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Point of no return

In aviation, the point of no return is the point in the flight of an aircraft beyond which the remaining fuel will be insufficient for a return to the starting point. Supposing that an immediate landing is not possible because, say, the craft is crossing an ocean, having passed the point of no return means that the pilot must proceed forward in the direction of the planned destination unless they want to crash.

In human behaviour, in particular individual as well as collective decision-making, point of no return has become a popular metaphor denoting a stage in an undertaking, project, or the like, where the person or people involved are unwilling to stop and think about what they are doing. Rather, they hasten to continue on their chosen course of action, which typically results in irrevocable commitment to the cause in question.

The flaw in the analogy concerns the inevitability of having to go on in the same direction. Whereas the pilot really has no sensible alternative to carrying on, generally humans at critical points in their lives are still free agents[?] and thus do have the power to change their course of action. If they decide not to it may be because they are afraid of, and are trying to avoid, exposure, criticism, or ridicule. If you turn back to where you started, you admit that most of the things you have been doing since have been wrong. Accordingly, changing your mind and your course of action is the more difficult of the two options, even when that would be better. What is more, the farther you have already proceeded the more difficult it is to return. This phenomenon leads many people to believe that for them a complete change of course is impossible.

In Christianity, the notion of repentance also implies a reversal (metanoete[?]) and future change of behaviour.

In its metaphorical sense, passing the point of no return can be used synonymously with crossing the Rubicon (see Julius Caesar, 49 BC).

Point of no return has also been used in connection with male orgasm and ejaculation.

See also:

Point of Know Return is also a 1977 album by Kansas.

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