Both my father and my grandfather were pilots in the US Air Force. My early childhood was spent in the company of flight suits, airplanes, men in uniform, pictures of men in uniform, pictures of airplanes, model airplanes and just about every accoutrement of flight available. My father retired from the USAF when I was in my early twenties. Within a year or so, he was flying for Southwest Airlines.

When my father retired from Southwest in 2008, I asked him what he would do next. He answered, “I'm going to fly to every aviation museum in the United States, starting in the Southwest.” The following lessons were learned in an airplane, but are applicable to life.

Lesson #1 – Mind over matter
I was five or six the first time my dad took me up in a small airplane. I had to clamber over the wing to get into the seat next to him. Over the years, flying with my dad was repeated again and again. Sometimes we would take long trips, flying from California to South Carolina or Florida. On one such trip, I drank too many sodas before we left and had to go to the bathroom. I begged my dad to land before my bladder burst. He looked at me and said, “mind over matter, Barb.” This phrase was repeated when I felt sick after swooping down over the Grand Canyon, where the horizon became confused with the reds, oranges, blues, and purples of the canyon. In both cases, I was able to use my mind to calm my body. Initially I did this to please my father. When I was in labor with my youngest daughter, who was born at home, I recalled my father's words as the pain washed over me. A wise person once told me that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. We have the ability to control our reaction to pain or discomfort. If a situation is physically or mentally uncomfortable, how can you use your mind to calm yourself? Daily meditation, yoga or martial arts training will strengthen your ability to focus your mind in times of stress.

Lesson #2 – Why out of a perfectly good airplane?
Every so often my father would have to go to survival training. He and a group of other pilots would jump out of airplanes, find their way through the desert to set-up camp, and practice survival. He would come back with a mustache and beard, which I found exotic and strange on his usually clean-shaven face. I wanted to know about it and was curious why he didn't skydive, since it seemed like it might be fun. He told me that only a fool jumps out of a perfectly good airplane. This lesson is about commitment. As a pilot, his job is to get the plane in the air, keep it in the air, and make a safe landing. His commitment to the plane means he will attempt to land without harming the plane or himself. Many parents would willingly throw themselves in front of a moving train to move a child to safety, risking their own lives in the process. Look at your life. What are you truly committed to? Are there any areas where you've “abandoned the plane”? Make a commitment to yourself by examining your beliefs and values.

Lesson #3 – Have a flight plan
When we would get ready to go on one of our jaunts across the country, my dad would pour over flight maps and then call in our itinerary. The sky doesn't have any road maps, traffic lights, or street signs and pulling over to ask for directions isn't an option, either. So, planning was essential for the trips. While we were on our way to Texas one time we hit extremely rough turbulence. It also started to storm. My dad had to have me take over as co-pilot because the automatic co-pilot function wasn't always reliable. My job was simple, just to follow directions. We had to stop earlier than planned, so my dad radioed the Air Traffic Controller and we landed at the next available airfield. Over the years, I became the navigator on road trips, armed with a map and a desired destination. Often I would have to change our course due to road construction, traffic or other obstructions. These experiences taught me that it is important to set your goals and establish a plan to achieve them; however, expect the unexpected and know when to change course or adjust the goal. Preparation is important if we want to arrive at our destination, but flexibility is important if we want to avoid storms, traffic and road blocks. What are your goals? Are you doing something now to move you closer to them? Have you hit a road block? If so, can you find a path around it or is it time to land the plane and reconsider? Listen to your intuition for the answers.

Lesson #4 – Check your instruments
Before we pull out of the hanger, my dad goes through a check list to make sure the plane is in good mechanical condition. Most of us have had the experience of a flat tire or some other malfunction while driving. The usual response is to pull to the side of the road and fix the flat or call a mechanic. When you are in the air, a malfunction can result in a sudden headlong plummet to the ground. This lesson reminds us to care for ourselves, keep our bodies and minds in working order. Eating a healthy and varied diet, meditation, and exercise help us reach our destinations. Take time to check your instruments. What have you done to increase your mental and physical health today?

Author's Bio: 

Barbara Kelly, MSSW, is a partner in Life Gardeners,, an holistic practice based in Austin, Texas. Barbara offers Life Coaching, Reiki, and Astrological consulting to both local and long-distance clients. Barbara is passionate about personal development, using the Law of Attraction, spiritual growth, knitting, and her two lovely daughters. Barbara's blog,