Tactics to Persevere Through Hard Times with Tammy Barlette
“I'm a human being. I am not a machine. I'm just like you. I just chose a different career.”
— Tammy Barlette
I had the pleasure of speaking with Tammy Barlette, a retired US air force fighter pilot with 3,000 flying hours and over 1,500 hours of combat support assisting and protecting troops on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, Tammy is a mental performance coach, a speaker, and the founder of Athena's Voice.
- The importance of not losing the big picture
- The power of the PEZ approach
- Aligning goals with values for the best chance of success
It does not get much more high-stakes than piloting a fighter jet and protecting lives in real-time. The risks and rewards are high. When Tammy looks back at her time as a pilot, it’s difficult for her to explain how she did all she did. But when she dissects her past, she finds her answer.
“When you're flying an aircraft and have to shut the engine down—like I did—I noticed it because my oil system was not functioning properly. If I had simply stared at that gauge and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this sucks. What am I gonna do about this?’ and get sucked into the problem, I would have either crashed or had to eject,” she explains.
There’s a clear reason why she did not crash or eject in that emergency—she remembered to pay attention to her other gauges and look beyond the problem.
“I apply that concept to life as well,” she continues. “We can't just get sucked into one problem, we have to keep our cross-check of life going, and keep handling other things. How often you go back to that problem and how long you stay with it is gonna depend on the problem. You have to deal with it, but you cannot forget about the big picture. You gotta look outside and fly your plane. You gotta look at the other gauges.”
We all have different gauges to keep track of in life, even though it can be tempting to hyper-focus on a specific problem. That’s part of what Tammy aims to help others do: Cross-check their life and land instead of crash. The PEZ approach is part of how she accomplishes that goal.
Preparation in this context specifically focuses on preparing for the unexpected. Now, we can’t prepare for everything—that’s how we get stuck in prep mode—but there is a helpful way to prepare for the unexpected.
“You can prepare for 1 or 2 most likely scenarios. The best place to start is to think about what it is, when you lay down in bed at night, and you can't go to sleep—what is it that's keeping you up?” Tammy says.
By doing this, we’re not only preparing plan B’s for these scenarios, we’re training ourselves mentally to react accordingly.
“Even if it's not the thing you prepared for, you are more calm and capable and able to push through whatever problem came forward because you expected it,” she continues. “You expected that something might go wrong, and I call that expectation management, which is huge.”
Expecting the best and preparing for the worst is a well-balanced way to manage anything that comes our way, as long as there is balance.
Enemies within relate to lack of confidence and imposter syndrome, thoughts we have that don’t serve us. Even a fighter pilot struggles with thoughts of inadequacy, much to many people’s surprise.
“I have all those crazy thoughts in my head that I don't belong there, and I'm not good enough. You have to defeat those. The other thing I think is important, tied into that, not just those negative thoughts, but the emotions,” Tammy says.
We must sit with our emotions, especially after a failure, before jumping right back into the action. Enemies within can only be vanquished when we acknowledge their existence.
Getting in the zone means that once we decide what we want to do and what our goal is, we put our heads down and get in the zone.
“If you set a goal and it's something you really want—you did a solid goal setting technique to decide that you wanna do this, it's in alignment with your core values. It is something you truly want, and if nothing has changed, you need to take on a no-quit mentality,” Tammy says.
Getting in the zone means recognizing that even if a goal is more challenging than we expected—as things usually are—the decision-making part is over, and we’re committed to the course we’ve taken.
We can’t get into the zone effectively if our goals are haphazard or disconnected from our core values. It’s okay to experiment, but when it comes to making tangible progress and committing ourselves to a goal, it must align with who we are and what we want for our lives.
Tammy’s daughter is a gifted runner, but most of the exercises she needs to work on are mental if she wants to excel beyond where she is and reach her goals. She can build that endurance because running is something she is committed to.
“We were running one day at a track camp, and I had made the decision on my run—I didn't tell her this, but my goal in my head was, ‘I am not stopping. I don't care how slow I go, but I'm not gonna stop for 30 straight minutes,’ And we got to this really big hill. There's not a lot of hills in my neighborhood,” Tammy explains. “I was huffin’ and puffin’, and I ended up passing her up this hill.”
Because Tammy had made the goal for herself ahead of time and knew she was going to stick to it regardless of circumstance, it was easier for her to push through when things got tough.
Our mental strength is just as critical as the physical actions we take towards goals. If our head isn’t in the right place, we’re more likely to lose focus, eject, or crash.
When was the last time you kept a cool head in an emergency, big or small? How do you prepare yourself for things to go wrong?
Be sure to catch Tammy’s full episode for further insight into PEZ and learn more at AthenasVoiceUSA.com!