Leverage your adversity quotient

Amid the difficult and trying times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, humanity has demonstrated one factor in abundance – its AQ or Adversity Quotient.

What is QA? Perhaps we are more familiar with IQ, EQ, QS and other such sciences. AQ is its lesser known cousin! Essentially, QA is the science of human resilience. Although rooted in related sciences such as neurophysiology and cognitive psychology, our intention in this article is to explore the key elements of QA and its relevance in today’s life and work context. AQ is the ability to adapt well and react to adversity, crisis, pressure, stress, trauma and other difficult situations. It can be anything from everyday hassles to more important or critical situations like pandemic or economic crisis.

AQ is the ability or measure of an individual or a group of people to face and cope with adversities. It is also about knowing how one resists adversity and one’s ability to take charge of oneself and triumph over it.

From an organization or leadership perspective, adversity is anything that hinders or blocks an organization’s quest to achieve its vision, goals, or strategic plans. QA theory primarily aims to enable people to convert obstacles into opportunities.

Dr. Paul G. Stolz is the originator and leading expert on the Adversity Quotient Theory which he invented in 1997. In one of his many research experiments, he compared climbing expeditions in as metaphors for coping with adversity.

To sum up, AQ has 3 mindsets: Quit, Camp and Climb!

Quit : As their name suggests, they are people with a low QA. These people have a negative mindset and tend to give up or run away from problems. Dropouts tend to feel sorry for themselves, play the “victim” card and are sometimes unable to cope with even minor difficulties.

Camper: Campers are those with a low or medium AQ level. While not entirely fence sitters, they are a yes-no-maybe type! They are indecisive and tend to get overwhelmed when adversities escalate. Research indicates that 60% fall into the category of campers. However, the campers have a certain capacity to accept the challenges and if they are well guided, they have the potential to evolve into a “climber”.

Climber: These are the people with high levels of AQ. They are bold, fearless, independent and create energy around them. Climbers take charge, are full of optimism, think of others first and are always ready to lend a hand.

Diving deeper into QA theory is the CORE model.

C-Control; O – Ownership; R – Reach; E-Endurance

CORE describes the four dimensions that make up your QA. Combined CORE dimensions will allow you to both learn and strengthen your responses to adversity

Control: Control occurs when one looks for facets of the situation that they can influence and control. Invariably, this would lead to higher levels of resilience. Individuals must examine to what extent (and how) they can influence the situation, instead of being mere spectators!

The possession: Accountability is the backbone of action. Holding yourself accountable for improving the situation and playing a role in improving it should be the perspective. Being responsible for managing situations, whatever the cause, would build resilience.

Reach: It’s about knowing how to keep setbacks and challenges in their place and not let them infest healthy areas of work and life. The ability to fully understand the fallout from the adverse situation and its possible impact is essential. This would help to plan and contain the current situation.

Endurance: One should cultivate an uncanny ability to predict how long adversity would last or last. Hope and optimism can create inner energy and energize others to see past endless difficulties and overcome challenges.

The CORE model will open your eyes to greater self-awareness, including how you can react and work towards greater personal effectiveness or “responsibility” to adversity.

In conclusion, AQ is an exceptional skill – both in life and at work. It is not something innate and instilled only in a few “chosen ones”. Once you understand the science of QA, you can improve your own, your team’s, and your organization’s ability to deal with adversity. The consequences of the pandemic may be obstacles both to the economy and to our well-being. What better way than to work on our QA and leverage it to overcome the challenges ahead, we will!



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


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