Five Keys to Handling Life’s Curveballs

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When life throws you a curveball, what do you do? How do you respond or react when your plans are threatened by unanticipated events?

I posed these questions to author and executive leadership coach Alvin Day, in a recent episode of Living the Dream. His responses reflect the narrative of the lives of those who have overcome these challenges. Below are excerpts of the interview distilled into five clues to effectively prepare for and recover from life’s curveballs.

#1 Life’s curveballs are inevitable: Using the metaphor of a game, Day, who is the author of If Caterpillars Can fly So Can I: Seven Universal Laws to Achieve and Prosper, suggests that while it is great to stand and wait for the ball to come straight at you, it is the nature of life to buffet you and to beat you up if you just stand there and are not prepared for it. “Balls much like our plans and goals, sometimes slip at the end, go up or down, or shift to the right or left. Everyday those balls are there! It is increasingly difficult to find success because what we expect to come at us is not always predictable.”

# 2 It is okay to miss some balls: “If you think of life as this serious thing that you have to get right all of the time, you are going to get frustrated. You must be prepared to whack at the ball and know that you are going to miss a great deal of the times. In Major League Basketball for example, star batters, average .300 to .400 of hits they take. This suggests that they miss 60% – 70% of the time and yet they are extraordinarily successful.

“We don’t have to hit all the balls in order for us to do well in life. Part of the success we seek is to embrace this reality and to set our sights on the level of excellence where we know that it is okay to fail. That mindset takes away some of the stress, strain and sense of disappointment, we experience when faced with the unexpected.”

#3 Develop the mindset of a winner: How we see ourselves is imperative to how well we handle life’s curveballs. “The way we think, what you think, how we think, then manifest in who we be. The winning mindset is to be comfortable, cool, calm and collected and stand at the mount with poise ready for whatever comes at you. This mindset requires us to develop emotional and mental stability. It starts with introspection and then reaching outside of yourself to resources of people who think differently and get different results.”

#4 Resist the temptation for dramatic changes: “Sometimes we think that life is in such bad shape that to progress we must make massive changes. The trouble with massive changes is that these are too traumatic and the brain doesn’t want to stay there. The mind will take you back to the status quo. That’s why exercise and diet products sell huge in January and hotdogs and hamburgers in February. Attempt instead, small incremental changes, with one desirable behaviour you wish to emulate. Do it daily, over and over and the compound effect will change your life.”
#5 Shun the seduction of the comfort zone: “People don’t get to their dreams because their sense of dissatisfaction isn’t great enough. Henry David Thoreau surmised it this way, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” To avoid this fate, know your gifts and strengths. Be content with that, and develop them to the best of your ability. Live with urgency to make a difference in the lives of others, cognizant that your talents and natural gifts are not bragging points. They are a heavy responsibility to deliver to other people.”


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