11/21/2014 08:35 am ET Updated Jan 21, 2015

You Have More Power Than You Think

Hill Street Studios via Getty Images

At some point in our lives, everybody encounters tough times. It's part of life. We cannot avoid life's challenges, but we can choose how we respond to our misfortune.

Chronic health issues are among life's most difficult challenges. Several years ago, a close friend's health started to decline. Although nothing appeared to be life threatening, she often felt tired, lethargic, and achy. As she battled her illness, she modeled how to deal with a chronic problem.

Her first response was acceptance. Many people go into denial when faced with unfortunate circumstances. They think, Why me? This isn't fair. What did I do to deserve this? But when we think that way, we deny our own humanity. These things happen to humans and you are human. We are all at risk of bad things happening to us. No one is immune.

Because she was able to accept her condition, my friend could use her energy in a more positive way -- to make the best decisions for her health and her future. She didn't waste her now-precious energy lamenting her fate.

The actor Michael J. Fox was dealt a horrible blow when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at the age of 30. Despite the seriousness of his illness, he continued his acting career and created the Michael J. Fox Foundation, advocating for research to find a cure. He said, "Acceptance doesn't mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there's got to be a way through it."

My client also enlisted a second, very powerful resource -- a combination of faith and hope that she could figure out a way to feel better, a way to improve her condition. Because she never lost faith and hope, she never gave up and continued to work to find the best treatments for herself. Those resources gave her courage and empowered her to move forward even though she didn't know what the future held for her.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

My friend wisely used all elements of her wealth to tackle this difficult challenge. She relied on her talents (a sharp intellect) and wisdom, reading all she could about her illness and possible treatments when her health permitted her to do so. Feeling empowered by her growing knowledge, she tried a variety of things to help herself. Some worked and some didn't, but with each attempt, she got wiser about what to try next time.

She also used her extensive network to identify people who might be able to help, and she was willing to devote her time to do the things that might help her feel better.

She also used her money to consult with the best healthcare providers she could find. As she dealt with her illness, she told me she felt fortunate because she had the financial resources to pay for additional treatment and explore alternative methods.

Yes, my friend was fortunate enough to have financial wherewithal to seek treatments that might not have been available had she not had the money to do so. But without her acceptance of her illness, her faith and hope that she could overcome it, and her time, intelligence, wisdom, and network, her money alone would have been of little value.

Today, she is feeling much better and is fully engaged in life. She is traveling, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying a burst of artistic creativity.

When life deals you a tough blow, it's easy to get down and feel powerless. Remember you have more power than you think. You have the power to choose how you respond to adversity. You have the power to use your energy in a positive way to enlist all your resources in your efforts to overcome a challenging situation. You have the infinite power of faith and hope. You have the power to take that first step, even if you can't see beyond it.

David Geller is the author of Wealth & Happiness: Using Your Wealth to Create a Better Life. He is the CEO of Atlanta-based GV Financial Advisors and is available for professional speaking engagements.