dandelion with petals releasing in the breezeEarly in my flight lessons, my instructor called attention to the death-grip I had on the plane’s yoke. Looking down at the white knuckles on my left hand, I realized he was right. I had to laugh. White-knuckle flyers are supposed to be on passengers, not pilots.

But it’s a common occurrence with many flight students until they realize that a trimmed plane will fly itself—imagine controls that can align your car while you drive so it doesn’t pull left or right. I was making it too hard. All I had to do was relax and make small course and altitude changes.

In my case, I’d created an obstacle because I’d mistakenly believed that flying a plane was supposed to be hard. Flying a plane is easy. It’s doing all the other stuff at the same time—navigating, communicating on the radios, watching out for other planes—that can be tricky at first. And even that becomes easy eventually. Once I relaxed and let go, the act of flying the aircraft fell into place and I made great strides in my flying progress.

What in your life are you white-knuckling, making more complicated than it really is?

Below are some concepts I’ve embraced that can help you let go and start living the life you were meant to lead:

1) Give yourself permission to make mistakes – many obstacles to learning or barriers to advancing in life, come from the fear of making mistakes. When a child is learning to walk, do we as parents criticize him for falling down after he’s taken three good steps? No, we cheer, we clap, then we pick up the little guy so he can try again. But something insidious happens as we mature. Somewhere along the line, society convinces us failure is bad. Just remember, if you aren’t failing at something, you aren’t growing; you’re stagnant.

2) Recognize you know more than you think you do – Many new skills you learn in life have similarities to old skills you’ve already mastered. Had I trusted myself more when first learning to fly, I would have realized the plane wasn’t going to dive straight to the ground had I let go of the yoke. I’ve been driving over 20 years and not once has my car crashed if I let go of the steering wheel on a straightaway.

Want to write? Your subconscious has collected a staggering amount of information for many years. Just let it spill out and you’ll be surprised what lands on the page. Want to learn a new language? You’ve done it before; just immerse yourself in a new one.

Christopher Robin said it best to Pooh:

“…always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

3) Learn to Let go – I cannot count the number of times I’ve held myself back in life because I simply wouldn’t let go and throw myself into a new situation or new experience without worrying about the unknowns or how stupid I’d look if I fell on my face. Resolve to let go of:

Perfectionism – An 80% effort most of the time will get you much further than a 100% effort you can only wring out occasionally.

-Fear and doubt – The real situation is rarely as dismal as the concerns and worries we concoct in our head.

The compulsion to look cool or cultured – You will be paralyzed in any situation if your main goal is to look polished versus to learn something. While Michael Phelps’ classmates were trying to look cool by putting him down, he was busy learning to swim as fast as he could. Now Michael Phelps is one of the coolest guys on the planet. Just ask his accountant.

-The urge to control the situation – Instead, be flexible and fluid. Learn to adapt and adjust. This doesn’t mean be a pushover. You can be strong and fluid at the same time. I like the way Dr. Brian Luke Seaward wrote it in the title of his book: Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water.

-The need to please others – This is soooooo liberating. I’m not advocating being a jerk. Instead, you must not buy into the idea that you are what other people think you are. You should never care if others judge you for being your authentic self.

The last thing you must have is faith that it will all come together. Many times in my life, the day or week before everything “clicked” for me, I was on the verge of giving up. Whoever coined the phrase, “It’s darkest before the dawn,” was a genius. The puzzle of life, and success, often locks into place when you least expect it to. Never give up.

So…what in your life are you white-knuckling?

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

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