How To Prepare
Here’s the thing about life: It doesn’t know it exists. We are its embodiment, and, as a result, only we are in control. The unexpected happens. Someone we care about passes on, we get fired, we crash cars. Though these events are problems in and of themselves, we are always woefully unprepared for them. But there are ways to ease the unexpected to make it more bearable.
It’s almost funny how in retrospect there are always a thousand different ways the unexpected could have been avoided. Take crashing a car. You could have waited to respond to that text message, driven just a tad slower, or faster, or at a wider angle, or not stuffed your face with Chinese food while changing shirts and yelling at your mother in the pouring rain. Or maybe the other driver was the one at fault, and he or she rear-ended, T-boned or suplexed your car into a guardrail.
Hindsight is, as they say, always 20/20. In this case, the end result is the same: the car is totaled. The question is: How do you respond?
Well, that depends on one thing: Preparation. The more prepared you are, the more flexible you can be with your response.
The first part of this is external and has largely to do with money. The unexpected always has a tendency to crush you financially, but the more of a cushion you have, the less it will hurt. With no savings, adjusting to the expenses of a crash will be a lot harder. There’s dealing with damages, a rental car, repairs and insurance costs. Without help, these costs can add up.
The external/monetary part of preparation achieves flexibility simply by being preemptive — having any amount of savings will ease the pain from being clotheslined by a disaster. Health insurance, car insurance, a retirement plan and sound finances all fall under this umbrella. Anyone who has had to fall back on any of the above can tell you that the cost is well worth the benefit.
The other part of preparation is completely internal and has everything to do with your mindset. You can't control life, but you can adjust to it. For example, unleashing anger on other drivers when traffic has you an hour late will be at best stressful and at worst get someone hurt. If instead you keep your cool, you will be better able to make quick decisions and be less likely to carry emotional baggage into important meetings.
A measured approach to life can make more personal events less stressful and reduce any permanent effects. Going through a breakup will naturally involve a slew of conflicting emotions, but the path to normalcy will be easier the less one dwells on the past. Not being able to let go can lead to some serious mental health issues and an inability to see things clearly. This is not to say emotions should be shunned, but rather that managing them will lead to a more personally flexible response, which should help ease the slap in the face life just gave you.
All of the above still applies to unexpected but positive events. Getting married, having kids, landing that huge promotion or dream job: All of these moments require some level of preparation of the type mentioned above. Winning the lottery is a phenomenal thing for anyone, but poor finances and the tendency to lose control can lead to disastrous results — watch any E! True Life Story of lottery winners for proof.
Of course there are always extremes out there. Events so unexpected, so out of left field, that no external or internal preparation will suffice — at least in the short term. For those moments, there are two ways to go.
If negative, it’s time to swallow that pride and seek professional help. If positive, it's high time to take that vacation you have always wanted.