How To Have It All, According To One Of Asia's Trailblazing Female Pilots
When Suwapich “Windy” Wongwiriyawanich joined the Thai AirAsia X team, she became that team’s first-ever female pilot. But the 38-year-old says despite her groundbreaking steps, it was hardly a surprise she made it there: Wongwiriyawanich knew from the first time she stepped into the cockpit of an airplane—then, as part of the cabin crew—that she belonged in the pilot’s seat.
Wongwiriyawanich joined AirAsia’s student pilot program in 2005, and became the first female pilot to fly the A330-300 airplane for the brand. “I felt excited, of course,” she says now, “but because of the workload and [having] less experience, it was kind of frustrating, too. It was totally different from training flights, because there were real passengers and responsibilities.”
Her flight schedule today keeps her busy—but Wongwiriyawanich’s non-piloting hours aren’t exactly low-key, either. When she’s not flying at 30,000 feet, Wongwiriyawanich teaches her peers and aspiring pilots in AirAsia’s Crew Resource Management program. And she co-owns and manages a yoga studio, Viva Yoga, in Bangkok, where she teaches yoga and Pilates classes.
To an outsider, it might seem like Wongwiriyawanich has it all: A powerhouse job as a pilot, the ability to teach others her passion for flight, and her own fitness business. Wongwiriyawanich is quick to say she doesn’t have it all—“No one has it all,” she says—but she appreciates what she does have. “That’s the difference between feeling complete or not,” Wongwiriyawanich explains. “If you’re happy about what you are or what you have, then I’ll say, ‘you have it all.’”
Whether or not she has it all, Wongwiriyawanich has a lot to juggle. Here, she shares how she makes it all work. They’re tips you can use in your life, no matter how much you have going on.
Set your priorities—then focus on one at a time.
With two full-time jobs, Wongwiriyawanich’s to-do lists could get overwhelming. So, to keep on track, Wongwiriyawanich composes a list of her priorities, ordering them from most important to least important, she says. Then, she does the most important thing first. “I know which job is most important and do it first,” she says. And “when I finish the first job, then I’ll do the next.”
The key, she says, is to only do one thing at a time—and if you find you can’t handle your to-do list, to ask for help. “And always know your capabilities,” she advises, “and don’t overdo it.”
Find your passion.
Yes, Wongwiriyawanich works a lot. But she insists her jobs don’t feel like work because each represent a passion for her. “If you know where your passion lies, then you wouldn’t think about it as work,” Wongwiriyawanich says. “You’ll enjoy what you do and you’ll make time to do it.”
If you haven’t discovered a passion—or can’t turn your passion into full-time work—that’s OK, Wongwiriyawanich says. “I think finding passion and motivation in life is important, but it’s OK if you can’t find one,” she says. “Just do what you do, and find a way to enjoy it and do it your best. Sometime it’s not the task that’s important but how you think about it that really matters.”
Focus on happiness.
“My goal is to be happy in everything I do,” Wongwiriyawanich says. And luckily for her, flying airplanes and running a fitness studio make her incredibly happy. “So, my goal and career are the same thing,” she explains. “I don’t have to juggle between them.” She encourages others to find happiness in what they do, too. “I want to be happy everyday—even that’s the very little thing in life,” she says. “Whether it’s work or a hobby, I’ll enjoy doing it by thinking about it positively.”
Find time for fitness and wellness.
Despite her busy schedule, Wongwiriyawanich works out five times a week, for 30 minutes per session, she says. Her favourite workouts are yoga, Pilates, weight lifting, and cycling, she says.
“I eat well—I mean, good food, not junk food—sleep well, and exercise well,” she says. (On her “no-eat list” are processed foods, soda, sugar, and breads.) “If you have stress from work or everyday life, eating well and exercising will help relieve the stress,” Wongwiriyawanich says. “Yoga will especially help calm your mind down and help to relax your muscle tension.”