How to Keep Your Composure When Life Deals You a Bad Hand

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It’s inevitable that when you play the game of life you’ll occasionally be dealt a bad hand. But as any real winner knows, your experience of life will come down to how you play the hand you’re dealt. Poker players sometimes emerge victorious even when they have terrible cards because of their ability to maintain their composure.

Problems are part of the human experience, but, handled the right way our biggest problems often end up being the biggest blessing in disguise. There are a few simple things you can do that will help you keep your composure when you get dealt a bad hand.


Our natural temptation when something goes wrong is to panic. It’s almost a built in instinct, but it doesn’t serve us well at all. In fact when we panic our breathing becomes shallower and we start to take actions out of fear. As a result we get in too much of a hurry and end up making poor decisions. Breathing is actually a great place to start because deep breaths calm our nerves and quiet the mind. If you’ve ever listened to any guided meditation tape, you’ll notice that they almost always start with some sort of breathing exercise. Spend 10 minutes taking deep breaths and you’ll notice that your nerves calm quite a bit.

Ask Yourself What’s Possible

I found that this one simple question can dramatically change your interpretation of every experience. When you ask yourself the question what’s possible as opposed to how am I going to get out of this mess, a world of potential options open up to you. Those options are usually significantly better and ultimately you’ll find yourself in a better off place than you might have expected from being dealt a bad hand.


The way we use words has tremendous power. The minute you label something a problem or challenge, your actions align accordingly. However, if we label something an opportunity, we tend to take a completely different and much more productive set of actions. When we can reframe a situation we change the results that the situation will ultimately produce. The book The Three Laws of Performance had a great quote that I think really summed up this point well:

“As you label an object or situation, so you behave towards it.”

Think 5 Years Ahead

Do you remember something terrible that happened to you five years ago that seemed like a really big deal at the time? Maybe you broke up with somebody. Maybe you lost a job. At the time when it happened it seemed like a really big deal. But when you look back at things that happened 5 years ago they often don’t seem like such a big deal. If we take our current problems and challenges and look at what their impact might be 5 years from now all of a sudden they start to lose the power they’ve had over us.


We live in an age where it’s possible to be connected 24-7. You can search for a job for 24 hours a day if you wanted to (even though it’s a poor use of time). You can check your email all day long looking for the next catastrophe to occur in your inbox. You can worry endlessly about everything that could go wrong. Or you can simply unplug. For me unplugging means going to the beach and surfing for a few hours. I find that a few hours in the water not only gives me a fresh perspective on things, it calms my mind. Find any activity that forces you to be completely present and you’ll be amazed at just how much it will do for you mentally.

Do the Thing You’ve Been Putting Off

We tend to put things on hold quite a bit. If we purchase a self help program, we’ll often let it sit on our hard drives for months before ever going through it. We say to ourselves we’ll start that new exercise habit tomorrow and never end up starting at all. Doing that one thing that you’ve been holding off on will give you an opportunity to refocus your efforts on something that’s actually productive.

If I told you that you’ll always get great cards, and everything will be perfect I would be lying to you. Life is full of uncertainty, and the higher of a tolerance you develop for it, the better off you will be. Once you develop the ability to weather the storm, you’ll sail through the world with flying colors.

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Srinivas Rao

Srinivas is the author of the Skool of Life, where he writes about surfing, personal development, and things you never learned in school but should have. If you’re ready to to become a student, check out his FREE course on the 7 most valuable lessons they never taught in school.