Bridge of stonesI am reposting the piece I wrote as Lesson 221 for writer Katherine Jenkin’s blog, Lessons from the Monk I Married. Hope you enjoy it if you didn’t already get a chance to read it on her site:

I love to fly. But unlike career pilots with thousands of hours of flight time, I do it for fun and personal growth. Yet, I’m continually surprised how my relatively small amount of aviation training helps me in my personal life. When considered on a deeper level, it only makes sense: if pilots trust their lives to flight procedures and training, then those activities must have some merit in everyday life as well.

One particular aviation mantra I referred to often in my flight training was this: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. Those three words not only highlighted critical activities I needed to perform to keep my plane safe, their order also conveyed the priority. Aviating is the act of keeping the plane airborne and avoiding other aircraft and obstacles that can inflict harm. Navigating ensures you are headed the correct direction while observing airspace restrictions. Communicating lets air traffic control and other pilots know your intentions.

As a pilot, you can navigate and communicate well, but if you aren’t aviating well, the other two may not matter. For example, all airplanes are subject to the laws of physics. Drop below a plane’s minimum airspeed and, in that moment in time, your beautiful aircraft suddenly becomes the world’s largest and most expensive paperweight. In other words: the plane will plunge from the sky. Communicate all you want on the radios but it will not save you unless you regain airspeed.

The saying especially comes in handy in an emergency, an event when a pilot will have numerous distractions in the cockpit. The mantra reminds you that your first priority is to fly the plane.

After completing my initial flight training, I found myself contemplating the aviation mantra that had served me so well—and it still does. I wondered what my own personal mantra should be, one that would help me maintain priorities especially in those times when life heaped multiple distractions on me. I wanted to create a phrase that represented certain activities I knew were vital to a successful life, that if I upheld their priority more often than not, everything else would fall in place. What I came up with is this:

“Live, Love, Grow.”

Here’s how I group important activities into each category to remain on the path I’ve chosen in my life:

Live – This is a reminder that no matter what is happening around me, I still need to enjoy life by living in the moment. A rich life is rarely ever the result of a strictly executed plan. In the end, it will be the spontaneous detours and beautiful misadventures we’ll cherish the most. Living in the moment helps me better accomplish my second priority.

Love – This includes self-love, love of family and friends, and love of a spiritual nature. For self-love, it ensures I’m taking care of myself with healthy eating, exercising, and staying positive. When one’s physical and mental health suffer, it negatively affects so many other areas in life. As for love of family, friends, and the pure love that often comes from a strong spiritual side, those three areas of support are critical for me to flourish in this world. And for those who may believe they lack family, my belief is we discover our true family, one person at a time, as we move through this world, and those bonds are not always created by blood.

Grow – I believe our true purpose on this earth is to grow by learning. I’m certain we were not placed here to simply consume and occupy space. We’re supposed to make a difference somehow, whatever path we’ve chosen, and we can only do that when we expand our minds and souls through the lessons we acquire on this journey through life. If I’m not growing, life is nothing. This part of my mantra also helps me make choices when I’m faced with opposing paths. I ask, “Which one will help me grow the most?” Often, I’ve chickened out and taken the easier path, but know this: I’ve chosen the most challenging path more than I normally would have simply because I made growth one of my priorities.

In full disclosure, those close to me will attest I still get priorities out of whack. But having my “Live, Love, Grow” mantra makes it easier to recognize it and get back on track when I do get off-kilter. Creating your own mantra will do the same for you. So let me know. What are the words you want to live by?

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