As we turn over the San Bernardino Mountains and we first see Arrowhead Lake clearly through the veil of mist, we transition from the vague reality of following a computer based course depicted in magenta lines to the reality of knowing precisely where we are over the face of the earth. The navigation systems work well, but there is no substitute for this crystal clear view of reality. Seeing is believing.

We all face obstacles when seeking clarity. A fog, a haze, a cloud, confusion, stress, or others may at one time or another prevent us from seeing clearly what we seek, or prevent us from seeing our current circumstances. We call it “situational awareness” (or “SA”) when we gauge how closely our perception mirrors reality. This is of critical importance to the aviator, but many people wander through life without contemplating that mirror. We may trust our computer systems implicitly, but nothing beats the comfort we feel when the digital map matches what we see out the window. Our minds are no different; we trust our perceptions, but a little verification goes a long way.

We often fail to recognize what blurs our perception, or even that it is blurred…thus the mirror is more like one in a fun house. Though we think we are acting on good information, as we step from mirror to mirror, we see different images and none of them real. We act without ever addressing or confronting those things that prevent us from developing a good sense of situational awareness. We must start by choosing the right mirror…the straight one, the one with the crisp and clear reflection…and only then may we shape our perception and effect our reality.

When we know what we are looking for, we can begin to understand the barriers that prevent us from seeing it. Often times, the barriers are in our heads and created from our own fears or preconceptions. Honest self assessment and critique, or a word from a trusted friend (or copilot), provide the first step in breaking down those barriers. Once we start seeing things clearly, our world comes together and we either may begin to feel at ease or begin to make the necessary corrections to set our world right. It all starts with looking out the window at the world around us.

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