written by Mick Ukleja

6 Things to Do When You Encounter Turbulence

Anyone who has flown a little has had the bumpy experience of a turbulent ride.  Turbulence is indiscriminate in its ability to shake things up.  The plane can be large or small.  The passengers can be important.  They can be on Air Force One, or a West Coast Commuter.  If it happens during meal service, the result is culinary carnage.

When turbulence hits us in the middle of life, it shakes us out of our complacency.  Our comfort zone is compromised.  No one likes turbulence in life, but there is wisdom to be had when we approach them head on.  Life has a way of blindsiding us.  When that happens it can be difficult to remain calm and collected.  During the turbulence our perception can become distorted.  Panic can become our default reaction.  Commotion leads to panic, which leads to negativity, which can cause a downward spiral, which brings more panic, along with a decreasing ability to make rational choices.

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”  —Benjamin Franklin

Try these 6 suggestions when you encounter a mild or even severe turbulence.

1. Understand that no turbulence lasts forever. They always pass.  Change is also a form of turbulence.  You may lose some altitude or have a jerky shift in your routine, but it doesn’t last.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it does.

2. Don’t confuse comfort with happiness. Our culture often gets things backwards.  This is one of the bigger ones.  Equating comfort with happiness also leads to negative results.  Some of the most comfortable people I know are the most miserable.  Their lives have faded into perpetual inconsequence. Embracing comfort as our happiness lever leads to boredom and laziness.  Self-absorption and discontent are its cousins.  This commitment to comfort leads to premature fragility.  A certain amount of stress leads to being anti-fragile.  So if you don’t have any discomfort, start creating some – at least enough to increase your growth and strength. Use turbulences as a catalyst for growth.  They act as speed bumps, reminding you that you are on a journey.  That’s what leads to happiness.

3. Manage your fears. Everyone gets the jitters during turbulent times.  Here’s what you can do about them.  Rather than stay in a state of general fear, start sorting them out.  You can’t do anything about them if you can’t identify them.  By getting acquainted with your fears, you now have the power to manage them.  You have just demystified them.  You’ll see which ones are real.  Deal with them and dismiss the rest.  The ones that remain lose much of their power simply through the process of identification.

4. Stand in your strengths. They are the best tools for dealing with the highs and lows that turbulences produce.  Yes, lean into your weaknesses so you can understand them and manage them.  But don’t stand in them.  They will only produce damage.  The inability to manage leads to unnecessary damage. Stand in your strengths and lean into your weaknesses.

5. Take a chance. Good things come to those who risk.  Be vulnerable!  Without this you won’t take a risk.  Stop thinking of risk as a one shot do or die situation where you put everything on one role of the dice.  Start thinking of risk as a journey of exploration.  Risk is not one careless act.  It’s an approach to living.  It also produces anti-fragility –making us stronger and more robust.  It creates and activates energy.

6. As you journey, remember your freedoms. This Independence Holiday is a great reminder not to squander our rights and freedoms.  It is easy to find our self imprisoned – stuck!  Someone else might have delivered the bricks and mortar, but honesty admits that we are responsible for putting them in place.  Those bricks are our beliefs – about ourselves, others, and the world.  They can begin at an earlier time as a protective shelter to keep danger out – a way of compensating for perceived or real threats.  Yet now they keep us stuck inside – with no door to exit.  The good news is that doors can be built as easily as walls.  In that sense the prison can be transformed into a platform.  Your new (and correct) beliefs now support you and unleash you.   Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”

With your freedoms there are many  opportunities to chart your course.  If you need help, just ask.  People want to help you.  They just don’t know it yet! :)

 

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07.02.2013

4 responses to “6 Things to Do When You Encounter Turbulence”

  1. Teri Sawyer says:

    Solid advice, as usual, Mick. Life does throw us a lot of curveballs at work and at home. Knowing how to take these steps to assess and do what we can is essential. Plus the Serenity Prayer. Some things are just out of our control! Viva the Freedom we have to make our own choices! Happy 4th!

    • Mick Ukleja says:

      Thanks Teri. The Serenity Prayer is age-old wisdom and has never been more true than today.
      Have a great 4th!

  2. Lynne says:

    Title of the article caught my attention – we do experience this often in our lives… On a plane when it happens I do find myself looking around – if the staff is calm then it helps calm my fears. I think that is true as a leader or a follower… Be mindful that your actions affect everyone around you.

    • Mick Ukleja says:

      Very true, Lynne. When turbulence comes, one of the best things a leader can do is stay calm and not infuse more anxiety into the situation. A non anxious presence goes a long with in helping others see clearly what can be done. So when we are non anxious with ourselves, we also see more clearly (less paralysis and immobilization). Thanks for your comments.

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