When Life Throws a Curveball

Sooner or later, life will throw you a curveball. And it will suck. Trust me, I know – life just threw me a curveball and it ain’t pretty.

 The curveball is that rude awakening, that slap in the face, that often derails us from our tried and true plan to go from A to B. The curveball is often just a test – most times thrown to see if you will chase something outside of your comfort zone. Yes, all true but, it doesn’t make it suck any less.

 And I know we’ve all experienced them at one time in our lives or another. The fact is, it’s not whether or not life will throw you a curveball, it’s a matter of when. Here’s a few examples:

  •  Your boss announces his retirement and you’re the most qualified person to replace him. You’ve been a loyal employee for five years and you’ve gotten nothing but outstanding evaluations. Then, out of nowhere, the powers-that-be decide to bring in someone from outside the company to fill your boss’s shoes.
  • You and your boyfriend have been dating for two years, when he calls to say that he has something important to tell you. You’re sure he’s going to propose. Instead, he breaks up with you.

 Once life throws you a curveball the question becomes: How are you going to deal with it? Below are a few examples of how to handle it but I’m sure you’ve got some great advice as well.

1. Don’t Overgeneralize. Just because something unexpected has temporarily knocked the wind out of you (seriously, doesn’t it feel as if you just got a kick in the gut?)  it doesn’t mean that your life is over, that you’ll never achieve the things that you want, or that you’re doomed to fail and struggle for the rest of your days.

Kimberley Cohen, Founder, Facilitator and Personal Insight Coach of The Insight Technique, explains that the fact that you’ve struck out doesn’t mean that you’re out of the game. You’re simply out until the next time you’re up to bat. She adds the following:

“There will be another inning, another game, another chance, and ‘how’ you handle the curve balls is really up to you. You can lose your confidence, your spirit, your love of the game or, you can take your stance at home plate, swing like you have never swung before and know you have a chance at hitting that ball far out into the outfield or the stands.” – I love the baseball analogy.

sand through hands

2. Get Some Perspective. Right now you may be telling yourself that losing your job, getting dumped by your girlfriend/boyfriend, losing out on that house that you felt was the perfect house for you, or being passed over for the promotion is the worst thing that could have happened to you. However, you don’t know that for sure. Think of the story of the farmer and the horse.

It goes something like this:

A farmer lost his horse. All his neighbors said: “How awful!” But the farmer simply replied: “Could be bad, could be good, don’t know yet.”

 Then the horse returned with a stallion. Now the neighbors said: “How wonderful for you!” But the farmer replied: “Could be bad, could be good, don’t know yet.”

 A few days later the farmer’s son was riding the stallion. He fell off and broke his leg. Once again the neighbors chimed in: “That’s terrible news!” But the farmer just told them: “Could be bad, could be good, don’t know yet.”

 That weekend the country went to war and the generals went from village to village taking young men to fight in the war. They didn’t take the farmer’s son since his leg was broken. The neighbors all expressed how lucky the farmer was that his son had broken his leg, since now he didn’t have to go to war and risk being killed. But the farmer simply said: “Could be bad, could be good, don’t know yet.”

 The truth is, you can’t see the future. Would your life have been perfect if you had gotten the raise you were gunning for, or if you had married that girl who dumped you? Maybe; but maybe not. What looks like a huge loss at the present moment could be a blessing in disguise. You just don’t know yet.

Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

3. Practice Acceptance. In his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra explains “The Law of Least Effort”, which is basically the principle of no resistance. One component of this principle is acceptance.

Chopra explains that when you struggle against the moment you’re struggling against the entire universe. And that’s not a smart move. You can wish for things to be different in the future, but at this moment in time you have to accept things as they are. He advises that you say the following to yourself: “This moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be.” Trust me, easier said then done but it actually does help ease the burden.

4. Decrease Your Ego’s Involvement. In other words, try your best not to beat yourself up! Chance are, the curveball you were thrown was unfair to you. You were treated unjustly. However, even if you feel that you’ve been wronged, you need to stop these non-productive thoughts –

  • How dare they do this to me?
  • How could this have happened?
  • Why didn’t I see this coming?

This kind of thinking consumes an enormous amount of energy and doesn’t help you in any way, shape or form.

By refusing to identify with your ego and its deep-seeded desire for taking things personally, as well as its need for self-aggrandizement, you’ll be better able to take things at face value. This will allow you to stop linking your sense of self to what just happened.

In addition, it will free up energy that you can then use to create better circumstances for yourself.

5. Meditate. When you’re stressed, fearful, angry, or anxious—which are feelings that often accompany an event that has a negative impact on your life, your brain’s rhythm increases and brain activity rises. The more stressed you become, the more rapidly your brain waves vibrate and not for the better. Meditating slows down your brain’s rhythm, which is conducive to a relaxed state of mind which allows you to generate alternatives, see opportunities, and come up with creative solutions. That is, meditating will help put you in a more resourceful state of mind. You do not need to know ‘how’ to meditate as there is no right way or wrong way. Find a quite spot and sit in silence or turn on some relaxation or meditative music and clear your head.

 6. Ask Yourself the Right Questions. In “Living Your Best Life”, Laura Berman Fortgang explains that we need to stop asking ourselves questions hoping to come up with information in order to understand a situation or circumstance we may never understand. And information questions keep you stuck in the past. Here are some examples

  • Why did this happen to me?
  • Why would they do that?
  • Why didn’t this work out for me?

Questions such as the three above make you rehash the negative scene over and over again in your mind as you struggle to make sense of what happened. This is a circle of pain that keeps you rehashing and rehashing, and the truth is, you’ll probably never really know what the reason was or the catalyst for the ‘event’.

What you need to do, instead, is ask yourself questions that will help you to move forward. This includes questions such as the following:

  • What do I need to get through this?
  • What will get me what I want?
  • What is the solution?
  • What can I learn from this?

 The basic premise is that you need to move away from trying to understand a problem. Instead, look for ways to solve it. Laura adds that the most powerful question you can ask yourself is: “What do I want?”

7. Shift Your Focus To the Positive. Instead of dwelling on your loss, shift your focus to the good things that are still in your life.

  • Did you lose your job? If you have your health and a good head on your shoulders you have a lot to be grateful for. Focus on that.
  • Did your love interest leave you for someone else? If you have family and friends who love you, you’re blessed. Focus on that.
  • Did you lose that house that you felt was your dream home? It may have been a money pit, feel blessed you still have a roof over your head. Focus on that.

 8. Mourn Your Loss and Get On With Your Life. Sometimes a failure or a loss feels almost like someone has died. And, in a way, someone has. The person you would have been—if you had gotten that promotion, if you had married that person, if your business had succeeded—will no longer come into being. Take a few days to mourn for the loss of that person. When my first husband and I divorced, and as I lay on the couch in ‘mourning’, my son said, “Mom, you’ve got to get out and do something for yourself” and I told him I needed just one  week to wallow in self-pity and then I would get on with my life. And you know what? It worked!

Try the following:

  • Decide on a mourning period: maybe two, three, or four days. Or in my case, a week.
  • Spend that time eating Ben & Jerry’s straight out of the container, or eat the bag of Cheetos but if you’re going to do it, do it right and eat the entire bag. Try not to drink too much though, that’s never a good thing.
  • Binge watch “Homeland”, “The Crown”, and “Revenge”.
  • Play sad songs and be sure to sing along in a loud, pitiful voice. This has never really worked for me but I have a dear friend that does this and it works like a charm. He calls the playlist his ‘Sad Chick Singing’ list. 

Then, be grateful that you’re alive, get up, and get on with your life!

9. Anchor Yourself to the Future. The curveball you were thrown probably set your goals off track. So, set new goals for yourself and get to work on achieving them. That is, anchor yourself to the future.

For example, just because that promotion didn’t pan out doesn’t mean that you’ll be stuck in a dead-end job forever. Instead, set new career goals for yourself. Then, start moving toward the new destination that you’ve set for yourself.

10. Focus On What You Can Control. One of the reasons why being thrown a curveball is so incredibly painful is because it makes you feel like you have no control over what happens to you. After all, you did everything right. But the “right” results didn’t materialize, in spite of your efforts. In addition, there’s little that you can do about it. Here’s a few thoughts:

  • You can’t force your company to give you a promotion.
  • You can’t force your boyfriend to marry you…or can you? LOL…just kidding!
  • Therefore, you need to turn your focus to things you can control. You can do things like:
  • Learn a new skill that will look great on your resume.
  • Take a class that will enhance your industry knowledge.
  • Join a gym or go to a Meet Up group so that you can meet new people.
  • Ask for some vacation time so that you can get some distance from the situation.

Whenever you feel helpless or victimized because of something that has happened to you, turn your attention to the things that you can change, or the things that you can do. By doing what you can, with what you have, where you are, and not beating yourself up, you’ll gradually begin to feel like you’re back in control of your life.

I know how difficult having curveballs thrown at you is, because I’ve had more than a few thrown at me over the years. But that’s the beauty of curveballs; I’m still here, I’m still alive and thriving and so, I know that if I get another curveball thrown my way, I’ll survive it just as I have in the past. And most times, I’ve come out on the other end in a much better position that when I started. Trust me, you’ve got this!

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