“The mind is a fertile garden. It will grow anything you wish to plant — beautiful flowers or weeds. And so it is with successful, healthy thoughts or with negative ones that will, like weeds, strangle and crowd the others. Do not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind for they are the weeds that strangle confidence.” — Bruce Lee
Monday, 7:35 a.m.
On January 15, 2009 Capt. Chelsey B. “Sully” Sullenberger took off from LaGuardia International Airport on a routine commercial flight from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina. The flight lasted less then six minutes and ended with an unpowered, emergency landing into the Hudson River. On board were 150 passengers and 5 crew members. Everyone on board survived. A National Transportation Safety Board Spokesperson said that it “has to go down [as] the most successful ditching in aviation history.” The cause of the accident was determined to be engine failure due to a collision with a flock of birds.
The crew of Flight 1549 was awarded the Master’s Medal by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. The citation reads:
“The reactions of all members of the crew, the split second decision making and the handling of this emergency and evacuation was ‘text book’ and an example to us all. To have safely executed this emergency ditching and evacuation, with the loss of no lives, is a heroic and unique aviation achievement. It deserves the immediate recognition that has today been given by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.”
THE ONLY PERSONS BEHAVIOR WE CAN CONTROL IS OUR OWN. When it comes to our body, our mind, and our emotions, we have direct control over what we think and how we act. We only have indirect control of our emotions.
Physical movement, what we think, and our emotions are all linked. If we change how we think and move our body, then we change our body chemistry and in turn how we feel.
Changing how we feel is as easy as deciding to stand up straight or smile. Our body doesn’t move without us telling it too. So our mind and what we think play a crucial role in controlling how we act and feel. Most of us do not have a STRONG MIND. We are not accustomed to controlling our thoughts. They often seem to have a mind of their own.
Capt. Sullenberger and the flight crew of 1549 demonstrated remarkable control of their actions during, what must have been, a harrowing experience. Even with over 30 plus years of flying experience and most likely countless simulations of emergency landings, the outcome of Flight 1549 could have been tragically different.
The benefit of discovering how to control our mind and thus our actions and emotions is that we gain a valuable edge in almost any situation. Why? Because most people are not in control of themselves.
Rudyard Kipling wrote:
“IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;…”
So how is it that there are those among us who can pull off a remarkable and heroic emergency landing of a commercial airplane, while there are others who can barely negotiate the check-out line at the local Piggly Wiggly without losing their cool? Is it genetics? Or is there something else at work?
While genetics play a role, they do not play as big a role as one might imagine. It is true that some of us are born with a natural ability to respond calmly under pressure, just as others of us can play an instrument, or are good with numbers, or can run fast. The rest of us though can learn to develop the strength of mind to act just as calmly when face-to-face with a loaded gun.
Must of us will never be responsible for the lives of 154 people and have to land a commercial jet into a river, but we all encounter our own Flight 1549 at one time or another. Whether it is meeting deadlines at work, relating to our family, or navigating the bermuda triangle of our teenagers lives, we are in danger of letting circumstances and our unchecked emotions run our lives.
Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. By controlling what and how we think we can control our life.
Here are three things you can start today to develop a strong mind:
- Have a pre-shot routine. Have you ever watched a tennis player or a pitcher or a golfer. Every time they get ready to serve or pitch or hit a golf ball, they have a routine they go through. It is not just superstition at work, it is a way for them to settle their mind and emotions and focus on what they need to do.
- Get back to basics. Review and take action according to your core values. By doing this you gain perspective on things that might otherwise set you off your game. A good way to do this is to write a personal mission statement.
- Cultivate a garden of healthy thoughts. If you don’t want to think about bananas, change your mind and think about oranges. If you don’t want to think about lack, change your mind and think about prosperity. If you don’t want to think about failure, think about success. If you don’t want to think about hate, think about love.
The challenges, difficulties and opportunities we all face everyday may never be as dramatic as having to land an airplane in the Hudson River, nonetheless developing a strong mind helps us face the ones we do meet with grace and dignity. And who knows, you may just end up as the hero.
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