In the mid 1980’s the sport of hang gliding was at its zenith. Adventurous pilots were flying 100-200 miles at a pop while reaching altitudes of 20,000 feet and more. An amazing feat when you consider that they launched from the top of mountains without an engine or tow plane. This is the power of rising thermals and pilot skill.
How do I know about this? Because I was in the thick of it. For several years hang gliding was the central preoccupation of my life. It was an exciting and exhilarating time that I will never forget.
How I got involved
I was growing bored with flying small planes when a friend gave me three free Hang Gliding lessons as a gift. That was all it took, I was hooked. No, actually I was obsessed.
Within a year I owned and operated a hang gliding flight school and flew in every contest that came along. I truly felt that I was born to fly and within a short time I was competing with the best pilots in the country.
Too much of a good thing?
There is a danger to being too good at something, especially something so potentially risky. We called it the 200 hour syndrome. By the time you have logged 200 hours of air time in a hang glider, you have pretty much seen it all.
Too much experience can easily give birth to a sense of overconfidence, which can spell disaster in this particular sport. Even though turbulent air is invisible, it can be extremely powerful. I have been in thermals (rising columns of air) that were climbing at a rate of 3500 feet per minute. It was literally like falling up.
My flying partner and I were expert pilots with potentially lethal cases of overconfidence. We would risk it all to win a cross country race, and somehow we always managed to pull it off. Well, almost always.
The inner voice speaks
One day when I was not flying, my partner had a strong negative feeling. As he surveyed the weather conditions, he announced to a group of eager pilot friends: “I am not going to fly today. I have a bad feeling and a little voice telling me – don’t do it.”
So his mind was made up, he was not going to ignore his inner voice. For him, there would be no hang gliding that day. Instead, he volunteered to drive everyone else up the mountain to launch, so they could avoid the inconvenience of having to leave a truck at the top.
Maybe it’s not so bad
One by one, all the other pilots launched and then rode the thermals higher and higher. So there he was, all alone on the top of the mountain watching while everyone else was having a great time overhead.
He began to think that perhaps his feelings were misplaced. Perhaps he was just paranoid. Logic chipped away at his resolve until he convinced himself that everything would be fine. He quickly set up his glider and flew off to join his friends.
After a few hours of fun, he decided to call it a day and headed for the landing area.
What goes up…
Conditions in the landing area were scary. The wind was blowing hard and it kept switching directions. It was like a rodeo ride trying to lose altitude and set up an approach. But this had happened many times before and his exceptional skill had always prevailed.
Not this time. Everything went wrong at the very last moment and he ended up in an ambulance on his way to the emergency room. It was a day that changed the rest of his life.
He didn’t listen to the little voice
No one else had any problems that day. They all had safe landings, packed up, and went home. But then again, none of them had ignored their inner voice.
Sad to say, my friend spent the rest of his shortened life paralyzed from the waist down. It was a tragic event that taught me a valuable lesson. I retired from hang gliding a short time later because my inner voice was getting rather protective.
Have you been there?
Have you ever heard that inner voice telling you not to do something that you really wanted to do? Have you ever defied that feeling of “not today.”
Call it intuition, or instinct, or whatever you like, that voice and those feelings are there for a reason. My friend spent the remainder of his life regretting his decision. He knew better, but he did it anyway.
How about you?
Are you tuned into that little voice in your head? If so, have you learned to pay attention to it? Are you convinced that such feelings serve you for your own good?
Just because we have ignored those feelings in the past with no adverse consequences doesn’t mean that our intuition isn’t worth following. As in the case of my friend, we can see that it only takes one bad experience to change your life forever.
The missing clincher
This is the point when I would normally switch gears and focus on the obvious positive benefits of paying attention to your instincts. The problem is, I can’t do that.
You see, most of the time you will never know for certain whether you avoided some catastrophe or not. If you listen and everything turns out fine, there is simply no way of knowing what might have happened if you had chosen a different course.
That’s not how prevention works
For example: I have been health conscious all my life and I am in excellent health. Have my efforts saved me from some loathsome disease? There is really no way to know, one way or the other.
What I do know is that I am healthy now and I value that. As far as I am concerned, not having a problem is worth the effort to prevent one, with or without conclusive evidence.
Listen to your inner voice
When you feel uneasy about some course of action, don’t be embarrassed to go with your feelings. Do not let logic or group pressure talk you into something that doesn’t feel right. Trust your instincts and listen to your inner voice. We all have levels of knowledge that cannot be explained by logic or science, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
The more you listen to that little voice in your head, the clearer it gets. Instead of ignoring this unexplainable sense, develop it by paying attention and acting accordingly.
When we ignore a warning and have to pay a high price for our decision, that’s called regret. On the other hand, the absence of a problem is the same as a blessing.
How do you feel about intuition or instinct?
Has your inner voice ever helped you?
The lines are open!
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