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I once learned that airline pilots spend about 90% of flight time off-course.

Crazy, right? But – it makes sense when you think about it:

Using feedback from their on-board guidance system and from air traffic control, they constantly course correct for turbulence, winds, and weather conditions.

I find this very comforting, especially since I find myself “off-course” in life and relationships most of the time. One of the most powerful and important practices that sustains me in life has been to release my attachment to the world being a certain way, to others showing up in a certain way, and to holding onto my preferred outcomes too tightly.  

I’ve found much more wisdom and effectiveness when I’ve been willing to let go of my attachment to specific outcomes, and to instead adopt a mindset of being responsive and attuned to life and all my relationships as we journey together.  

The key is to remain flexible and attuned to feedback as you go. What works in one relationship may not work in another. People are simply not all the same.

Take stonewalling, for example.

What’s your usual response when someone stonewalls, or withdraws from further conversation by getting quiet, pulling away from you, or shutting down?

  • Do you take it personally, believing it means you aren’t important or valued?

  • Do you go on the attack, believing that their behavior is wrong and needs to be analyzed, fixed, or changed?

  • Do you try to provoke them to interact with you by voicing more hurtful or outrageous things, even if it means saying things you’ll later regret?

  • Do you “up the ante” on them by going even more quiet and disengaged yourself, silently vowing to make them regret it by doing the same back to them?

Instead, what would it be like to simply respond to stonewalling-like behavior as neutral guidance? Feedback from air traffic control, as it were? An indication of changing weather conditions?

What if nothing was wrong with you or them? How might acceptance and curiosity expand your range of choices?

4 Ways to Get Back on Course

1. Don’t take it personally. I find it helpful to remind myself that what I may call “stonewalling” is simply a strategy this person uses to manage their emotions when they are feeling overwhelmed. They may need some space, safety, clarity and self-connection and don’t yet have the awareness or ability to ask for it.

2. Don’t judge. Not yourself; not the other person. Criticism is such a royal waste of time and energy. Choose to be curious, tender, gentle, and open instead.

3. Reflect. Are my choices opening up or shutting down further interactions? Use that as feedback to adjust your approach.

4. Try new words. For example:

 “I’m longing to hear about what is happening inside you, but I don’t want to push you to talk before you feel ready. I’m going to back off for a while, but this doesn’t mean I’m abandoning you or punishing you. I just want to give you the space you might need to get grounded and clear, and when you’re ready to talk, would you come and let me know?” 

And, you could follow that up with: 

“If I’m getting this wrong and you’re needing something different from me (maybe for me to sit with you in silence instead of leaving you alone) I’m open to hearing that too. Just let me know.”

Being off course is a necessary part of the journey. Life is not about getting anything right but rather about staying attuned, responsive, and relational.

Piloting our lives and relationships, maybe all we really need to do is …

  • Pick a destination (for example: loving, healing relationships with myself and others). Developing a vision of what you do want is a key aspect to moving towards what you want.

  • Plot out a course (maybe: engaging fully with all life brings my way). For me, this often involves figuring out what skills I need to develop, what I still need to heal inside of myself, and how I want to learn and grow next.

  • Attune to internal feedback systems (my feelings, my needs, my awareness, my meaning-making). The key for me here lies in being willing to become aware of everything, presencing pain without shying away, increasing my sensitivity as well as my ability to self-soothe, self-regulate, and remain choiceful under pressure.

  • Be receptive to external feedback system (the impact I am having on others; other’s perceptions, ideas, feelings, and needs). Caring about and being responsive to the impact we have on others is a vital aspect of getting back on course.

And then engage and enjoy the wild ride.

As always, I’d love to hear from you:

What blows you off-off course these days?
Where do you get triggered and out of alignment?
What helps you get back on track?

I’d love to know; leave a comment below. 🙂

For more on working with what the winds of life bring our way, click here.


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