David Strittmatter

How to deal with unfortunate incidents (bad luck)

You can’t control external circumstances, but you can take action to get you to a place where you find opportunities


  • Anger is our natural response to threats in various forms
  • Being angry isn’t always a bad thing, the key is managing our anger properly
  • Whenever something bad happens to us, we tend to not only become angry but also drift into other unfavorable behaviors

Practical advice:

  • First, have the right mindset: Being upset makes bad things even worse
  • Second, ask yourself How can I cope with this situation like a good role model?
  • Third, think about how you can make the most out of the situation

Dear friend,

When I came back from vacation a week ago, I saw my bike a few meters away from where I had left it. It was as if someone had thrown it there. The chain was detached from the gear, and the handlebar was abnormally bent. After a quick restoration, I tried driving it. Unfortunately, the front wheel was deformed so that the bike couldn’t run smoothly anymore. Too bad!

From time to time, life confronts us with these unfortunate incidents: Whether it’s a traffic jam when we need to be punctual, a theft who stole our wallet, a friend who let us wait for hours, or a car driver who smashes our car – there’s no single person not affected once by these kinds of incidents.

But why do we feel so angry and upset in these situations, what are other negative coping reactions, and how can we better deal with them? That’s what’s today’s blog article about.

Why do we feel angry

Anger is our natural response to threats in various forms, such as people insulting us, circumstances preventing us from obtaining what we want, or perceived injustice. When we’re angry our body releases adrenaline, our muscles tighten, and our heart rate and blood pressure increase. Our senses may feel more acute and our face and hands may flush.

When I saw my bike laying on the ground and severely damaged because it was thrown away numerous meters, I became really angry. First, I thought what an a**hole is that disrespectful of the property of other people. I fantasized about how I found the offender and confronted him/her. Then, I could calm myself down and asked me more sensible questions: How long would it take to fix my bike? What does it cost? And how do I get to the gym in the morning? …

Being angry isn’t always a bad thing. It can help us to share our concerns when we’re not able otherwise. It can also motivate us to do something positive and make a change in this world. The key is managing our anger properly.

Negative coping behaviors

Whenever something bad happens to us, we tend to not only become angry but also drift into other unfavorable coping behaviors, for instance:

Self-victimization – we ask ourselves “Why is this happening to me? Why am I so unlucky? Why doesn’t this happen to anyone else?”;

Self-blame – we make self-depreciating comments like “Why am I so stupid to have done that? Only someone like myself can make such a dumb mistake.”;

Dejection – we lose hope, or worse we give up. We decide it’s not worth it, that life is out to get us, and we should just stop trying altogether.

From my experience, these behaviors are toxic and unfortunately common. While anger can boost our motivation to make a change, raise our voice, or at least do something about the situation, these common coping behaviors are guaranteed to make things even worse. Hence, we should prevent ourselves from drifting into them if we’re faced with bad luck.

What to do when bad things happen

Ideally, we consciously choose constructive expressions when faced with an unfortunate incident. These situations are inevitable and every once in a while we’ll be confronted with them. Therefore, we shouldn’t let things run their course but prepare ourselves and choose the right approach to better deal with these incidents.

First, have the right mindset: Being upset or worse drifting into negative coping behaviors makes bad things even worse. Instead, take a few deep breaths, calm yourself down for 2 minutes, and let the stress hormones get out of your body.

Second, ask yourself How can I cope with this situation like a good role model? Imagine your siblings, children, or whoever you want to be a good role model for is watching you in this very moment and will imitate how you deal with this unfortunate incident in the future. Do you want them to be angry, feel depressed, or self-victimize? No, of course not.

Third, think about how you can make the most out of the situation:

  • Did someone steal your wallet? Make sure that will never happen again, call the police, and make the first steps to get your replacement documents
  • Did someone destroy your bike? Make sure your bike will be at a safer place, get to a bike workshop, and purchase a bike insurance
  • Did the train have a delay? Make sure you have a list with activities to fill the spare time, call the people waiting for you, and ensure you have enough buffer time in case of unpunctuality

It’s not easy to take a constructive stance in face of these incidents, yet, it’s the best way to deal with them. To make the most out of the situation, I ask myself how would another person deal with the incident, a person who is great at dealing with this kind of situation.

We tend to get stuck in our minds and keep an “inner perspective”. By getting out of our minds, asking us How can I cope with this situation like a good role model?; How would people x, y, z deal with this incident?, we enable us to better cope with the unfortunate incident.

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