Aviation is one field in which management of objectives is taught.
Flying is a business in which prioritization is proven to be a critical part of survival, with plenty of lives lost to underline the point. When circumstances turn against the pilot, hoping and ignoring do not work; he or she must consider what must be done to – in the worst case – survive.
The skill is figuring what we must do now, what comes next, and then what we’ll do. There are must-dos and nice-to-dos. Continual reassessment and possible re-prioritization is key.
Flight simulators allow for safe creation of stressful situations. Interestingly, these machines were the first widely used virtual reality, brilliant at allowing practice in rarely seen procedures.
In a crew, clear communication can mean the difference between life and death. Following set procedures (together), reading checklists (in concert) and keeping two or three priorities in focus (simultaneously) becomes habitual after a few simulator sessions. When matters turn against a flight, one need only recall the lessons learned in the simulator to reach a successful end of flight.
Can we approach relationships in the same way? Sure, we can. Do we spend time examining how to act and think when we’re faced with difficulties?
Yeah, that question answers itself. And here’s a point worth considering: in a flight simulator, success often means landing at an airport distant from the destination, and that is the successful outcome the instructor sought. Plans are great, but flexibility is invaluable.
Somehow the idea that the greatest goal in life is to head out there into the world and change it, presumably for the better, has taken root.
Well intended notions like this survive because the underlying motive is pure. What’s left unexamined is whether the world needs the change I want to make, or if it’s possible.
I like to invert these ideas. Why do we think the world needs to change in the first place? And, more usefully, why isn’t it already close to where we think it needs to be? Mostly people talk about the big picture, like food security, access to water, education and all that stuff at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. Relationships feature somewhere down the list, but people want to change all that too.
The alternative to the frankly impossible challenge of changing others is to take care of our own corner of the universe. The need for change is obviated if you and I and all our neighbours and everyone else make sure our lives don’t require outside intervention. If we’re financially stable, if we don’t break the law, if we don’t seek to drain our community – all of these conscious acts mean we’re both an example and not targets for outside-imposed alteration.
Relationships are a subtle and yet still useful element of this idea that leading by example actually changes the world from the bottom up. Self-examination starts the process, by giving us the starting point from which to find the right person. Clarity of motive and understanding the work a solid and lasting relationship and, hopefully, marriage requires is next. Even the smallest introspection and honesty about our place in this process will improve our odds of being the best half of a whole we can be.
And if everyone did the same, how much less need there’d be for all kinds of expensive remediation. Fewer divorce attorneys, fewer psychotherapists, children more able to stand up straight and look life square in the face, much less waste of emotion as a result of shitty behaviour; all of this goes on, and yet few seek to take the steps towards changing these things for the better.
Bring it home. Let’s make ourselves better first.
Funny thing about relationships. We think we want the person we see in front of us.
Wrong. What we want is parts of the person we see in front of us, plus some other stuff we’ve always dreamed about and a number of wish-list items that we reckon the other person can implement if they really want to.
Here’s where a deep breath is useful. Singlehood allows time for imaginations to roam free. Imagination is a wonderful resource, but fails us when introduced to the real world. People are flawed and imperfect in a universe of frustrating ways, so the less we dream the better.
Facing the discomfort of real people feels like disappointment until we turn the lens on ourselves. We are not perfect (when we’re being honest, in the dark of the very early morning) so where do we get off expecting others to be better than us?
Here’s a way to think: revel in the flaws. A thicker skin, more acceptance of dopiness, less taking things seriously, and, as I learned at the feet of a very wise man, don’t let anything bother you.
There. A recipe for calm quizzicality, and likely better relationships.
Logic should triumph emotion.
That only works in a mythical universe, which leaves us figuring out some hybrid way to figure out stuff.
Relationships figure high in the table of arenas in which we need to use both our smarts and our guts, but there are few guides as to how to do this. Relying too heavily on one side or the other likely leads to dissatisfaction, mostly because we need to accommodate the other person’s needs.
Which might be the key. If we know that we’re linearly driven, consciousness of the other person’s, say, more non-linear nature will go a long way towards creating a niche for both of us.
I’m of the music video generation, which is to say that much of my late pubescence and early adulthood is tinged with the memory of music on television.
Australia in the late seventies and early eighties saw the tipping point from English influence to American. Until, say, the end of the Vietnam War, our social organization (note the “Z”) reflected British mores – not a surprise considering the number of Poms around the place, all escaping the nuthouse they’d all created in Europe. From that point our rituals gradually took on a more American tone.
So it is with fondness and regret that I look back on how dating changed accordingly. My home town of Adelaide was defiantly and aspirationally upper-class British, despite the waves of German, Italian and Greek immigrants who added piquancy if not steering input. That meant my generation was raised with some curiously mannered habits. Correct use of English. Standing when a lady entered the room. Assumption that any woman entering the room WAS a lady. A reserved distance mimicking what we thought was civilized behaviour.
This was all nonsense of course, a kind of homage to a cult that had no basis in the way people actually relate to each other, nor the best way to – as they say – get close to someone. It was a case of maintaining a social order for its own end.
And that is the end. The way we think about relationships is so different now, that the modeling of my generation is all but useless, like so much ballast in a yacht. But losing the imprints of one’s early emotional life – including those damned music videos – is difficult, if not impossible.
Still, we work with what we have, right?