Tim Paget's Blog
Is Clouded Perspective Stealing Your Happiness?
By Tim Paget, School for Good Living Associate Coach
The last time I took my son Tanner flying with me was a bluebird kind of day with big billowing white clouds and lots of sunshine. It was a beautiful day for a flight to Moab to get lunch and enjoy some father-son time before he returned to college to start his sophomore year.
As we flew, I was careful to avoid the clouds that lay in our path. Noticing this, Tanner asked, “Why aren’t we flying through the clouds, Dad? It looks fun.” I explained that my training hadn’t prepared me to fly through them, and that my rating as a pilot only allowed me to fly where I had good visibility and could see the horizon. That meant no clouds or dark nights.
It might seem harmless to fly into clouds, but there can be a real danger. When you don’t have the horizon as a visual reference, it can be hard to know whether you’re going up or down or whether you’re turning in relation to the earth. When this happens, it’s called “spatial disorientation.”
We have fluid and little hairs in our ears that tell our brains when we are level. This is what allows us to balance. When we lose visual reference to the horizon, this fluid can quickly rebalance, establishing a new “level” in our mind.
You can be in a steep turn or dive, but you might think you are flying straight and level. Our minds are so powerful that we can easily convince ourselves that what we feel is correct, even when all the instruments in the plane tell us we’re headed for a crash.
Why am I telling you about spatial disorientation? Well, it turns out that that was the last flight I took with my son—that same year he took his own life. In a moment, he lost sight of his life’s horizon and found himself deep inside a cloud with no perspective of up and down, right or left. It was as though he was flying on feeling and not what his instruments were saying.
All pilots are susceptible to spatial disorientation—it doesn’t discriminate. You can become spatially disoriented regardless of how healthy you are, your age, experience, or what your training or skill level is.
Our perspective is what helps us mold and define our identity. It’s what guides us to define what success, failure, right, wrong, happiness, and unhappiness look like to us. Your perspective is directly linked to the outcomes and emotions that you’ll experience, ultimately shaping how you experience life.
The great news is that we have the choice to change or redefine our perspective at any time. It just takes a little self-assessment, practice, and maybe just looking at things a little differently. This is where a trusted coach or co-pilot can help keep your wings level, even in stormy clouds.
If you’re not living the life you want or experiencing the happiness you want, examine the perspectives from which you look at the world and yourself. Don’t let a disempowering perspective be the thief of your hopes and dreams. Fly on my friends, always focused on the horizon.
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