2020 Is Almost Done. Take The Helicopter View.


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I used to teach a leadership program with a strategy guy. Marc Rubin.

Take the helicopter view. One of Marc’s favorite phrases.

I have used other terms that connote the same mindset – being the observer, double-tracking our experience – but the notion of helicoptering tickles my fancy best.

  • A helicopter knows how to hover in place.
  • It swoops high or low and instantly shifts perspective.
  • It spins to another spot with lightning speed.

No matter how well you may have fared in the year that is coming to an end, 2020 sucked. Sure, you learned to be more resilient. More agile. Adjust, adapt. Let go of stuff you thought mattered. You may have been fortunate enough and stayed Covid-free.

But let’s be real. 2020 sucked.

In a ride as traumatic as this year’s, it is tempting to clamp up inside. Go numb. Or go micro and obsess about the minutiae of the moment.If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change, beloved author and transformational thinker Wayne Dyer said. Yes. Helicoptering is the act of changing how we look at things. It takes us out of the muck. Helps us soar to new heights and lifts us into a more expansive view. At its best, it liberates us from the shackles of immediate circumstances.

“You can’t helicopter if you don’t REMEMBER to helicopter. Cue yourself to go on a helicopter ride.“Achim Nowak

Micro, macro. Zooming in, zooming out. Observing. Helicoptering. Call it what you will – this is an essential life skill and a prime leadership trait that helps us get out of the muck and shift perspective. Here are a few considerations that help us do this well:


Don’t let your helicoptering be a lucky accident. Pilot that helicopter. I like to give myself clear mental cues. Intentional inner commands that I call upon when I wish to redirect my attention. The best mental cues are a mere word. I invoke this word at will. Say it to myself, quietly’Helicopter is such a cue word. Evocative. Bold. Clear. It tells me to lift out of the immediate moment. A linguistic prompt begets action. Immediately.


Here’s how I propose you use this prompt: When you find yourself bogged down in a conversation that does not seem to go anywhere. When the creative juices simply are not flowing. When the energy feels stuck. Cue yourself. Helicopter.

Step outside of the moment. Hover above it. Circle the scene of the crime. For a moment only, for minutes maybe, until clarity comes. This is the beauty of helicopter-hovering. Clarity WILL come. Energy WILL start to flow again. Every time.


The beauty of helicoptering? We observe the space/time reality of a specific moment and leave it all at once. We demand that our perspective change. We have the option of transcending the time dimension. Think of “past moments.” Travel to “future moments.” Suddenly the dynamics of the present moment seem like a mere blip in the time continuum. Less precious. Not such a big deal. Perspective shift. Major.

The space shift? As I hover above a moment, I am able to be conscious of all the other moments happening at the very same time in other buildings, other spaces, other cities, other worlds. Because my view broadens, the pressures of the present moment diminish. Again, not such a big deal. I am able to exhale. Whew. Perspective shift.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.“ Dr. Wayne Dyer

This holiday season may not look like holiday seasons past. It may not be the holiday season of your dreams. It may come with a sense of loss and wistfulness and disappointment. Compared to other holiday seasons, it may suck.

Remember to cue yourself. Helicopter. Perspective shift, and the relief it offers.

  • Let helicoptering be your best friend.
  • Helicoptering allows us to accept what is.
  • Acceptance lessens struggle.
  • Less struggle invariably opens new doors and possibilities.

Yes. The helicopter view can do all that.

Achim Nowak
Achim Nowak is an Executive Coach, Business Thinker, TEDx Speaker and Mastermind Convener. The author of 3 books on Personal Presence, Achim has helped hundreds of CEOs and C-Suite executives in global enterprises around the world to amplify their personal impact. He has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company, USA Today and on NPR.


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