Death Spiral

Death Spiral

Are you experiencing a “Death Spiral” in your reach for success?

I’ve been around small aircraft my entire life.  My Dad is a general aviation pilot with a visual flight rules (VFR) rating.  In layman’s terms, he is a private pilot that should only fly during clear weather conditions.   As a VFR pilot, he is not certified to fly into weather conditions that require an Instrument Flight Rating (IFR).  The reason behind these different ratings is that there are weather conditions that can cause pilot confusion. And if the pilot listens to their senses, it can cause a death spiral, ensuring a crash.

In a death spiral, the pilot has no external horizon or reference point due to low visibility. The pilot can therefore can get fooled into thinking the plane is in level flight when in fact it is in a banked turn.  This happens if the pilot relies on their senses rather than relying on the airplane’s flight instruments.

If the pilot notices a drop in altitude on the altimeter, but ignores the bank indicator (the instrument that shows a turn) because they “sense” the plane is in level flight, the normal response will be to pull back on the stick to regain altitude.  Since the plane is in a banked turn, pulling back on the stick only puts the plane in a tighter death spiral – heading for a catastrophic crash.

The only way to get out of a death spiral is for the pilot to recognize that their senses are wrong, gather correct information from the flight instruments, and turn back to level flight.  By the way, even after the pilot makes the correction, their body will continue to “lie” to them about the position of the aircraft for up to several minutes.

Death Spiral in Life

Could you be experiencing a death spiral in your life that you don’t know how to get out of it?  Let me ask it another way.  Are you struggling to find success in overcoming a habit or addiction in your life – failing time after time only to sink lower and lower?

Let’s talk about losing weight for a moment.  We all know that eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise is a safe way to lose weight.  But if you decide not to workout because you don’t feel like you have enough energy, you are essentially in the clouds and in a banked turn.  Let’s say you feel badly that you didn’t exercise and you promise yourself to do it tomorrow, but right now you really want your favorite comfort food.  You’ve just ignored some of your flight instruments and have pulled on the stick which only tightens your turn and accelerates your death spiral.  This only exacerbates the problem as you have less energy the next day, and so on and so on. Believing your body saying “I’m too tired to workout” and responding with no activity and comfort food day after day only results in more of the same with tighter turns until you hit the ground hard.  You have to believe your instruments and fly through these low visibility conditions accordingly.

In the above analogy, what are your instruments?

  • They are comprised of friends and family that are partnering with you for success, coaches, personal trainers, mentors, counselors, and accountability partners.
  •  When you are believing you are too tired to work out, look to your instruments for guidance – you should expect to see that your attitude is in a banked turn and needs to be corrected to level flight before doing anything else.
  • Your instruments, like the pilot’s, may not be giving you information you believe. You have to choose to trust them because they are not being confused by your senses.

The reason why the death spiral is so insidious is because you believe you are doing okay (in level flight) and you choose not to believe your instruments.  So it goes, “I’m okay, I’ll start tomorrow, (pulls back on stick and enters a tighter death spiral), repeat behavior, repeat behavior, repeat behavior, impact.

Where are you “banked” in a Death Spiral?

Now we’ve focused on weight as the example here, but what about your challenge?  Gossip, alcohol abuse, drugs abuse, tobacco use, infidelity, pornography, etc.  In each case your attitude is in a banked turn and you need to choose to pay attention to what your instruments are telling you.

In conclusion, whether flying an airplane or trying to soar to your successes, always remember to trust your instruments!


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