Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The happiest and most effective people are Leaders who may need a “therapeutic visit to Pity City” but bounce back from changes, setbacks, and problems. However, most people are Followers and wait for someone else to show the way or help them decide how to feel or respond.

And the most ineffective and unhappiest people are Wallowers blaming others, bad luck, or feel trapped by their failures and weaknesses. You can see a chart comparing these three choices at Which Framing Level – Wallowing, Following, Or Leading?

The biggest problem for many Followers and Wallowers is recognizing their own behavior when the “you-know-what hits the fan.” I recently came across research from PEAK Learning that measured the resilience of 1,600 people in the UK and how their responses to adversity correlated with happiness, quality of life, exercise, diet, energy, optimism, engagement at work, sick days, and a broad range of health factors. The researchers found that “resilience was statistically significant in predicting not one or two, but all of these factors.”

PEAK Learning CEO, Paul Stoltz, is the originator of the Adversity Quotient (AQ) theory and method, currently used within Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program as part of PEAK’s research. In his HBR blog post When Adversity Strikes, What Do You Do? he outlines the Adversity Continuum below. What’s your home on the range? What about the majority of people in your team/organization?

1. Avoiding Adversity — Do you ever postpone, delegate, ignore, or sidestep a difficulty that you could or should have taken on?
2. Surviving Adversity — Sometimes coming out alive is a major victory. But then life asks, “Now what?” or “What do we do now?”
3. Coping with Adversity — How much energy do you expend just keeping your head above water, or coping with your daily dose of adversity?
4. Managing Adversity — Beyond coping, how often do you at least do something positive with the adversity?
5. Harnessing Adversity — How often do you use the adversity to achieve gains you could never enjoy without it? How many moments do you have, when, like an alchemist you convert adversity into fuel that propels you to a place you could never get to without it?

Stoltz surveyed more than 1,000 companies in 53 countries with these questions and found that “the sad truth is, most (70-90 percent) of the time, people do some combination of avoiding, surviving, and coping, meaning adversity is consuming them (Following or Wallowing.) About 10-30 percent of the time people will manage the adversity. Very rarely (five percent) do people and their enterprises truly harness it.”

Dealing with adversity is a critical leadership issue. How do you bounce back? How do you help your colleagues or team members stay in Leading mode? My next post will provide you with tips and techniques for reframing and thriving during turbulent times.