Chances are… sooner or later… you’re going to find yourself in a situation you’re not prepared for. Unfortunately, some of these situations are going to require immediate action. Without time to prepare, you’re simply going to have to wing it and fly by the seat of your pants.
Have you ever thought about what that means, though? What if you don’t know how to fly? And what if you’re not wearing pants?
To fly by the seat of one’s pants is an idiom. An idiom is a phrase whose meaning is different from the literal meaning of the words themselves.
Flying by the seat of one’s pants does not require actual flight. And pants? Totally optional…
This common phrase actually means you’re acting on instinct, using your judgment and perceptions as events unfold to improvise without advance planning.
When you fly by the seat of your pants, you don’t have a plan. You just figure things out as you go along.
If you think about it, the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants” can conjure up some really funny images in your mind. Where did such a phrase ever come from?
Not surprisingly, the phrase is an old aviation saying. It appears to have originated in Great Britain as “flies by the seat of his trousers.” It was Americanized to “flies by the seat of his pants” in the 1930s.
Since early aircraft did not have the many instruments modern planes have, pilots had to rely primarily on their own perceptions and judgment. Early pilots often flew without radios and other fancy gadgets.
Instead, they learned to react to the feel of the plane. Of course, the body part that usually had the most contact with the plane was the pilot’s backside.
Early pilots developed an ability to estimate wind speed, external temperature and the overall condition of an airplane simply by paying attention to their senses — including the sense of feeling from their backsides!
If you can imagine flying a plane without a radio or other instruments through clouds or thick fog, you can begin to imagine what it must have been like for early pilots to fly by the seat of their pants!
That same feeling can arise when you’re thrown into an unexpected situation that requires action without preparation. That’s why many of us fly by the seat of our pants without ever getting near an airplane!
Of course, modern pilots are glad that they can rely on instruments rather than the seat of their pants. Likewise, you’ll probably find that a little careful planning can go a long way toward making life less stressful.