Be a Fox not a Porcupine

An old Eastern proverb says:

The fox has many tricks, but the porcupine has one big trick.


In his book, The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfection, Dr. Rosenthal suggests when dealing with adversity, we are better off being more like the fox than the porcupine.

In other words, there is no one silver bullet for dealing effectively with adversity. It’s a dance you learn to take requiring agility, variety of approach, creativity and alertness.

Dr. Rosenthal (a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School) knows a lot about adversity from his own experience, years of research and his work with people going through a wide range of challenges. He shares 7 tricks for dealing successfully with adversity I want to share here.

The 7 tricks to deal successfully with adversity

  1. Accept that the adversity has occurred
  2. Proportion your response according to the nature of the adversity
  3. Analyze the situation
  4. Regulate your physical and emotional state (i.e.,  keep regular hours of sleeping and waking, eat regular meals, exercise,  meditate)
  5. Reach out for help – to family, friends or  even kindly strangers
  6. Turn your predicament into a story – to help you process it
  7. Reframe the adversity – think about it in a  different way

A Clear Head is Your Friend

The most important tool is a clear head. Don’t panic. In most situations there is time to think; thinking is your friend, and impulsive action is your enemy.

Analyze the situation, understanding what you’re up against and what resources you have at your disposal. Of course, in emergencies you will need to act quickly, but that’s when your primitive fight-or-flight responses will click into gear and – with a bit of luck and quick thinking – will save the day.

Remember, other people have been this way before and have succeeded in overcoming these very same obstacles and, in many instances, have become stronger as a consequence. If they could do it, so you can you. Now you simply need to figure out what they did that worked and how you can implement a strategy that will work for you.

What might this mean for you and I?

Adversity is multifaceted and comes in many different shapes and sizes.

It’s wise to have several tricks up your sleeve. All 7 tricks are ones I’ve used during my own season of adversity. They have helped me keep “hoping for the best and dancing with the rest.”

Let me add some food for thought from others to fan your ability to live fox-like during your time of adversity.

All sunshine makes the desert.
Arabian Proverb

Fractures well cured make us more strong.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adversity is the mother of progress.
Mahatma Gandhi

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man be perfected without trials.
Danish Proverb

Obstacles are great incentives.
Jules Michelet

Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.
Henry J. Kaiser

What trick would you add to the list?

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About Cam Taylor

I'm help people live inspired, focused and tenacious lives. I work as a coach, facilitator, author, and speaker.
This entry was posted in Adversity, Attitude, Character, curiosity, discipline, Emotions, Endurance, Hope, learning, Opportunity, Perspective, self-awareness, suffering, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Be a Fox not a Porcupine

  1. Kathleen Taubensee says:

    I couldn’t agree more with hoping for the best and dancing with the rest……after all dancing is kinda fun!

  2. Rich OBrian says:

    Cam, Wonderful. We see people in our churches that respond well to adversity and others that do not. And, even at my age, you reminded me of how to face the harshness of life. God bless, Rich

    • Cam Taylor says:

      Thanks Rich – you’ve raised a point I often think about – what does separate those who thrive in adversity & those who are swallowed up by it? I think it’s partly preparation but there is more to it I’m sure. May you & I be prepared 🙂

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