How to tackle adversity: An excerpt from Lead Beyond The Edge

a year ago   •   5 min read

By Frederique Murphy

In Lead Beyond The Edge, Frederique Murphy covers adversity in one of the 3 book parts; specifically, how to turn adversity on its head, build this resilient capacity of ours and strengthen it. The following is an excerpt of one of the actionable strategies along with its scientific evidence.




The language we use is critical, as it builds our reality. Our next wire focuses on teaching you how to retrain your brain to step into the right frame of mind for you to get extraordinary results – the right one is the one that will be most supportive of you achieving your goals, no matter what happens along the way.


So, a challenge arises and…



And yes, before you ask, this is the first of the 3Fs wire strategies we are going to cover within this circuit you are building – again, here I’m using a mnemonic device, a pattern of the letter F, to improve your ability to remember this content.


As a change management consultant, paying attention to my language while communicating to the various departments throughout an organization has always been central. Our choice of words impacts our results. And when announcing a change, which will initially be seen as an obstacle, frames and framing as well as reframes and reframing are key.


By applying this strategy, you learn how to thrive on obstacles. And yes, I know what I just wrote, and I’m pretty sure you had a reaction along these lines: ‘Really, “thrive” on obstacles? How am I supposed to thrive on obstacles when everything around me is going wrong and I’m barely keeping up?’ I hear you. This is usually the dialogue that my clients share with me when we first start working together.


It is possible to thrive on obstacles, and I’m going to show you how to do exactly that, so you can apply the Frame strategy and activate the wire whenever you need to, so you can continue to move forward. Overcoming adversity starts with the word you use to describe what has happened to make you feel off track.


I said that the key was in our language, so let’s focus on the word ‘obstacle’. How do you feel when you think about that word? Probably as if it is something that stands in your way, right? Something that was not meant to be there, yet it is there, and it is stopping you. No wonder your brain resists it then.


What if we reframe the word and its positioning? And I’ve been doing this throughout, so you’ve probably picked up on it, whether consciously or unconsciously. Let’s reframe the word ‘obstacle’ with the word ‘challenge’. A challenge brings on the idea of a dare, where you want to say: ‘A challenge, I hear? Bring it on!’ It is a lot easier to embrace and rise up to a challenge than it is an obstacle.


An obstacle is like a barrier, which makes it difficult to pass through; it is discouraging and not conducive to action. Whereas a challenge is like a fence: you can see through it and it gives you hope to pass through. Think about it: it is a lot more appealing to join a 30-day challenge than a 30-day obstacle, right? A challenge enthuses your brain. That is the power of the shift.


Continuing to pay attention to our language, you know this proverb, right? ‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’ Do you remember, as a child, lying on the grass, looking up at the clouds? At first, a cloud is just a cloud, but by focusing you were suddenly able to see a particular shape. This is another way of thinking of your frames. Here, you focused on a cloud, the frame, and cognitively reframed it, to then see it as an animal for instance.


This is how this actionable strategy works. You have it in you to focus on the frame and then do a reframe. It instantly changes it in your mind and subsequently, instils a very different set of reactions, which is where we want to be when we are facing adversity. I agree that some situations and events are out of your control, but you do control your reactions, and letting these impact you is your choice.




Albert Einstein said, ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’ And this aligns very nicely with what we’ve learned so far about focusing on the frame and applying the right reframe to help you continue to make it happen. When adversity strikes, it creates a problem. So now read that quote again. Thanks to your reframe, you are able to access a different level of consciousness.


Scientifically, this strategy is referred to as cognitive reframing. It includes cognitive flexibility and cognitive reappraisal. Cognitive reframing comes from the work of Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s – he is a psychiatrist, known for fathering cognitive therapy as well as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).


Cognitive reframing is an emotion-regulation strategy primarily associated with resilience, and its effectiveness has been proven again and again via studies. More recently, neuroimaging studies have shown that cognitive reframing stimulates the activity in the thought control regions of the brain while decreasing the activity in the emotion centre of the brain.


James J. Gross (2002), a psychologist known for his work in emotion regulation, says, ‘Reframing has emerged as a really strong form of emotion regulation, and one that’s associated with a range of good outcomes. People who practice it report less anxiety, less depression, and better social connections.’


Changing the negative thought that triggers the negative emotion enables you to regulate your emotions. This strategy shifts control over to you thanks to your ability to influence how you experience the situation. By changing the frame – that is, the meaning of the situation – you are changing its narrative. This leads you to thinking, feeling and acting differently.


This strategy gives you the ability to shift how you view things, finding a different and more positive interpretation of the adverse situation, thus impacting your next move. I encourage you to activate this wire as often as you need to. You may have heard of some people referring to resilience as a muscle; while scientifically it is not, they are in fact referring to the fact that the more you activate the wire, the easier it gets to fire it up. It is a neural pathway – one that you can actively strengthen.


Linking back to the power of being self-aware, this strategy relies on you doing a conscious shift. It is a commitment and a personal responsibility. You know how all these strategies are close to my heart and brain, and this one, in particular, has served me and continues to serve me again and again. I believe it is due to its amazing ability to turn adversity on its head.


The more you use this wire, the more it opens up your world of opportunities. Opportunities to change. Opportunities to grow. Opportunities to lead. Obstacles and problems can often be thought of as static. Challenges and opportunities can be experienced as exciting. It engages your competitive spirit, thus motivating and driving you.


Cognitive reframing helps you shift how you look at something, appreciating different aspects of it. It is about looking at things differently, which therefore helps you to adapt your reactions to it. As leaders, this is an extremely useful and empowering strategy, as it gives you the ability to reinterpret any situations that come your way. Plus, remember the way you respond to adversity not only impacts you but also others in your life, at work and home: by leading yourself, you lead your team and your organization.


And here you go: you now have this FRAME strategy that you can use whenever you need to. You can apply it for any of your goals as this adversity challenge comes up for you. 

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