The daily cross-check

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss -- As a flight instructor, one of the most important things I teach to new students is the cross-check.

People tend to get overwhelmed when first learning to fly due to the large amount of information flooding their senses at once. The key to counteract this is to develop a pattern of where to focus their attention and what to ignore.

Many mistakes in aviation can be traced back to focusing on the wrong things. An efficient cross-check allows a pilot to notice trends, information and threats quicker because their attention is on what matters during that phase of flight.

Developing your own daily cross-check can greatly improve the quality of your life. It can be very easy to let the small and insignificant things in life overwhelm or distract us if we do not have a disciplined cross-check. Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, focus on things that will get you closer to your goals.

For example, the most successful students are normally the ones who can continue to focus on the mission when they make a mistake. It is very tempting for them to dwell on what they did wrong and how it will affect their grades, but this leads to more mistakes due to a lack of focus on what is coming up. We call this the “snowball effect” because a small mistake starts to roll downhill and turns into a full avalanche if it is not stopped.

There’s a tragic story of an airliner that crashed and killed over 100 people because the pilots were focused on a small light that had failed to illuminate. They did not cross-check the altitude for almost five minutes because they were focused on something that really wasn’t that important. These pilots had developed a cross-check but just got complacent at the wrong time. My point is that even if you have reached some success in your life, you can still benefit from retuning your focus daily.

My daily routine consists of thinking about a few goals, both short term and long term, and what I need to do that day or week to get closer to accomplishing those goals. This allows me to redirect my focus to those few things instead of letting my circumstances determine where I focus. “Where your focus goes energy flows” is a relevant quote I heard recently. With energy and time being two of our most finite resources, we do not want to waste them.

Think about how many marriages, careers and friendships have ended because people focused on the small things and caused them to snowball. If you can learn to focus on the big picture and not get stuck in the mud of life, then often you’ll find that the small things work themselves out. Whether you realize it or not, you will always be focused on something. If you focus on unimportant or negative things, then you are wasting precious energy that can be used to pursue your goals and dreams.

As you practice your daily cross-check, you’ll find it gets easier to recognize when you get distracted and redirect your focus. My challenge to you today is to figure out where your focus is, where it needs to be, and to develop your own daily cross-check that will benefit you.