April 9, 2020

Ten things to do when life throws you a curveball

Sometimes things happen that are outside of your control. Your girlfriend decides that she needs to move back home and long distance is not an option, so you have to break up. You are a top performer at a company and the company needs to cut costs and you are suddenly let go without warning. Or maybe you have a sudden death in the family and you need to drop everything in your life to manage it.

All of the above has happened to me and each time it has happened, I have learned something new about myself and how I deal with the curveball. Here are the ten things I do when life throws me a curveball – and I know these things will help anyone facing the same situation in their lives.

Laugh it off

I like to think that I’m a fairly jovial guy. In fact, I probably joke around too much which isn’t good. One of the things that I like to do is to laugh in the face of terrible challenges (though I wouldn’t advise doing this publicly or with people that don’t understand your humour). I have been in several situations at work where things seem really terrible. You are working late, the deadline is soon, it’s the 11th hour and then something happens like your boss says that a completely new direction needs to be taken with a business case. In these situations, I cannot help but laugh it off. Laughing brings in more oxygen into your body, helps you to de-stress, and it has a myriad of benefits when your body is stressed from a curveball.

Focus on the positives

There is a positive or a silver lining to everything that you do. Breaking up with someone isn’t good, but it allows you to reflect and grow and to get back out there in the dating scene. Losing someone to an interminable illness is awful, but letting them live through pain may have been even worse. I know this can be difficult to do, but try to find something positive.

Ask yourself what opportunities this opens

A good way of trying to understand what the positives are is to figure out what opportunities this curveball opens for you. Have you always wanted to start a business, but never dared to make the leap into entrepreneurship? Getting fired from a job can give you that push you needed. Have you wanted to travel and live out of your suitcase? Breaking up from your partner and getting rid of some of the commitments you had can be the key to unlocking the chains on your ‘freedom’.

Watch out for negative language

I was listening to a podcast about academics who constantly apply to grants, teaching positions, fellowships and other things and just like job seekers, they experience quite a bit of rejection. They were talking about ways to deal with rejection, and one thing that one of the co-hosts noticed was that the people around her had started to talk about her as someone that experienced a lot of ‘tragedies’. She was surprised because she had not thought of any of the missteps in her life as ‘tragedies’ and hanging around with this person tempted her in changing the language that she used about herself. She started to avoid those kinds of people and even took a few of them aside to help them understand that using that kind of language was not positive or encouraging.

Seek encouragement from friends and family

Seeking encouragement may not be the phrasing that I want you to take away. I don’t want you to seek out sympathy from people because you deserve it. It is more that you are letting your friends and family know what happened, and naturally, if they are close and kind, they will offer words of support for whatever has happened to you. I know when my life has thrown me curveballs, I share it with my friends and family who all have incredibly positive things to say to me.

Meet and talk with positive people in your life

Maybe you don’t have too many friends to talk with or your family may not be living close to you. There must certainly be people within your network (close coworkers, mentors, etc.) that can help you see the light. Do you have a positive person in your life that helps to make things better after hanging out with them? Hang on to them tightly or find them if you haven’t found one already.

Enjoy the little things

There may be things that you have neglected as you focused on work, marriage, dating, etc. Or as you grew older and started to take more and more commitments, you had to drop a few activities that you really enjoyed but did not have time or energy for. A good way to find some of these activities: think back to your teens or childhood and list out the activities that you really enjoyed doing for fun, without worrying about finances or other ‘adult’ responsibilities. I for example, really enjoyed playing with Lego, which I take to mean that I enjoyed using my imagination, being creative, building things, following a plan, and showcasing the finished product to get praise.

Focus on the fundamentals

In the same vein, have you been not exercising, not eating healthy or not getting enough sleep? Now is the time to focus on the fundamentals. If life throws you a curveball, you want to be in the best shape to bounce back and a great way to do that is to focus on exercising 3 – 5 times a week (does not have to be super intense, can be a 20 minute walk after dinner), eating healthy (remember that your body is a machine and certain ‘fuel’ is better than others), and getting enough sleep (sleep early and try to get 7 – 9 hours of sleep every day).

Take a break

Sometimes, life is go-go-go! You have a hard time just sitting still anywhere because you start to feel antsy about getting things done. I know I have that and it may simply be a symptom of being super ambitious or a workaholic (I’m likely both). When you take a break though, a real break, you can use the time to rest. Just like how working out all the time can destroy your body, you need to rest every once in a while (not just physical rest but mental rest). One thing that I tried recently that I recommend if you haven’t done it is floating. Not doing anything for an hour, alone with your thoughts and breath, and just lying back and floating in water can help give you both physical and mental rest.

Re-evaluate

What does the curveball mean to you? What are your next steps? These are questions that you need to answer for yourself and you can and should take the time to answer these questions.


What are your thoughts on when life throws you a curveball? How do you handle it? What do you do?

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