Pilot's tip of the week

Blocking Intrusive Thoughts

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Subscriber question:

"I really botched a crosswind landing a couple weeks ago. Now my landings are terrible because I keep thinking about it. I’ve never had a problem like this before. How do I stop obsessing when I actually worried I’ll bend the airplane?" — Art S.

Penny:

“When you have these thoughts, first ask yourself if there is a concrete action you need to perform to solve the problem. In this case, that would be brushing up your crosswind technique with a good instructor.

As for the best mental technique to stop the unwanted thoughts when you go fly with that instructor, try Thought Blocking.

Imagine a stop sign. Take note of the color and number of sides as you see the sign in your mind. Once the picture is clear, say the word ‘stop’ in your head. This will interrupt the flow of unwelcome thoughts and allow you to direct your attention elsewhere. Tell yourself that you’re fixing the problem that led to the bad landing. These thoughts are just thoughts. They are not accurate. You will be safe to tackle the wind.

You can sing two notes sequentially, but you cannot sing a chord. You can walk and chew gum, but cannot chew gum and eat popcorn at the same time. You cannot imagine the stop sign and say the word ‘stop,’ and still hear the intrusive thoughts because you are blocking both your auditory and visual systems.

I’ve seen this work with my students, professional clients, and athletes. You may need to follow this process several times after flying with your instructor before the thoughts stop completely. But it will do the trick if you stick with it.”

How forgiving of yourself are you when you make a mistake in flight?

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