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Astronauts on Apollo 13 Could Have Died, Their Fear Saved Them

Astronauts on Apollo 13 Could Have Died, Their Fear Saved Them

In 1970, astronauts aboard Apollo 13 were in a dire situation. They were going to land on the moon, but after an oxygen-tank explosion, the three men had to move to the lunar module of their spacecraft so that they could safely return home. There was just one problem with this plan: the lunar module was only designed for two men for a period of 36 hours. They needed enough air for three men for 96 hours. They would suffocate if they could not remove the CO2 from the air.[1]

The odds were against them, but the team at NASA didn’t give up. Motivated by fear of losing their guys, they gathered the materials that they knew the men would have on the lunar module and challenged themselves to make a CO2 scrubber.

Even though the mission didn’t turn out the way NASA had planned, the story has a happy ending. The emergency system that NASA developed on the fly saved the astronauts’ lives.

Fear drove the NASA team to be more creative.

Many people believe that creativity will only flourish when someone has lots of time and freedom. It’s true that people that feel too frightened or under too much pressure will have a hard time producing. Sometimes a small amount of fear pushes people to be extra creative.

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Fear Is a Protective Fence

There is such thing as a healthy amount of fear. Fear keeps us from taking big risks, and it helps us stay safe.

Your amygdala, the primitive part of your brain, is responsible for your impulse control and fear.[2] The amygdalae are the home of the fight or flight response. Being frightened all the time is not good for us, but having enough fear to prevent us from making bad choices keeps us from engaging in risky behaviors.[3]

    The Problem With the Fence

    When people are playing it safe all the time, it’s easy to fall into a routine. Our brain loves the idea of routine because it can go on autopilot. When something works, there’s no need to change anything.

    This is the comfort zone. It’s a safe place, but there isn’t much going on here. There’s no pressure to improve anything because everything seems to be moving along just fine.

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      We all need breaks from pressure once in a while, but if we are always comfortable, we can never grow. When we don’t have to worry about anything, there’s nothing to stimulate innovation.

      Problems motivate you to find solutions. Changes lead to adaptation. If you have an issue that you can’t solve right away, you’ll keep working on that problem in your mind – even if you don’t realize it. Problem solving like this causes us to put more energy and attention into dealing with the issue.

        The space between what we have and what we want is sometimes called creative tension. Having a gap between our reality and a desired outcome may be stressful, but prompts us to do our best work.[4]

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        The Fence Is Unnecessary

        You don’t really need that fence. The person who has no reason to make changes will continue on the same path indefinitely. Tension and new circumstances motivate creativity. Sometimes we need a little push to reach our full potential. Tighter deadlines, new tools, a different team, or an accident can spur you to tackle problems in new ways.

          Pixar, creators of some of the greatest animated films of our time, had to rethink their creative process. Instead of teaching people to avoid failure, they changed their culture to encourage people to fail quickly. Instead of creating crippling fear around making mistakes they worked to develop a sense of creative tension.

          This healthy amount of fear allows people to be okay with being wrong early in the process. They are willing to try new things. The creative tension that they experience makes their fear a friend to their creativity.

          Use Fear to Get You in Gear

          Living with too much fear every day is unhealthy. Your brain naturally tries to avoid being put under so much stress. Use creative tension to look at problems in new ways. You’ll see new perspectives and options you never noticed before.

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          Taking on a new role, working in a different place, and new people and tools can push you to try things outside of your normal routine. Your routine won’t inspire change by itself. Having to adjust to new situations can help you look at things in ways you never saw them before.

          This new way of thinking is the seed for creative growth. If you are becoming to relaxed or complacent, you may need to create change for yourself. To experience some creative tension:

          • Set a deadline. If you don’t have a due date for a project, create your own. This will keep you from procrastinating and force you to think about the problem.
          • Come up with a more ambitious target. When what you’re doing feels way too easy, challenge yourself. You’ll be less likely to get bored, and you’d be amazed at what you can come up with.
          • Change your routine. Doing the same thing every day or completing a task in the same way keeps you from reaching your creative potential. Doing something just because you’ve always done it that way isn’t a good enough rationale. Think about new ways to do what you do.

          Not every kind of work gives you the flexibility to make changes to your role. You may be expected to do things in a certain way. Even if you can’t alter your role, you can change how you think about it. No matter what your job expects of you, you are always free to challenge yourself to think about things from a new angle.

          You can think about how another person might think about the work that you are doing. If you were the CEO of the company, how would you feel about the work? If you are performing a service, what would you want as a customer. These new perspectives can make you think about what you do in new and exciting ways.

          Sheer terror isn’t going to make you a better worker, but creative tension can push you to do incredible things. People can’t innovate when they stagnate. Find ways to break out of your comfort zone and embrace the creativity that comes from a challenge.

          Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on July 10, 2019

          30 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work

          30 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work

          What do your 3pm fridge raid and perfectly alphabetised bookshelf have in common?

          You most likely did both of them when you should have been doing work.

          Procrastination is one of the most human behaviours. We’re all guilty of putting off what we know is important from time to time, and it seems the more pressing the task at hand, the better we are at avoiding it.

          Sure, it means that every time we have an important deadline we end up with a spotlessly clean house and a completely empty inbox, but the real work gets left until the very last minute and is finished in a frenzy of stress and caffeine.

          But we can gain control over procrastination by noticing it as soon as possible and stopping it in its tracks. On the contrary, you know you have a bad habit when you’re aware you’re putting something off, and you continue avoiding it anyway.

          To start you off with combating procrastination, here are a few quotes to get you in a motivated frame of mind, because if procrastination has any enemies, it’s motivation to work harder.

          A Few Home Truths

            “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
            ― Mark Twain


            “It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
            ― Leonardo da Vinci


            “Someday is not a day of the week.”
            ― Janet Dailey


            “Success is not obtained overnight. It comes in instalments; you get a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow until the whole package is given out. The day you procrastinate, you lose that day’s success.”
            ― Israelmore Ayivor


            “The man who waits to know everything is the man who never does anything.”
            ― Craig D. Lounsbrough


            “Procrastination is like going to a fancy restaurant and filling up on bread and not leaving enough room for dinner.”
            ― Richie Norton, The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live without Regret


            “Procrastination is the lazy cousin of fear. When we feel anxiety around an activity, we postpone it.”
            ― Noelle Hancock, My Year with Eleanor


            “Doing things at the last minute reminds us of the importance of doing things at the first minute.”
            ― Matshona Dhliwayo


            “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
            ― Abraham Lincoln


            “A day can really slip by when you’re deliberately avoiding what you’re supposed to do.”
            ― Bill Watterson, There’s Treasure Everywhere


            “By what right do I, who have wasted this day, make claims on tomorrow?”
            ― Alain-Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes


            “If you want to get ahead in life, I’ve found that perhaps the most useless word in the world is “tomorrow.”
            ― José N. Harris


            Some Practical Advice

              “If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”
              ― Hilary Mantel


              “Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It’s important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.”
              ― Robert Herjavec, The Will To Win: Leading, Competing, Succeeding


              “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”
              ― Pablo Picasso


              “It is only by working the rituals, that any significant degree of understanding can develop. If you wait until you are positive you understand all aspects of the ceremony before beginning to work, you will never begin to work.”
              ― Lon Milo DuQuette, The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of the Rituals of Thelema


              “Do first what you don’t want to do most.”
              ― Clifford Cohen


              “How often do you find yourself saying, “In a minute”, “I’ll get to it” or “Tomorrow’s good enough” and every other possible excuse in the book? Compare it with how often you decide it’s got to be done, so let’s get on and do it! That should tell you just how serious your procrastinating problem really is.”
              ― Stephen Richards, The Secret of Getting Started: Strategies to Triumph over Procrastination


              “How to stop procrastinating starts with believing you can overcome procrastination.”
              ― Robert Moment, How to Stop Procrastinating


              “Never put things off…you will wake up and find them gone.”
              ― James Jones


              Some Tough Love

                “Do something instead of killing time. Because time is killing you.”
                ― Paulo Coelho, Aleph


                “If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve done it.”
                ― George Bernard Shaw


                “If you want to get ahead in life, I’ve found that perhaps the most useless word in the world is “tomorrow.”
                ― José N. Harris


                “What is deferred is not avoided.”
                ― Thomas More


                “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work”
                ― Chuck Close


                “If you always do what is easy and choose the path of least resistance, you never step outside your comfort zone. Great things don’t come from comfort zones.”
                ― Roy Bennett


                “Your ideas have legs and just as they run through your head, they could be running through someone else’s head and it’s just a matter of who gets to the finish line first. Nothing is new under the sun so act on your ideas.”― Sanjo Jendayi


                “You may not be punished for your procrastination, but for sure you will be punished by your procrastination.”
                ― Debasish Mridha


                When You Need Pulling out of Procrastination

                  “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”
                  ― Denis Waitley


                  “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
                  ― Karen Lamb


                  Print these quotes out, stick them on the wall in front of your desk – do whatever it takes to remember why you shouldn’t be putting your work off, or getting distracted by a desire to rearrange your socks into colour order.

                  It won’t be easy, but being aware of how detrimental procrastination is to your longer-term goals is the first step towards overcoming it.

                  More Motivational Quotes

                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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