Column: Finding smoother air through the turbulence

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All of us who have flown have experienced turbulence. Some of us experience anxiety and fear as we drive our fingernails into the armrest or the arms of the person sitting next to us. Many regular flyers have come to know and trust in the pilots and aircraft and are confident that we are okay. While some even treat the turbulence like a thrill ride or roller coaster.

On a flight from Denver to Phoenix several years ago, our plane went through incredibly intense turbulence. My seatmate was not a frequent flyer and was already anxious about the trip, and the choppy air had her holding onto the armrests with a white-knuckled death grip. And when the plane took a tremendous jump, her fingernails left the armrest, and she immediately dug them into my forearm.

Is there turbulence in the world? Absolutely. This is not a shock to anyone. When pilots experience turbulence, they attempt to find smoother air, and most times, they seek higher altitudes to see if they can get us to less bumpy airspace so we can feel better and have a more enjoyable remainder of our flight.

I have noticed throughout my life that when faced with turbulent or difficult times, situations, or people, looking for a higher altitude means taking the high road. And I would have to say that by finding a higher altitude in almost every turbulent and trying situation, taking the high road has made all the difference in finding that smooth air so we can move on with a more enjoyable and safer flight through life.

Trying, challenging, and difficult times know no prejudice. We all eventually go through seasons of life that are incredibly hard, causing us great pain physically, mentally, and spiritually. And for so many of us, we react hastily and maybe even angrily instead of taking a moment, responding favorably as we look for the onramp to the high road. And by the way, I can share with you that when taking the high road, we never run into a traffic jam as many people would prefer to stay in the fight or keep perpetuating an argument, failing to find smoother air and peaceful resolutions.

There are undoubtedly turbulent global situations that we cannot influence at all. Yet we can still find a higher ground or a higher altitude to try and maintain order and find peace. The events, arguments, and divisiveness going on right now are causing a tidal wave of differences of opinions and creating a breeding ground for violent responses, chaos, and confusion. My encouragement is that when we find ourselves right in the middle of it, we can stop, pause, and remember to find a higher altitude and smoother air by taking the high road.

There is a classic and great song by Buffalo Springfield titled “For What It’s Worth.” And some lyrics should remind us of what’s happening around us and that we can find our way to being less combative, more cooperative, less angry, and more agreeable, even if it is agreeing that we can disagree. The lyrics go like this, “There’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

Instead of rushing to judgment where we feel others are wrong, we should try to navigate through the turbulence by finding a higher altitude. Stephen Covey and others have encouraged us to “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Many have forgotten this effective technique and only look to push their agenda, beliefs, and opinions.

How about you? Have you experienced a smoother ride through the turbulence by taking the high road? Or could you use a little reminder to help you find higher altitude and smoother air? Either way, I would love to hear your story at mnorton@xinnix.com, and when we can navigate through the turbulence, it will be a better than good year.

Michael Norton is the grateful president of XINNIX, a personal and professional coach, and a consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator to businesses of all sizes.

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