Are you “In Equilibrium?”

  • Published
  • By Maj. Steven Green
  • 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
As a two-time squadron commander, I have seen more than my fair share of Airmen and families that have gotten their lives out of balance in various areas. This loss of "balance" or "equilibrium" has caused marriages to fail, career plans to take a nose dive, physical health to deteriorate and even led to the tragic loss of life. This is a great cause of concern for those of us entrusted with the care of so many, and the critical mission we are all charged with performing. 

Our goal as leaders with respect to this is first, identification of struggling Airmen and families, then intervention and treatment through the many available helping agencies. A major frustration to leadership is, oftentimes we do not become aware of a problem until it has highlighted itself in a variety of unfavorable ways including alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence or an unexpected request for an early return of dependent. As such, it is important all Airmen understand their roles in helping us help them be fully successful and healthy. 

That being said, often the problem stems from a lack of understanding or loss of focus on emergent personal issues; a "can't see the forest for all the trees" situation. As a firm believer in the keep it simple silly or KISS principle, I've come up with a way to help relate forces acting on an aircraft in straight and level, un-accelerated flight to the forces acting on us all to keep us in equilibrium. Here goes. An aircraft, let's just say an F-15, in flight will remain at a steady speed, hold its attitude and stay on course if all forces acting on it are in equilibrium. The forces act in four primary directions, and if in equilibrium, thrust (engine power) equals drag (air resistance), and lift (airflow over the wings) equals weight (gravity). If the pilot doesn't provide any input to change the flight status, the F-15 will generally hold altitude and stay at a constant speed. 

Now, as far as personal equilibrium goes, let's say the forces that keep a person at an even keel (yes, I know I've jumped to Navy lingo here), are physical, emotional, spiritual and relational (relationships). These forces are not much different with respect to keeping a person in equilibrium than are the forces acting on an airplane. In fact, if any of these four areas in our lives get out of balance, we can easily veer off course. Like in an airplane, this would be the time to identify the problem and make decisions to address it. In an airplane, the pilot moves the stick, adjusts the throttle, or changes his heading. For a person, it is also critical to make a decision to address changes in your "flight paths" by taking an active role. 

So, situational awareness is the first step. Pilots have instruments to tell them if off course and people have their own early-warning indicators to do the same. Feedback can be realized through changes in health, loss of sleep or focus, or changes in relationships, among many others specific to you. Additionally, the spiritual component of who you are should get appropriate attention as most of us need our faith to carry us through and keep life's many non-constants in perspective. I implore all readers to do a personal cross check of your personal instruments measuring your physical, emotional, spiritual and relational well-being. 

Lastly, taking decisive action is key, and it is always best if you take the first step, and do it early. So, if you have an area of your life causing a loss of equilibrium, address it now! Reach out in strength and courage to your supervisor, true friend, chaplain, first sergeant or commander. We are all blessed to be in the Air Force and have at our fingertips a great network of helping agencies and people who have a singular focus ... that is you and your personal and professional success. 

So, stay in equilibrium by keeping your eyes on the feedback instruments in your life and be sure to take the first step in avoiding getting off course or losing altitude. You have more control than you think, and people are standing by to help you.