I was 10 and flying for the first time by myself. Nervous and trying to avoid eye contact with my seatmate, I stared out the window watching the ground crew zip around. Minutes later, we were up, and the view out the little double-paned oval had changed dramatically.
First, we saw the roads and rooftops. Then getting higher, we zoomed out farther. Recognizable objects turned to patches of green, streams of brown and blue, and lines of bright orange along the curve of the horizon. One minute we were "in it" and then next we were on our way far above the earth. We were able to see (and imagine) so much more.
I've had the same moment of awe on every flight since--though I'll admit it gradually diminishes with all the distractions, attitudes, and responsibilities that come with age.
It is a forced but welcomed perspective shift.
Shifting perspective or zooming out isn't just an interesting physical experience. It's useful in tackling the big decisions we face--changing jobs, pursuing a promotion, moving, making a big purchase (car, vacation, even appliances), hiring or firing employees, and on and on.
When we're on the ground, fully immersed in the busyness of our day-to-day lives, getting clear about what we want and how best to get there can be nearly impossible. Many of us spend months (even years) debating options and benefits in our heads. The term "analysis paralysis" is annoying both because it's so commonly used and because it's just so familiar.
Indecision is a form of hiding
By not deciding, we're trying to avoid the disappointment, regret, anger, or frustration that might lie just on the other side. It's a miserable place to be. I've personally been there when trying to figure out whether to pursue the next-level promotion at my job. I bounced around for months trying to quantify my ambition versus my value on work-life balance until the choice was taken off the table. The position was given to someone else--someone more decisive.
As we spin in indecision, the world continues to spin as well
And that's the risk, right? Circumstances are continuously shifting. When we're not clear about what we want, unable to commit, or struggling to see, the possibilities fade or disappear completely.
Of course, others come along. And there's our opportunity to take a different approach.
Use the 10-10-10 approach to shift perspective
Using the flight analogy, we can shift our perspective to get clear on what matters most. Try the simple but effective 10-10-10 approach developed by Suzy Welch. Ask yourself how you'll feel about this decision in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years.
If you want to take the insight a step further, Annie Duke, author of Thinking In Bets, suggests imagining having made those decisions in the past. Using my promotion example, if I'd made that decision 10 minutes ago, I imagine feeling nervous, maybe a little excited about the work ahead. If I'd made the decision 10 months ago, I imagine being in the thick of personal and professional development, likely working hard, maybe tired and frustrated but hopefully seeing progress. If I'd made that decision 10 years ago, I'd be at a completely different place. My life and professional position along with the options and opportunities that came along would likely be completely unrecognizable.
Gain clarity around what matters most to move forward
Now, this isn't a nudge to just "go for it" on all the big stuff. Instead, it's an opportunity to play with perspective--space and time--to gain clarity around what matters most. Throughout this exercise, you're asking yourself: What feels most energizing and exciting? What aligns most with who I want to be?
Putting ourselves in that window seat at 30,000 feet can help us remember that our lives are bigger and longer than whatever we're in the thick of right now. Lifting our heads to notice the shapes, streams, and horizon line just might help us see the big picture and inform, with confidence, what's next.