly losing the position anyway in further downsizing.   So, I proposed an alternative approach to my family.  I suggested that if furloughed, we sell the house, cars, toys, etc. – and home school our two boys – aged 10 and 7 – on a sailboat we would live aboard in the Caribbean.  Crazy?  Perhaps.  Doable?


We were going to find out.


We started to research and spoke with friends who had chosen this lifestyle and we made a startling discovery.


The ongoing dream building not only inspired us, but also relieved our stress about the lesser alternatives.  It was this dreaming and planning that made the situation no longer unbearable but truly exciting and wondrous.  Whether we went for it or not, didn’t matter.  (Spoiler alert!) In fact we never did go.    Aw!   It didn’t matter.  The exercise of daring to dream, to take control of our own destiny, to never allow the bad cards sent our way ruin our dreams, enabled us to find new paths of joy and fulfillment.  It was my Grandfather that instilled this fantasy-like imagination in my Mom, which I suppose was then passed on to me.  I firmly believe that fantasy should be taken very seriously and can often be translated into a reality beyond any normal expectation.


That adventure came close.  Others did materialize and these transformed our world in ways that could have only been possible by taking the courage to dream big.  In later stories, I will share some incredible adventures that occurred precisely as a result of this philosophy and practice.


What adversity have you experienced and how did you cope?


Note: I appreciate that some life events are so horrific and debilitating that the motivation required to turn them around is beyond most expectations. For those my heart goes out and perhaps this is not the strategy we would choose.  But when you can find an alternative to external circumstances that seem to oppress or direct your life in the wrong path, then perhaps the thought – and practice – of taking the helm and steering for adventure is just what you need.


I welcome your comments below.


1.   Stephen Covey – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

What Circle are you focused on?

In the previous post, I mentioned a puzzle – the C. of C. made smaller by the C. of I.?

You have seen the image so you certainly know the answer – the Circle of Concernmade smaller by your Circle of Influence1.  The diagram shows that as we build the inside circle of influence, it begins to expand and reduces our outer circle of concern.  Examples may be distant wars or the economy causing concern and a feeling of helplessness.  However, perhaps our action as a fundraiser, or an advocate for the poor gives us the power to act and make a difference. Starting small and close to our personal areas of influence enables us to raise our influence so that we may affect greater change over time.  I have used this concept often in my life and minimize my circle of concern by working on the former.  This concept has become quite popular (simply Google search to view this model) and I had forgotten that the amazing Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits series described the original concept.

Increasing your circle of influence involves living in the moment all right, but more importantly it embraces the concept of ‘can’.  I can be more caring  – or – I can be more active. I can make small changes (or large changes) in my community/family/self.

A dear friend was becoming increasingly anxious as she felt she was losing control over her adult child.  This all too common scenario plays out, as the ‘child’ is now independent and is making choices that their parents may not agree with.  This helpless feeling can be overwhelming and all consuming as it was in this case.

A gentle reminder of her power within the circle of influence helped her to refocus on what she could do.  In her case she knew that she could be effective by just being supportive and kind.  She would also seek to be a good example and to pray for guidance.  By focusing her energy on the small things that she could do, it shrunk her outer circle of concern (and worry).

Have you wasted energy and time in the anxiety-pumping region of concern?  What tools have you used to build up your level of influence?  Did you start with small steps?  Kindly, let me know your comments below.

I can’t wait to share the next topic and a great strategy I developed for my family – especially in moments of great concern.    Clue –Turning (____)  into (_____).


1. Stephen Covey – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People


Living in the Moment

Living in the Moment – Breaking down problems into bite size pieces.   We have all heard that the action of ‘living in the moment’ works well at relieving stress and anxiety.  But can it help us obtain our goals as well?   I invite you to live in the moment for just a few minutes while I tell a funny story.

Big tasks can seem overwhelming and building a personal airplane would certainly qualify as a big task.  So how does one achieve this without the worries or concerns that would either result in failure; or worse, a collateral mental breakdown requiring therapy.

A dear friend was planning to build an aircraft that he saw flying overhead and was mystified by it. It was a 1928 designed open cockpit craft called the Pietenpol.  Trevor lived on a small ranch and his barn was the ideal workspace to welcome his new project.  One cold autumn morning, his first piece arrived. It was the cleanest specimen of the finest Spruce you could find.  A simple beam of wood measuring about 15’ long, 12’” high, and 6” wide.  Excited at his first tangible component of the grand project, Trevor ran to show his wife. When Monica arrived she looked at the beam of wood, paused, then shrugged and said, “Hmmm, some assembly required?”

I got such a kick out of her comment but as Trevor later explained; building an airplane isn’t a big job, it is just many, many small jobs.

How does breaking down large tasks help you and your organization relieve stress?   Is it not a form of ‘living in the moment’?   Let me know your thoughts in the comment selection below.  I look forward to sharing my next posts and hope you will bookmark this page and join in the conversation of Life Skills through Adventure.

You can look forward to hearing tales of dreams and adventure.  We will be revealing emotional health strategies, like this puzzle.  Which  ‘Circle’ do you rest your mind in?

Until Next time, this is Dale inviting you break down your large tasks and live well – in the moment.