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Lessons Learned While Fielding Curve Balls

Confession: the last few months have been hell on wheels in my world.

That may sound a little alarming, given my usual “bright-sider” outlook; so let me assure you that I am fine (which is a relative term, admittedly) AND the “fine-ness” doesn’t negate the challenges that have been thrown my way.

The details don’t matter – mostly because some of them are private and not ones I care to share. That being said, it has been a time to reflect and absorb some learning, and given that my objective is always to be of service, I want to pass that learning on to you. For leaders in particular, knowing how to be with curveballs is essential. So, in no particular order, here are some of the key lessons I’ve gleaned:

1)      You are not immune to the challenges of the human experience (no matter who you are, what you know, or your area of expertise) . Your challenges might look different from those of another; and you’ll still face them. Brace yourself.

2)      Acknowledging challenges, whatever they are, will serve you far better than trying to pretend they don’t exist. In a world that celebrates optimism, it can be tempting to try to ignore a challenge and not see it for what it is (this can often be done in the name of “reframing”). Resist the temptation, my friend. You don’t have to be a negative Nelly; you do have to be real.

3)      Embracing the gift within a challenge does not mean ignoring the challenge itself. Allow yourself to do both – see the challenge for what it is, name it without sugar-coating it, AND embrace the gift.

4)      Find. Your. Allies. And lean into them. Do not try to face challenges on your own; doing so does not make you a hero or a strong person. It makes you ALONE. And as a human being, alone is not the way to travel, no matter how introverted you might consider yourself to be.

5)      Make sure your allies are folks you can trust. I am a verbal processor and as such, I do best when I can talk about what I’m experiencing. I’m also naturally trusting; this combination has meant that I’ve found myself chatting with folks about deeply personal things – and those folks haven’t always been deserving of the trust I’ve placed in them. So, in addition to FINDING your allies, I would caution you to KNOW them. Be sure they are, in fact, allies.

6)      Slow down. It can be tempting to try to outrun the metaphorical curve balls in your world. It doesn’t work. Instead, give yourself time to see what’s happening. Feel what’s happening. Respond to what’s happening. And then, when you’re ready, move on.

7)      Master the art of genuine self-care. Not just the “massage/pedicure/grab-a-drink” type of self-care. Take a day or two off – heck, take a week if you need it. Lie in bed. Do nothing. Go for a walk. Sit still with your eyes closed. Just be, and let your whole self replenish.

8)      Feel deeply. When you are facing challenges, your emotions may feel like they’re running rampant. Don’t try to ignore them – they don’t like to be ignored. Face them. Express them. Let the tears flow; let the anger out; feel the despair. Whatever the emotion, feel it all. Because it’s not going anywhere.

9)      Find a venting strategy – or two, or three – that works for you. Journaling is an option; as is drawing; or talking; or exercising; or meditating. Something that allows you to really connect with whatever it is that is happening – because if you don’t connect with the challenge, trust me when I say, it will eventually knock you off your feet to get your attention. Think of a toddler who has finally had it with not getting the snack he wants; that’s the sort of metaphorical tantrum you can expect from a challenge that’s not addressed.

10)   Remember that curve balls and challenges aren’t necessarily “one-and-done” deals. Sometimes they are; and sometimes they keep rearing their heads. Let that be. And keep addressing them, as they arise.

Bottom-line: I don’t care who you are, what your area of expertise, or how educated you consider yourself to be. The fact is you are human. As such, curve balls WILL be part of your experience. Understand that, accept that, and learn how to address them. Addressing curveballs will always serve you better than trying to outrun them.

Tracy Harvie