Are You Prepared to Navigate Your Storms?
When I was sixteen years old I flew a single engine prop plane, a Cessna 152, over my hometown in Anderson, Indiana. I’ll always remember the exhilarating feeling of taking off, by myself, and climbing high into the air and leaving everything on the ground behind me.
Sometimes I would fly through the clouds and would get disoriented with my direction and would have to take a deep breath and find the horizon in order to get my bearings and adjust the aircraft back on track.
On several occasions during my training flights, my flight instructor would put a “hood” over my head, a contraption that would block my view of the horizon and only allow me to view the instruments. He would maneuver the plane into several hard banks enough times that I would lose my sense of direction. He would continue the maneuvers until he was satisfied that I had no idea which way was up. He made me keep the hood on as he gave the control of the aircraft back to me. He denied my view the horizon and forced me to trust the aircraft’s instruments to stabilize it. It was an unnerving exercise, because I would have to trust the instruments over my instincts. My gut would tell me one thing, while the instruments were telling me something totally different. The point of the exercise was to train me to trust the plane’s instruments when the view of the horizon was not available, a hard thing to accept, but achievable with discipline and coaching from my instructor.
You start your days with a clear view of the horizon. There are times when you start the New Year with a clear plan and confidence that life will be great, but then a storm overwhelms you and you lose sight of the horizon. You lose your way and spiral into despair and even depression when life doesn’t seem to be working out the way you expected.
Like my flight instructor taught me, you have to learn to trust your “instruments” if you plan to make it through the storms of life. So what are life’s instruments that will guide you through the storms?
- A written plan – I’m amazed at how many people I encounter that have no written plan for their life. In essence they have no horizon at all. I once read this quote, “A goal without a plan is simply a dream”. I know many dreamers and I also know several disappointed people that lead their lives without a plan. What is the vision for your life? What are your short term and long term goals? How are you going to get there? What resources do you need? These are all questions that you must answer and then write down. Build your horizon before you take off.
- A review process – A time for reflection is necessary to assess life, especially during storms. I believe a weekly, quarterly, and annual review is a must. Set aside time every week, I do this on Friday’s, to reflect on the week and plan for next week. Take time every quarter to take a deep breath and review what is working and what needs to change to keep on track. Finally, take time away from the daily grind of life once a year to review and reset your goals. I do this between Christmas and New Year’s. I spend the entire week reflecting, planning, and recharging.
- Health checkup – Take time to check your health. Check your weight, your blood pressure, cholesterol, and depending on your sex and age, other critical areas to ensure you are healthy. I don’t like it, but I force myself to get full blood work done by my doctor to make sure the major areas of my body are working properly. I assess my weight, fitness, and eating habits and make adjustments to ensure I remain healthy and vibrant. It’s hard to endure a storm if your health is failing.
- Mentorship – Time with a mentor is a must. This is a person you respect and are willing to be vulnerable with during meetings. This person will have a totally different view of your life and can warn you if you are going in a wrong direction and can guide you back on path. I recommend meeting with someone quarterly. Allow this person to ask you hard questions and be willing to listen to this person’s answers. Give your mentor the freedom to be honest and help you become aware of your blind spots and ways to navigate the obstacles you’re struggling with in your life.
- Support group – Life isn’t fair. There are times when things happen to you that cannot be explained and it hurts. Having a group of friends and family to support you during these times is critical for long-term health and mental stability. It’s okay to mourn a loss of a job, a friendship, or your health, but never mourn those losses alone. Make sure you have an inner circle that you can turn to when the storm becomes unbearable.
Storms are inevitable and you must be ready to react and adjust during times of strife. The actions you take during tough times should be measured and deliberate and based on facts. The decisions you must make during your storms won’t be easy, but your chances of success will be much greater if you have well calibrated instruments that you trust. Are you flying blind?