Captain Duarte Lopes
Throughout my life I always felt an urge or need to know what’s out there. I consider what is generally presented and taught to be a useful set of tools or a starting point, then it’s up to us to know how to use them to “Go Beyond”.
Two of my life goals are to keep a curious mind and make connections that might seem improbable. To create bridges. To ask: “Why not?”
Some company cultures are changing from thinking outside the box to thinking with no box, adopting a “Beginner’s Mind” approach. From the perspective of the beginner, the world is filled with endless possibilities. From the perspective of an expert, there are few.
With a beginner’s mind approach, I ventured into several initiatives involving volunteering. Some specialized in crew members and airlines, mentoring for a youth foundation and collaborating with an organization where clowns visit hospitals to bring joy and relief to patients and their care takers. I even ventured into a restaurant business.
During my life and career as an airline pilot, I experienced high stress/ high demand situations over short and long periods of time. I’ve seen the impact this has on our professional and personal lives as well as our mental and physical health. I felt compelled to help, asking “What can I do about it?”.
Apparently, many things. However, I did notice that talking about mental health issues (and the tools to work with them) were seen as a personal failing or flaw and were treated almost as taboo. I looked into other high stress/ high demand professions such as first responders, medical staff, ambulance drivers, security forces, ATC controllers, and even stock market brokers/dealers and noticed some similar patterns dealing with the impact of these professions. These negative impacts are exacerbated by other related phenomena such as shift work, work related health issues and critical incidents.
After starting a Peer Support Group based on Critical Incident Stress Management, it was clear that prevention and awareness is paramount for individuals and organizations. Prevention and awareness require honest and frank discussion about this. We must be willing to have the difficult conversations and become proactive instead of reactive.
As the science began to support it, I became interested in the Mindfulness based approach. Mindful Awareness Practices (MAP’s) offer effective support in Life-Coaching, CRM, Mentoring, and Training in aviation. MAP’s support our ability to explore different perspectives and maybe even build some bridges. Its’ benefits and techniques also have proven useful in a wider scope of a Peer Support System.
This accumulated life experience, work, coaching, family, the will to be of assistance to others and the resolve to “do something about it” lead me to embrace this path from the perspective of a beginner. There really are endless possibilities to improve the quality of life for our fellow aviators. Why not explore them!