Using Lemons to Make Lemonade – A Cognitive Behavioral Approach to Overcome Adversity

Most people in the course of their life experience adversity. How we choose to react and the subsequent choices that we make determine future outcomes. Ninety percent of what happens in our life is dependent on our actions and only ten percent is beyond our control. Simply put, there is opportunity for positive change within every adverse situation or circumstance. We can choose to use the lemons that life gives us to make lemonade and enjoy it or we can suck on the lemons and blame the lemons for a tummy ache, sore tongue or you may even enjoy the lemons!

Decision Sign Representing Uncertainty And Making Decisions

Am I jumping to negative conclusions?

You were dealt a rotten hand. You were met with adversity. You had a good cry and a pity party. Then comes the time for reflection, an assessment of your strengths and available resources and problem solving. You try to refrain from focusing entirely on the most negative and upsetting features of your situation because, by so doing, you will filter out or negate all of the positive aspects of yourself and block the potential for constructive change.

You talk to yourself throughout the day about how you feel about yourself, your life and your actions. Although you are not always aware of your self-talk, what you say to yourself has a great influence on the way that you feel and a direct influence on your achievements. Positive self-talk (“I am persistent.” “I tried my best.”) can serve to encourage, motivate and increase your confidence. Negative self-talk (“I am stupid.” “I should have had a house by now.”) can discourage and decrease your self-confidence and prevent you from overcoming obstacles and achieving your full potential.

You feel comfortable engaging in negative self-talk because it is familiar. You have heard negative admonitions since childhood from loved ones and authority figures. It is important, therefore to challenge the accuracy of your thoughts. A good way to test the accuracy of your thoughts is to ask yourself the following challenging questions: What is my evidence for and against my thinking? Am I jumping to negative conclusions? Am I keeping things in perspective? How would I respond to a best friend with similar concerns?

“You feel comfortable engaging in negative self-talk because it is familiar. You have heard negative admonitions since childhood from loved ones and authority figures.”

The following questions may help to underscore the importance of self-talk to feelings and behavior.

On a scale of one to 10, is the 12 inches of fresh snow on the ground terrible, awful and devastating or inconvenient when we compare it with the people who lost their loved ones to a terroristic attack or a natural disaster?

On a scale of one to 10, how would you compare the loss of a home to the loss of a child?

Remember that thoughts determine behavior, so it is important to monitor your thoughts as a way to ensure that you will act in ways that will not be detrimental to your goals.

Seek out the company of positive people, but also keep at bay negative people who are always ready to let you know why you and your ideas will never succeed. Associating with people who believe in themselves helps to motivate you to want to go after your dreams.

Success Keys Shows Victory Achievement Or Successful

Am I keeping things in perspective?

Napoleon Hill, (1938) posited that “Economic advantages may be created by any person who surrounds himself with the advice, counsel and personal cooperation of a group of men who are willing to lend him wholehearted aid, in a spirit of perfect harmony.” Read books that will inspire you to want to stay positive, achieve your goals and love yourself. Three such books include Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “Your Erroneous Zones,” Shad Helmstetter’s “What You Say When you Talk to Yourself” and Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Seek out people including family members who overcame adversity. Reading about and learning from inspirational people such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Tony Robbins, Nelson Mandela and Tyler Perry who overcame adversity will help you to gain a very real understanding that you, too, can survive the hard times and prosper spiritually, socially and economically.

It is also helpful to reflect on ways that you have successfully dealt with adverse situations in the past. Write down your successes, your positive traits and reflect on the blessings in your life. Recognize that while the present situation is difficult or even disastrous and while you may have hit rock bottom, you are in control of your destiny and have the ability to pick yourself up and make choices that will pay dividends in the future. You also have the choice of sucking on those lemons and throwing away the sugar that you could have used to make lemonade!

~Thérèse Gray

Suggested Reading:

Think and Grow Rich –Internet Archive. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from


Thérèse Gray Counseling
2186 Halsey Street, Suite 1A
Union, NJ 07083
Ph: (973) 953-5771; Fax: (908) 686-385


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