What to do When Life Throws You a Frightening Curveball

“Grace can take you places hustling can’t.”   -Unknown

“I don’t get it,” I told my husband on a cold February evening, “What am I missing?”

I had just emerged from my most successful quarter ever for my business, and all of a sudden things had ground to a halt. As in, no income that month.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience, where you had an unexpected change in what you considered a “normal” life, such as a:

surprise layoff

cutback in your hours

company-wide reorganization

sudden health problem

family crisis

Sometimes life forces us onto another path against our will.

It is terrifying.

I tried not to panic. Sometimes several curveballs happen at once when we are least expecting it. As a type-A personality, my default response would normally be to pick up the pace and hustle 24/7 until I gained enough momentum.

But for the past few years, I’ve been trying really hard to move beyond the hustle. It’s exhausting and it’s not sustainable (think: crash and burn afterwards).

Hustling allows us to numb ourselves towards uncomfortable feelings. So I knew that I had to give myself permission to feel all of the emotions: fear, sadness, guilt, uncertainty, etc.

Then, even though I was still feeling all of these emotions, I started to navigate through this very scary time.


Step #1: Ask Yourself What You are Supposed to be Learning

Tara Mohr, in her book Playing Big, talks about the importance of asking yourself what you want to learn before you take a big step forward. Since I realized this, I have often found myself in the middle of a situation, trying to figure out if there is a lesson I am missing—rather than just trying to “fix” the situation.

This past February, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to be learning. So I decided that I was going to learn how to handle a slowdown in my business. Because maybe I couldn’t control what was happening, but I could use it as an opportunity to learn new skills. Surprisingly, this made it seem a little less frightening.

If you are an overachiever like me, loss of control can create a lot of fear. Choosing to have control over our responses helps to reduce this fear. Because no matter how much we try to re-train ourselves, we always do better when we feel in control.

So rather than jumping into fix-it mode, challenge yourself to pause and question what you have the opportunity to learn. Yes, it’s going against our instincts, but our instincts to keep hustling aren’t always correct.


Step #2: Start Moving Forward (Doesn’t Matter What Direction)

Next, I decided to move forward in a few areas. I wasn’t sure what was going to fix the problem of reduced revenue, so I narrowed it down to gaining momentum with three things.

Physics tells us that it’s easier to re-direct an object that is already in motion. I figured that it was better to have some momentum, rather than being paralyzed by too many options or over-complicating things.

Congratulate yourself for not curling up in a ball under your desk, or bulldozing your way through at breakneck speed, or even just having the courage to rest.

Maybe nobody else will notice what an effort it is not to fall back into the hustle trap, but it’s important that we commend ourselves on brave decisions like this.

Choose something to move forward, and then don’t forget to…


Step #3: Pay Attention

As I slowly made progress, I kept watching for signs of a larger lesson behind these circumstances. There were a few things that started coming to the surface, both professionally and personally. If it hadn’t been for this slow time, I wouldn’t have noticed them.

I learned how to be okay with myself when I wasn’t earning a steady paycheck. I thought I was past the uncertain early stages of my business, and it turns out I wasn’t. It was also an opportunity to learn humility and self-worth beyond money.

What other lessons are emerging in your situation? Try to be grateful for the opportunity to learn. It makes the discomfort feel a little bit more worthwhile.


Step #4: Embrace the Unexpected Opportunities

I started gaining new momentum in my business. Things were getting better.

And then a funny thing happened.

One of my favorite authors—someone I have deeply admired for several years—reached out to me and asked if I wanted to work for her part-time.

It was one of those opportunities that was so unexpected, and so exciting, and so…insane! There was no way I could have planned for it. It felt like a lucky break.

But it wasn’t just luck.

I just wasn’t aware I had planted the seeds over the past two years. I didn’t even think that there were seeds to plant for this opportunity. I didn’t know I wanted this opportunity.

I have talked with so many others where a sudden change in circumstances has led to unexpected resolutions: a new friend, a new job, a new strength, a rediscovered passion, or a shift in priorities.

Most of the time, the outcome is beyond what we could have dreamed for ourselves.


Final Reflections

Looking back, I know that I had some personal lessons to learn before this door opened.

I also needed to address foundational issues within my business, so that I could work in partnership with another person without my own business suffering.

Finally, I was able to embrace an unexpected way of living out my dreams. I would never have considered working for someone part time while I grew my own business. I had gone straight from the corporate world into full-time entrepreneurship. Sometimes we don’t know what we want until we see what is possible. I didn’t realize what was possible—nor how much I would love it.

I am humbled by the learning opportunities that presented themselves to me this past Spring.

I encourage you to be on the lookout for lessons you can learn in the midst of discomfort. Maybe you now realize that there was a recent lesson that you missed, but it’s never too late! Once you have decided what you were supposed to learn, take a few steps forward in that area, pay attention while you are doing so, and then watch for new opportunities to learn.

Nobody is going to be the perfect student in this area. And I think that’s part of the lesson.

slow down image

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