February 25, 2014

Lift your attitude or crash into a boat - your choice.

"Attitude", the LSO (Landing Signals Officer) called, as the pilot allowed the airplane's nose to drop too low to make a proper arrested landing.  With its nose not high enough, a tactical jet's hook will not touch down at the right point - just prior to the arresting cable - for the hook to catch the wire and for the plane to stop in what little runway remains.  This problem is typically not due to some unforeseen, last minute, force upon the jet preventing its nose from rising, but an issue that goes back approximately 45 seconds prior, when the pilot should have controlled his airspeed, altitude, rate of descent, and heading such that he could fly the thing "hands off". An airplane not appropriately trimmed and "on speed" will always have issues while flying the ball.  Even so, and with just seconds before touchdown, the pilot has a choice to make: input a small nose up correction to put the aircraft in the proper attitude, or risk missing the wire and having to go around to try it all again.

We've seen this exact scenario play out so many times in our own lives, even when we don't step anywhere near an airplane.  We don't like our boss, or a coworker, and while we might have been able to prevent a situation by correcting our own attitude in previous engagements, we let the problem fester. The tension becomes tangible at work and affects us at home. We treat our loved ones poorly because we can only focus on the evil who is that coworker.

We don't see eye to eye with our parents, but we refuse to see our own fault in the matter, or we're afraid to bring up an issue that may be difficult to deal with.  The problem continues too long until it hurts the relationship.

Our kids will just not stop crying.  Or asking for things.  Or demanding our time.  How is this a problem?  It leads to bitterness because we can't do, or watch, what we want. And it's clearly all their fault.

So what's the problem here?  Our terrible bosses?  Possibly.  Our horrible parents?  Unlikely.  Our overly needy kids.  Nope.  It's our own attitude.  It's managing our own expectations.  It's realizing that seldom is anything perfect and that we either need to change our situations or change how we look at them. How many times have you expected to leave work early on a Friday, get yourself mentally ready, and find yourself staying until you can "only" leave 30 minutes early?  It ruins what should otherwise be a normal weekend. And yet because our expectations aren't under control, we ruin it for ourselves. Nobody ruined it for us.  Not even the boss, that heathen, who made us stay.  Our parents (for most) aren't out to get us and neither are our kids. Most of the time, problems with coworkers aren't caused by the other one having a directed vendetta against us.  Whatever the situation, difficult as it may be, our own negative outlook will only make the problem worse.  For ourselves.

Like the pilot who should have made his airplane right before he even started his turn to land, we need to make the decision to get our perspectives in order before we leave for work in the morning.  Before we engage with our parents.  Or, to avoid the frustration of a Saturday morning sleep-in cut short by miniature people, before we go to bed Friday night.  Managing our attitudes and expectations toward our lives, and maintaining positive outlooks will only help us navigate difficulty and more fully enjoy the sweet times in life.  It's not easy, and so many times it never will be, but it is fully under our control.  My attitude is always my own, and only my own, to affect.  It's one of the few things we all have in equal proportions.  Changing it early on will always be beneficial.

And when we mess this up and find ourselves cursing our bad positions, we need to pause, add in a small nose up correction, and lift our attitudes before we crash and burn.

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