Knowing Your Limits
Hopefully you've learned that setting personal minimums in aviation is a must. In other words, at what maximum crosswind have you demonstrated proficiency in landing? Or what is the lowest ceiling you will plan to attempt an approach to land in instrument flight?
What ceilings will you accept for both day and night flight? Fuel, passengers, and the list goes on.
Having thought about these limitations is the first step in setting good boundaries in an attempt to maintain safe airmanship. Writing them down will give you a checklist to follow and a contract with yourself to not violate. The time to change your minimums is not the day you want to accomplish a flight, but after you have purposefully practiced and demonstrated a higher level of airmanship warranting a modification of your contract with yourself.
On the other hand, we should be striving for excellence and the very nature of aviators is to stretch our limits and see how far we can get. I am advocating this as long as we do it scientifically and with a safety mindset.
Recently I have had pilots canceling flights without any discussion stating the weather or winds were outside their personal minimums. In each case, the discussion then became how will you expand your experience without practice and experience? It was great to be safety minded though what had been lost was an opportunity to glean from a more proficient and experienced aviators' abilities in order to learn and test their own.
Be careful to keep a balance and recognize instructors won't put themselves nor their students into situations of undue risk but are also very happy to share their knowledge to assist you in being able to modify your minimums contract.
Be safe up there and start by planning ahead.
The following web addresses will assist you in developing a personal minimums contract with yourself: