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Preparing for life's curve balls

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- When I was younger, we played basketball on the playground quite a bit. If we showed up unprepared and left our "A" game at home, we would get "schooled." Being "schooled" is another way of saying you were utterly defeated. To avoid being "schooled" meant hours of shooting around, practicing, preparing and learning the skills of the game. I had to prepare so I would not be defeated in the game. Life can also leave us defeated, and if we aren't prepared for what it has to throw at us, we too could be taken to "school."

An easy way to be prepared for what life throws your way is by being aware of your circumstances and anticipating things to come. I'm convinced that much of the stress we find ourselves in can be alleviated with a little preparation.

At times I've been prepared by happenstance. For instance, early in my Air Force career I took a Basic Emergency Medical Technicians course, thinking that it would be fun and interesting (which it was). But it proved to be extremely useful as well during the inauguration festivities in 2009. I was able to help an older gentleman with heart problems who lost consciousness on the crowded metro. My training kicked in, and I helped bring him back around and stabilize him until he could get treatment from professionals. Although I hadn't planned for this situation, I was prepared.

I was also able to prepare myself each year for the Air Force fitness test, because I knew when it was coming. Sometimes I prepared more than other times, and my scores directly reflected this.

But in life, sometimes it's a combination of many events that can put you behind the power curve, even if you are prepared for certain individual tasks. Sometimes one plus two doesn't equal three - it equals four. It's often during these times that we're most vulnerable to being "schooled" by life. It's also during these times I believe a little preparation is most valuable in coming out triumphant.

But what preparations can you make when life hits you with several deaths in your family back to back, the loss of job or an unexpected new addition to your family? Events like these can often cause stress that put you over the top. During these times, your preparations in building a support base of friends and family will help you immensely.

By proactively pursuing certain endeavors, you can be better prepared for the curve balls life throws your way. Reading books about how others overcame difficulties in their lives, getting the big picture through spiritual discipline and exploration, building healthy relationships with friends, pastors and mentors, and practicing good eating and exercise habits are all things that we can proactively do during the calms in life to prepare us for those curve balls. And with a little preparation, we can avoid being "schooled" during the hard times.