Photo by Lindeboom Jean-Bapt on

In aviation we have a term called AOG that means Aircraft on Ground. It refers to a plane that can’t fly because of a technical issue. We might also say a pilot is grounded because of a disciplinary issue, or that passengers are grounded because of weather.

In all cases, the term indicates an inability to fly.

We might also use examples in real life. We can say we have been grounded by the pandemic, or personally because of health issues (or because we misbehaved). I could say my current reality has left me grounded here in Hong Kong. Extremely strict quarantine restrictions means I can’t leave, even though I’m currently on holiday.

Once again this idea of being grounded is seen as bad.

Of course we desperately want to fly in life. It’s in our nature. But I question whether being physically grounded is the real problem. In fact, when we’re physically grounded in life, it’s our inability to stay mentally grounded – that’s the real problem. This is when we lose our footing. This is when we find ourselves off balance.

When we desperately wish we could fly, even though we can’t.

But being grounded is a matter of safety. When an aircraft is AOG, it’s for very good reasons – whether that’s extreme weather conditions or a technical issue. We should wait for the right conditions. We should wait until we are at full strength before we attempt to get airborne. Otherwise, the results may be catastrophic.

Keeping that perspective is important.

It also worth noting that an aircraft (or person) should always remain grounded, at least in some sense. Not only must we begin and end our journey on the ground, once airborne, it’s imperative that we retain contact with it. Especially when we fly over remote expanses, thousands of miles from home. Let me tell you, it’s a lonely place to be flying halfway across the Pacific. That connection is crucial. I need only mention the mystery surrounding MH370 to tell what losing contact with the ground can mean.

This is what I believe being grounded is really about: connection. It’s about being connected with your current reality, with those around you. It’s about being planted in the present. When we think of a person we describe as grounded this is what we think of. Someone who is level-headed and balanced, someone who understands what is important here and now. Grounded in this respect is undeniably a good thing. It prevents you from getting caught up in regret or worrying about the future.

It’s easy to get ahead of yourself in this life. We can relax well before we arrive at our destination. We can assume that the journey will go according to plan. We can switch off as a result. Equally, we can get hung up on past mistakes. We can let an error we made distract us from the task at hand. This usually leads to more mistakes. If we fail to put those mistakes behind us, we can quickly find ourselves in a hole.

We may also wish we were at our destination long before we’ve arrived. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tortured myself while working the graveyard shift, wishing for it to end so I could get some sleep. It’s a classic example of Buddha’s second arrow. The first arrow is the fact that I have to work through the night. This pain is unavoidable. The second arrow – wishing for something different. Desperately hoping I had arrived. That pain is entirely self-inflicted.

This is what I’ve been doing recently. I’ve been getting ahead of myself. Putting too much emphasis on my future plans at the expense of my present-day responsibilities. As a result of my relentless pursuits, I can feel myself stalling. And I know what that means. I need to point the nose down. I need to spend some time playing and being with my gorgeous family. Being grateful for everything I have today. For my perfectly imperfect life.

I need to regain my footing in the present. I need to find that secure base again before I attempt to climb higher. And so, ladies and gentlemen, that is what I’m going to do. I’m going to take a break. I’m gonna come back to earth for a while. Although I can’t physically fly anywhere, I fully intend to let go and enjoy this time off. I realise that being on holiday, like most things, is a mindset. I don’t need to travel halfway across the world. I just need to stay grounded in the present.

That really is the best way to fly anyway.


You can find AP2’s personal blog here at:

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Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

28 thoughts on “Grounded

  1. Such a beautifully wrriten and important reminder on being grounded AP2. Enjoy that break/rest and being present with your family. Your dreams are “always” there. Stay humble my friend ❤

  2. Electrically, something is grounded what a circuit is completed. Electrons can then flow through to do whatever work you need. It got its name because because Ben Franklin’s lightning rods had to be attached to a long rod driven into the ground to complete a circuit bypassing whatever was being protected.

    1. Thanks Fred. Yes I hadn’t thought about being grounded electrically. Another metaphor there about providing protection. 🙏

      1. Thanks Art – I meditate twice a day now. I also find it to be a powerful tool. I’ll be sure to give the link a watch 🙏

  3. Beautifully penned.
    I like the way you have used aeronautical terms like “point the nose down”, to what they mean to you in real life.
    Hope you have a fruitful grounding time.

  4. Ughhh This article just make me feel grounded for a while. Thank you for sharing great write🥰

    We can let an error we made distract us from the task at hand. This usually leads to more mistakes. If we fail to put those mistakes behind us, we can quickly find ourselves in a hole.

    ⬆️I always do this and I am trying to be mindful and trying to go back to reality again.

    1. I think we all do this. The trick is putting our mistakes behind us! Easier said than done. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment 🙏

  5. It seems so prevalent these days for individuals to be flying without any ground control to guide them. Why it’s because of the pandemic, but perhaps it’s been going on a lot longer than that, and none of us have been paying attention to it. I think this has happened before in history. Why do we continue to repeat this mistake?

    1. We certainly need that ground control. I often wonder if people have been lost for so long they don’t know how to come back to earth (so to speak). Finding distraction is too easy nowadays.

  6. Staying grounded has connections with being in solitude and silent. It’s good to slow down before reacting immediate. I believe it gives the required space to introspect.

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