Doing the Next Right Thing – How Do You Figure That Out?

When the next right thing isn’t clear

The murder mystery I’m writing is about the investigation of an aircraft accident. I don’t work in the aviation industry, so I’ve done A LOT of research to make my fiction realistic.

One research method is watching documentaries about real aircraft accidents. A particular accident is the source of this blog.

I’m not going to mention specifics, but the crash was so catastrophic and disintegration so extensive, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation drew educated conclusions from the evidence they had.

A significant piece of evidence was the alarm that indicated loss of cabin pressure. Because the plane was at a high altitude when the depressurization occurred, oxygen was required to survive. Other evidence led the NTSB to determine the crew and passengers fell unconscious and succumbed to hypoxia. Because the plane was on autopilot, it flew until it ran out of fuel and fell from the sky.

But why hadn’t the pilots put on their air masks so they could survive until they could descend to a safe altitude, and then land the plane?

A flight simulation revealed what the NTSB believes to be the answer.

Crews are trained to follow the emergency checklist when an alarm sounds. The NTSB investigator looked at the checklist and discovered there were multiple steps (and some very convoluted language), but no mention to put on air masks.

Logically, that seems to be the first thing anyone would do. But lack of oxygen caused confusion and unconsciousness within 10-30 seconds of the alarm sounding. It’s likely that even those highly experienced crewmen would not be coherent or conscious long enough to read the checklist and then realize the instruction about the air masks was missing.

The NTSB also surmised that if the pilots had donned air masks, they might have been able to diagnose the issue, take the plane to an altitude that didn’t require oxygen, and then land the aircraft safely. That makes this accident even more tragic.

The positive outcome is that airlines have since changed the first step of the checklist to be: “Put on your air mask”.

When the missing step isn’t life or death

My vocation is writing reference manuals and help files for software applications. (Think about the topics you can view when you click the help button in your favorite word processor, and you have an idea of the type of documentation I write.)

If I inadvertently forget a step, the worst thing might be that the user gets frustrated the software isn’t working the way they want. I’m thankful the mistakes I make aren’t life and death to others.

How do I determine the next step to take?

I’m grateful I can ask God for clear direction — for the “next right thing” to do.

Sometimes I get the answer quickly. Other times, I have to wait to hear His response.

And I can assure you there have been instances where I wanted the step a lot sooner (on my time table).

Or didn’t want the instruction I got.

But it has been my experience, that the instruction from God never misses a step or comes too late.

If I don’t take that step or make a mistake, there may be consequences. What do I do then? Same thing I did before — ask God for the next right step from there.

How do you determine the next right step to make life decisions?

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Joni Vance is an award-winning author of fiction, essay, and poetry. She loves mystery, history, and how God reveals Himself every day.


May God reveal the mystery of His love in your life story.

2 thoughts on “Doing the Next Right Thing – How Do You Figure That Out?

  1. I really have trouble with this one. I generally just pray and wait to see what happens. God can do some amazing things and sometimes you find you don’t even need the next step:)

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