Navigating Life is Similar to Playing Major League Baseball

Feeling safe is the essence of enjoying life, healing, and thriving

  • Healing chronic illness happens by moving towards health not by “fixing” yourself.
  • An analogy can be made to becoming a professional baseball player. The goal is to be “safe” as often as possible.
  • Your skills to process adversity and nurture joy improve with focused repetition. Attempting to get rid of your mental and physical pain without specific tools is futile, frustrating, and counterproductive. Focusing on your problems only reinforces them.
  • Healing is a dynamic daily process,  and you frequently make outs. That is life. Keep moving forward towards the life you desire.

“When is my anxiety and pain going to go away?” This is the wrong question. If you are monitoring your progress in terms of how you feel, your pain (mental and physical) is at the center of your life, and you are reinforcing survival circuits and reactions. The better question is, “how can I learn skills to feel safe?” It is while you are in safety that your body refuels, regenerates, and heals. Your focus must be on learning and practicing becoming a “professional at living life.” As you heal, many, if not most of your symptoms will improve or resolve. When they recur, which they always do, you possess skills to calm yourself and move on.

Major league baseball

Consider your life journey in the context of becoming a major league baseball player. You are the hitter and life is the pitcher. The pitcher is not your friend, and neither is life. Every living creature has to compete for resources to stay alive, much less thrive. Your goal is to get on base safely as often as you can.



Life throws us every type of pitch at any speed—fastball, curve, slider, sinker, and changeup. It may be delivered overhand, sidearm, or even underhand (submarine pitch). Don’t forget the knuckleball that is thrown without the ball having any spin. Although it is a slower pitch, it “floats” so much that it is unpredictable where it is going to end up. Major league catchers even have to wear an oversize catcher’s glove in order to be able to consistently catch it. Some pitchers “cheat” with spitballs, which increase the movement of the ball and are illegal. That a human ever hits a major league pitch borders on miraculous.

There are several ways to reach base safely. You might get on with a walk, an error, balk, dropped third strike by the catcher, base hit, or being hit by a pitch. It requires years of repetition to develop a disciplined eye for “your pitch”, have the patience to walk (especially with two strikes), have a reproducible consistent swing, and be in excellent physical and mental shape. Years of coaching and practice are required to make it to the majors.

The skill level ranges from knowing nothing about baseball, to playing T-ball (hitting a plastic ball off of a stand), little league, high school, college, minor leagues (A, AA, AAA levels) and finally the majors. A nickname for the highest level is the “circus”— not a subtle analogy to life.

Baseball is considered one of the more perverse and stressful sports. The “team” effort is a collection of individual efforts and collaboration.  This is in contrast to a sport, such as basketball or soccer where perfecting teamwork with passing, defense, and strategy is equally as critical. Mistakes in these other team sports and are less obvious and usually have less impact on the overall outcome. So, in baseball, heroic feats are highlighted but so are mistakes. One error or strikeout can cost the game or even a whole season. Life is even a higher stakes contest, and the smallest poor choice can alter your life’s trajectory.

Keep in mind that the best players make an out a high percentage of the time. Life keeps coming at us and sometimes we do well and often we don’t. That is not failure; it is just life. Most of us are not taught the basic skills of effectively navigating adversity, regulating our body’s chemistry, and nurturing joy. We are tossed into life doing the best we can to survive. Our examples of how to live are taught to us by our parents, teachers, peers, and society, who also did not learn effective self-regulating skills. It is no wonder that there is so much suffering and societal chaos.

Creating Safety

With regards to chronic mental and physical pain, we are generally focused on resolving symptoms. But that causes your brain to develop where you don’t want it to, instead of creating what you want (neuroplasticity). You must separate from what you don’t want and learn to “get on base,” by creating safety physiology. In this state, your body regenerates and heals. The more time you can spend in safety, the better.



The key to healing is developing your own set of strategies to live life skillfully. The approaches fall in two different arenas. One is efficiently processing adversity and the other is nurturing joy. Each person is unique and attains his or her own best skill set in each realm. If you are waiting for a medical provider, course, or book to fix you, how is that going to work?

Practice, practice, practice

Your skills will be limited in the beginning. You must attain a minimum level of expertise to play the game, including just learning the rules and strategies. Initially, you will make an out most of the time, but it is critical to always treat yourself with kindness, regardless of your result at the plate.

As you work your way through the system, starting with little league, high school, and then Single A ball to the Majors, you’ll begin to feel better. The good news with chronic illness is that it doesn’t require years as much as it requires repetition of the correct approaches for you. Each person progresses at his or her own speed.

Many people experience enough relief that they stop learning and practicing, even though he or she may just be entering the minor leagues with regards to their level of expertise. But once you are out of the “Abyss” and moving forward, you are just beginning your journey. Why would you stop? If you were aiming for the majors, why would you just drop out? You might feel that you don’t want to put in that much effort, or it is too much work. What is work is fighting anger, anxiety, and pain for the rest of your life. Even at the top level, professional athletes and performers utilize coaches. Why would you not want to attain the highest expertise for navigating your whole life?

“I don’t want any pain.”

One common trap in dealing with pain, is that people want it gone forever. If they heal and then relapse, they’ll become upset and self-critical. Even worse, they might blame someone for their troubles. Staying alive is a challenge and there will always be some level of pain every day. It may be minimal. Sometimes your stresses may be overwhelming, or your nervous system may be hyper-reactive, and you’ll go into threat physiology. But you’ll understand how to lower it quickly. Eventually, you’ll learn better ways to avoid it.


Focus your efforts on becoming a “professional at living life.” Your focus is on learning better skills instead of trying to get rid of your pain. As you come out of The Abyss, you’ll have more energy to learn even faster, and life becomes easier. Of course, you want less suffering, but you must focus on solutions instead of the problems. It is a never-ending but progressively more enjoyable journey.

Questions and considerations

  1. Switching your focus from fixing to creating yourself is a huge paradigm shift. Like all creatures we react more to threats. Humans are a reactive species, and we often don’t respond until situations become crises.
  2. Few of us understand the physiological basis of chronic illnesses. They arise from the body malfunctioning and healing happens as it returns to normal function. What about learning to maximally optimize it?
  3. Baseball is just one example of a performance. Consider one that you relate to more-music, art, electronics, computers, endurance sports, or dance. You can consider them in terms of a hobby or developing expertise. Life is not a hobby.
  4. Turn your energy to becoming the highest-level performer of life. It is much easier than just trying to survive it. Attempting to hit a 95-mph fastball without adequate skills is impossible. Is life so different?
  5. Take note of where most of your daily attention is focused. Consider what you were excited about when you were younger. Are you focused more on what you wish for or on avoiding what you don’t want? The answer is where your brain and nervous system will develop.