What’s Your Attitude, Pilot?

Piloting an aircraft means constant management of its attitude. That's pilot lingo for whether the nose is pointed upward or downward.

Pointing the nose up confers more lift to the wings. Pointing it down diminishes lift.

That's a good metaphor for our personal self-management. Upbeat attitudes put lift under our wings. Downbeat attitudes put us quickly in a nose dive.

Novice pilots soon learn that a nose-down attitude translates rapidly into increased speed. Not only is the plane descending. It's building up speed in the process.

The same is true of personal attitudes. Negative attitudes feed off of one another and intensify one another. They build momentum easily, until our motivation and enthusiasm are plummeting.

In terms of self-management, therefore, nothing is more vital than staying attuned to our attitudes and keeping them aligned for success.

Years ago I was teaching a class on approaching life with a sense of  stewardship. I asked, "Of all the things for which we have responsibility, where is it most important to exercise good stewardship." A woman  near the back, who had said nothing during several class sessions, immediately spoke up and said, "Attitudes."

I was caught off guard by her answer, because I had never thought about stewardship of attitudes. But having thought about it a lot since then, I now recognize the profound wisdom in her response.

A pilot myself at the time, her reply brought to mind the steady warnings of my first flight instructor: "Watch your attitude!!" Whenever I heard him bark those words, I knew that I had let the nose drop and was losing altitude; or that I had the nose too high and was risking a stall.

What he was telling me to do was to make an "attitude adjustment," the name for moving the nose of an aircraft up or down. Even slight attitude adjustments have  a telling effect on the plane's overall performance. Pilots learn to constantly make subtle, but vital adjustments to keep their craft stable and on course.

In a cockpit, directly in front of the pilot's eyes, is an instrument called the attitude indicator It's usually the largest display on the primary instrument panel. This makes it easy to monitor the plane's attitude while scanning other gauges to keep tabs on performance.

We weren't created with an attitude indicator in the middle of our field of vision. But in our mind's eye, we need to put one there.  Many things contribute to our success. We need to pay heed to all of them. But we must never take our eye off our attitudes for more than a brief moment.

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