The Big Picture from 35,000 Feet

by Alli Polin on July 19, 2013

Take in the big picture to find the path to success

I’m back in Australia after a few weeks visiting in the USA – it was a wonderful whirlwind but also stressful, difficult and tension filled. I became consumed by lack of sleep, the heat, family arguments and not enough time to relax and get everything done that I had on my hit list. I felt like a cloud of stress was following me around and it was hailing ice balls of business, family and life issues down on my head. Instead of reaching for an umbrella or seeking shelter, I just got more and more frustrated as the hail grew in size.

Then I got on the plane to go home and things became much clearer as I flew high above the clouds.

“When we take a step back, we can see others for who they are, not who we want them to be.” ~ Alli Polin (Click to Tweet)

An Ah-Ha Moment:

I had been walking around with a cloud over my head and did not notice that somewhere along the way, I had stepped out of the light and was playing in the darkness. In the shadows, nothing shines, and mediocrity thrives ~ not a place anyone would choose to live.

“Under the shadow of the clouds, there is no sparkle, no inspiration, only shades of gray. “ ~ Alli Polin (Click to Tweet)

It took getting on a plane, and up in the air over 35,000 feet, to see the problems that I thought were so big from an entirely new perspective. Mountains look like molehills from the air and small details become a part of the bigger picture.

Here’s the Question:

How can you see the big picture from earth and get out from under the clouds that have been following you around?

Take a break – It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going wrong to the point it’s all consuming; we completely lose our ability to see what’s going right. When it feels like there is no good choice available, that’s the perfect time to grab a coffee, take in a movie, or a quick nap. There is always another choice but we just need to step away, give our minds and heart a short rest, so we can once again engage with possibilities.

Move to create a shift – Small shifts can lead to big changes in perspective. Even simply getting up from your desk to process a problem or an issue somehow shakes loose new thinking. Work from a new conference room or hit a new coffee house with the way you see the world will shift with you as the big picture starts to emerge.

What if it’s me?? – Life can be hard when you’re the only one that’s right and everyone else is always wrong, wrong, wrong. It may seem laughable to even suggest but… could it be you? Ask yourself, “what if it’s me?” and be prepared to accept that  maybe, just maybe, you have a role in the turmoil that’s swirling around you.

Set an intention – Intention creates reality. Funny, right? Intention is deeply connected to the big picture – it’s not about how, it’s committing to creating something special, beyond the headaches and the hail.

“Intention declares to the universe what you want to create and your unwillingness to let the crap of daily life derail you from your bigger game.” ~ Alli Polin (Click to Tweet)

Don’t travel alone – When you’re hanging out under that cloud, do you know who your trusted advisors are that will tell you to freakin’ move to the light? Who will not let you settle for standing still? Who will remind you that your dreams are not going to be easy but are worth every struggle, every conflict and every set back? Who will demand that you remember your “why,” get centered, and that the big picture will show you the path to where you want to go even when you’re feeling the most lost.

The world is quiet at 35,000 feet, the air is cold, and the path is clear. You can do it – you can take a deep breath and fly above your problems, hail and headaches whenever you need to reconnect with the big picture and your “why.”

How do you successfully step back to see the bigger picture when you’re stuck in the pain and confusion of the details?

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

John Thurlbeck July 19, 2013 at 7:35 am

Hi Alli

Loved the post and welcomed your call to action. In part, I did that yesterday by going hiking in the wilds of Northumberland, as the weather here at the minute is fabulous! I took the time out for some solitude and time to reflect, as there is so much happening in my life just now, not just to do with work!

I had a marvellous time and came back much clearer about the things I need to focus on and set myself some better intentions for the weeks ahead! So you post was very timely!

I hope you have recovered well from your lengthy travels … and had a brilliant time back home in the USA!

Kind regards



Alli Polin July 19, 2013 at 7:59 am

John – Hiking is a great way to get out of our heads long enough to reconnect with who we are and what matters most. Physical activity somehow opens our minds in a way that staring at our computer screen or sitting another meeting cannot. Your hike sounds like it was a great one!

I’m happy to be back in my home after my time away but I’m also sad that it’s over. Guess it means it was time well spent!

Thanks so much, John!


Blair July 19, 2013 at 7:36 am

What, me the one that’s right? Oh, but I aren’t I? Naturally that one is always a default assumption for me and its a good and humbling reminder. Welcome back from the cloud, the personal one and the cloud of wonder and consumerism that is The States! Thanks for bravely and so eloquently revealing the dynamics of cloud shelter. I feel like I want practice each of your suggestions today to step a little further into the light.


Alli Polin July 19, 2013 at 7:56 am

Cloud shelter. That’s exactly where I’ve been! I’m ready to step back out into the sun!

By the way, “what if I’m wrong?” is an incredibly hard question for me to ask. But I usually see that I’m not the only one that thinks I’m right.

Appreciate you, Blair!


Kaarina Dillabough July 19, 2013 at 8:23 am

There are many times throughout each day that I step back. One is through daily meditation, at least 20 minutes a day. The physical and mental benefits are immeasurable. I take breaks from the computer, especially if something disturbs me, and do the 10-10-10 (from the book of the same name by Suzy Welch, where you ponder: will it matter 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years from now?) I write a post like this one that “says out loud” what I’m thinking. I’ve cultivated the ability to step back from the things that pull me into destructive or damaging thinking or circumstances. It’s taken me a long time, but I’m now much better at engaging the tools I need to see with clearer eyes and fresh perspective. Sorry to hear that cloud followed you on your trip, but I trust now you can sing with gusto Cheers! Kaarina


Alli Polin July 19, 2013 at 8:45 am

Kaarina, You are clearly a role model for me! Daily meditation is a practice that I aspire to and have thought about starting yet think I’m making it hard on myself instead of a time to get centered, it feels like work.

10-10-10 is a powerful way to structure reflection. I’ve seen Suzy’s work before but had forgotten about it until now! Thanks for reminding me! Some of the events in recent weeks will probably still matter 10 minutes and months from now but not in 10 years… but only time will tell.

Loved your recent post – feels good to leave the cloud shelter (thanks, Blair Glaser) and to dance in the sun.

Thanks, Kaarina!


Kaarina Dillabough July 19, 2013 at 8:58 am

Alli, although I’ve used meditation, visualization and mental rehearsal with both my athletes and clients for years, I was like the cobbler whose children remained shoeless. I didn’t practice it for myself daily.

I just completed a 13 week Mindful Mastery course in meditation, and was provided with a variety of guided meditations on CD. These have been my “rock”, as I’m very good at guided meditation (something I’ve done for my athletes/clients, walking them through meditation), now as a recipient. Perhaps that would work for you too. At first, it feels like work, no doubt. But just as with exercise, once it becomes habit, it’s easy to plug into your day, and so, so rewarding. Cheers! Kaarina


Alli Polin July 21, 2013 at 6:01 am

I have a course in mind! I’ve been subscribing to a wonderful blog that has a program I’ve been mulling over but have wondered if CDs etc would be beneficial. Clearly the answer is yes – or at least a strong maybe! Going to look into their program again. Thanks for the encouragement!


Lalita Raman July 19, 2013 at 9:56 am

Good points to think, consider and practice Alli. Welcome back. Insight occurs when we step back. I love my hikes, my yoga , my gym or just a walk.

Lovely post Alli.


Alli Polin July 21, 2013 at 6:00 am

Thank you, Lalita! Sounds like physicality is an important part of your mindfulness and self-care practice. I find that when I tell myself I don’t have time for those things, I’m not prioritizing my personal health and happiness and ultimately I pay the price.


Karen Jolly July 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm


Your challenge of plunging into family energy was a big one for any of us. It’s easier to deal with energy when its a few miles (or a couple countries) away. It’s another thing to park yourself in the middle of it. We think we are thinking beings that feel…but we are feeling beings that think. We just can’t help but pick up on the energy around us.

I really liked your points, especially create a small shift – you know how much I love doing this. Just a slight shift in a more comfortable direction with your thoughts can bring a lot of relief to any situation!

Glad you are home safe and sound!! xo


Alli Polin July 21, 2013 at 6:04 am

Karen – I can totally relate to what you’re saying. We DO pick up on the energy and get sucked in! It can be confusing when we’re brimming with positivity and feel the pull of so many other emotions that are not coming from us but become a part of our energy as well.

It’s crazy that a small shift can create such a huge shift in perspective! You of all people know the power of a minute mindset 🙂

Appreciate you, Karen!


Mike Brown July 20, 2013 at 8:21 am

Agree – “It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going wrong to the point it’s all consuming”

The challenge is to recognize that it is happening – before it becomes consuming…

What are the triggers? Are there certain activities/people that push are buttons?

One solution is to identify times in the past – when we were going down that dark path and were able to bounce back before it became consuming… These are the learnings we can build upon to fly above our problems…


Alli Polin July 21, 2013 at 5:58 am

Great points, Mike! Triggers and recognize that it’s happening – they go hand in hand. I often call them red flags. Getting really clear on a red flag that’s waving in our face can alert us to they “why” behind our feelings and behaviors and help us be proactive about making another choice.

Love the reminder to look to our past to inform our future as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s the shadow of clouds or doubt about our ability to make things happen – we can to tap into our past successes to give us strength to move forward with confidence and purpose today.

Appreciate your insights!


Jon Mertz July 20, 2013 at 10:02 am

Excellent points, Alli! I hope you had a good break. It is so important to take that step back and look inside. It can open up a whole new world for us. I am very ready to take that break and renew. Enjoy your renewed outlook ahead! Thanks. Jon


Alli Polin July 21, 2013 at 5:55 am

Thanks, Jon! I did have a good break! Hopefully since you’re very ready for a break of your own, you’ll be taking one shortly. I was still plugged in on-line but to a much smaller degree. Hope you find the balance that works for you!


Amber-Lee Dibble July 20, 2013 at 5:46 pm

My Dad, (Master Guide Terry Overly) says exactly the same thing- he’ll get in one of his planes and fly- HIGH in the sky… just higher and higher… he says everything calms down inside him and everything is really so very small that was becoming so big in his own mind and reality.

I have experienced what I feel that you were sharing with us… that change, and the discomfort of feeling squeezed back into a shape that was no longer familiar- the discomfort from that, changing shape yet again and the pain and ache that comes from changing shape yet again…

But what I also found (and it sounds as if you are here too) is that all those changes and growth have made me stronger, and gives me more to draw upon instead of only the frustration and hurt.

What else I have learned, that you share as well, is that we, you and I, and we as people ~ are not alone. We have each other. We need each other.


Alli Polin July 21, 2013 at 6:13 am


Up in the air is such a strong reminder that even when we’re on the ground our problems are not as enormous as we may think (or create in our minds).

It was a strange experience… being a stranger at home… the outsider. I’m the big sister but they are together much more often in person. The energy that is on the phone vs when we’re in the same house is somehow so different! However, I would not trade a moment. Despite the disagreements and some hurt feelings it was SO AWESOME to hug and kiss and just be in the same room as the people I love.

You’re right – changes and growth have made me stronger too. Helps me to take a step back and not take it personally but recognize that while I’m having my own experience, they are all bringing their experiences to our relationship too and sometimes it doesn’t really have much to do with me.

We are not alone. I 100% agree with you. We are ALWAYS in relationship and change happens through relationship.



Alice Chan July 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Insightful, Alli. It’s so very easy for us to leave the light and play in darkness, as you put it. As you know, I’m in a new job. It has been such a drastic change of pace that I have to constantly remind myself to act from my center, instead of responding to all the demands and what I feel is expected of me. A lot of it is real, but a lot of it is also self-imposed. That’s why your points resonate with me, especially being mindful of the fact that it could all just be in my head and the power of intention. Hope you had a good trip overall, despite the challenges it presented.


Alli Polin July 21, 2013 at 6:07 am

Alice, As I’ve been following your journey going back to a corporate environment on your blog I can relate to so many of the things that you’ve been experiencing and sharing. I’ve found that rarely does anyone have expectations as high for me as I do. As if after just a few weeks you should not only have mastered the job, had a few quick wins, developed critical relationships and made everyone cheer “now that’s why we hired her!” Of course that’s the hope but we need to remember that our center, our values and our intentions will carry us further than 16 hour days and getting intimate with spreadsheets to get intimate with the business.


Terri Klass July 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

So loved your post, Alli! I connected with your search on so many levels. I too have been in that place of not knowing why I am at a certain point. I always find that my reaching out and talking through our ideas and feelings with people we value, can be so helpful. Never settle for mediocrity- we are better than that! And always let your heart and your core values guide you- they know!


Alli Polin July 23, 2013 at 3:48 am

Terri – I’ve found myself reaching out to people in my network and my trusted advisors more lately. It makes a big difference to me to be able to process with someone else as I have done tons of reflection on my own.

… and I’m 100% with you! NEVER settle for mediocrity! It just doesn’t feel good to go with “passable” as good enough.

Many thanks for your comments and sharing your insights here!


Johann Gauthier July 22, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Ah ! Alli
What yet another powerful post from you !
I really appreciated this one. Why? Well because we all love those family stories now don’t we 🙂 Seriously you speak of the importance of grounding ourselves and finding time to quiet things down. In our turbulent times it is so key as it is so easy to get “lost” and distracted.
I too really enjoy having you in my life ! 🙂
Cheers Alli !


Alli Polin July 23, 2013 at 3:52 am


I loved being home and would not trade our time together still, you said it so well when you wrote “time to quiet things down.” I had lots of emotions and stress and all kinds of things going on and in the quiet, and with the space between us, I could see and accept people and situations for what they are instead of the drama in which I played a big part.

One of the many things I appreciate about you is that you believe in starting fresh… new chances… new perspectives… one decision can create a new life.


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