“Shake your head, your eyes are stuck” was the family comment made whenever I got that glazed, over-tired look or fixated on something for too long. It’s what my Mother would describe as “staring into middle distance”. We’ve all experienced it – those moments where you zone out for a bit because your brain needs to check out momentarily, or you get so fixated on something that everything else fades into the background.
In the cockpit, fixation has been the demise of many a flyable airplane and numerous human lives. Pilots become distracted by something within the confines of the cockpit and forget to look at the bigger picture. We’re trained to look up regularly and scan the horizon and the air outside our cockpit for would-be traffic, birds etc. Anything that might impede our safe passage. Admittedly, there’s very little at 30,000 feet to fly into, and if you’re up there then your aircraft is advanced enough to have TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) which warns you when other aircraft are around and on a possible path of intercept with you. However, when you’re closer to the ground and specifically during the landing and taking off phases of flight, it becomes more and more important to look up and out, and not get fixated on something specific that will catch you compromised with your head down.
My son turned 13 yesterday. A teenager. This is a milestone for both of us. 13 is an interesting age, especially for a boy. There are times when he wants to run (with his size 10 feet on uncertain ground) and where I must stand back and allow him leeway. And there are other times when he’d like to just sit with me and commune – to know that I’m there to come back to. This is the point of another “contract renegotiation” between he and I. It happens every few years when one or both of us realise he’s reached a new stage and we need different things from each other. I knew this one was on the way in December when he met me at my hotel door one evening, offered me his arm, and walked me to dinner.
The reaching of this milestone has had me reminiscing and is the cause of the topic of this article. Here we are…with a teen. A young man loading. It seems only yesterday I was second guessing myself as to which battles to fight and which to let go; what to teach him and when, and what the consequences would be. More than once, we were faced with circumstances that seemed insurmountable and detrimental. I decided to take Steven Covey’s advice and “begin with the end in mind”. I thought often of the young man I was trying to produce when I reeled in my toddler or let my 9-year old run. In essence, I tried to maintain perspective in the moments where I felt like I didn’t have a clue what the right answer was by looking up, keeping my eye on the end goal, and not getting fixated on the immediate problem at hand.
Often in life, and in business, we get fixated on the problem in the moment. Perhaps it’s particularly irritating, repetitive, or perhaps it’s monumental and we didn’t see it coming. Perhaps we’re tired – worn down by various different things over an extended period of time. Perhaps what we’re presented with is confusing and we don’t know how to evaluate it and therefore can’t decide how to make a decision or handle it. Whatever the case, the phrase “Shake your head, your eyes are stuck” rings true.
Look up. Look out. Scan the horizon. Don’t allow yourself to focus on only one component or one part of the information at hand. Remember what your greater purpose is. Make sure you’re taking in all the information. Re-centre yourself, shake your head, take a breath.
Often, we get caught somewhere on the spectrum between complacency and panic. Not a spectrum you want to be anywhere on, really. We don’t want to get too comfortable any more than we want to get too stressed. The answer to both is the same. Whether in life, in business or in the cockpit, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by mundane tasks, or overcome by a herd of unexpected issues. Neither should be allowed to side track you from your desired longer-term outcome.
If you’re part of a business that’s been going for a while, there are times where there is great value in shaking things up a bit. If you’re under pressure and have gone through great changes, recalibrate your stress levels by remembering the bigger perspective and make decisions towards that end.
I read something yesterday that to me was profound – on Instagram… James Clear was quoted as saying “You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” That rings true to me, not only in what I’m trying to accomplish in my own life, but so too inside every business I’ve ever had the pleasure to serve. If you don’t have a plan, and systems to support it, you’ll never gather the speed to meet the most mediocre of goals.
Occasionally we need to shake ourselves and remember to refocus on the horizon. The greater goal. We need to shake off the impending doom of the current situation we face, or the warm fuzziness of our comfort zone, and remember that we’re heading somewhere further down the line.
Where will you or your business be in 5 years’ time? 10 years? 15 years? What’s the next chapter for you? How many months / years do you have before it arrives? What’s needed between now and then to give yourself the greatest number of options when it does arrive? What exactly are you aiming at and how does that effect the decisions you make now? How does the achievement of the greater goal colour which battles you choose to fight or walk away from? What can you let go because it doesn’t influence the long-term outcome? Which areas of life have been warm and fuzzy for a while (in which case perhaps you need to change it up before it changes itself up); or which areas of driving you insane with stress? Shake your head, your eyes are stuck. Look up. Focus long-term. Reassess the now.
by Christen Killick
May 6th, 2019