I realize more and more every time I fly that life is no different than flying. And if we think about creating change in our life as the flight plan, we are each the captain of our own plane. We may not control the storms and winds the plane goes through, but we do control how the plane maneuvers through them.
As the captain, you have to prepare for the journey on the ground as best you can. We have to look at the overall journey and where we want our destination to be. Then we have to work forwards and backwards to think about how we’re going to get there. In an ideal world, we have people on our side supporting us, fueling us, and waiting for us to rise. For the purpose of this post, you can think of these people as the air traffic controllers in your life. They could be parents, teachers, friends, friends’ parents, mentors, etc. Unfortunately though, not everyone has the same experience and may not always have the same amount of fuel as others. A lack of fuel does not take away from our ability to fly, it just means that we may need more time on the ground or have to refuel a little more initially – and that’s completely ok.
Regardless of where we start, we eventually takeoff and are on our own. If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know how much energy it takes to take off. The plane has to use a lot of energy to get in the air. In fact, an airplane uses more fuel on takeoff than on any other part of the flight. Anytime that we're trying to take ourselves to another level, we're going to have to beat past our resistances and the gravitational pull to keep us where we are.
The key is to not fight the resistance, but to use it to create lift for your own benefit. Many planes now have little winglets at the ends to help it create lift (see picture). Those winglets are used to create lift because otherwise the wind creates a vortex around the wing, handicapping the plane’s efficiency to get off the ground. You see, sometimes you have to bend at the tips to be able to get off the ground. You don’t have to change your center, your core structure, or who you are, but you may need to bend at the ends to do something different.
Soon enough though, the plane inevitably hits some turbulence. Just like the plane, it is natural to hit bumpy patches that are beyond your control. As a pilot, all you can do is be prepared for the winds and storms that may come your way as best you can. It is not always about fighting them, but about maneuvering through them. And if the storm gets too difficult, we can always come back down to refuel and maintain the plane that is providing the vessel for our journey. We can seek counsel from those who have flown on the path before and made it to the other side of the storm. We can ask them, what did you do to get through your turbulence? How did you make it to the other side?
It’s important to understand that although it may seem otherwise, every flight hits at least a little bit of turbulence. We don’t always know what it’s like for the planes around us. It may look smooth from the outside, but it could be shaking on the inside. You can look at other planes going around you all you want, but each plane is on a unique flight plan and you are only in control of yours. Although it may seem lonely in the air, you will always have people around you that you don’t even see that can tell what it’s like from their perspective.
It will not always be as difficult as it is to get off the ground. Eventually you will use the momentum gained during takeoff to cruise toward your final destination. Yes, you will hit bumps. Yes, you will be challenged. However, if you think of each opportunity as a step along the way of creating a new habit, it will continuously get easier over time.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Darren Hardy in his book, The Compound Effect,
“When it comes to breaking old bad habits and starting new ones, remember to be patient with yourself.”
Can you use a little patience in your life? What tools have you used to get through your turbulence?
Whether you’re in clear skies or in turbulence, you still get to choose the direction you move forward. Above the clouds of your storm, remember that the sun is still shining – you just have to work through the clouds to get there.
Rubin Khoddam is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Southern California whose research and clinical work focuses on substance use issues. He founded a website, Psych Connection, with the goal of connecting ideas, people, research, and self-help to better connect you to yourself and those around you.