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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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          Published on July 14, 2020

          11 Reasons Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals

          11 Reasons Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals

          Thinking up a goal is the easy part. Pinpointing the specifics of a goal, developing a plan of action, and then following through with that plan of action and pushing past the inevitable obstacles that will arise is a different story altogether. As you can see, there are many reasons why we fail to achieve our goals.

          Former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt is famous for having said:

          “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”

          It would be easy to blame people’s avoidance of pain and difficulty for the fact that a great majority of goals fail to be met, but there has to be more to it than that, right? Well, there most certainly is.

          Here are the reasons why we fail to achieve our goals and a few helpful tips to help you reach the goals on your own list.

          1. Shifting Focus From Reward to Effort

          Thinking about the end result and achieving the victory of reaching a goal is exciting: “Man, I can’t wait until I get that new job title” or “I’m going to look so good at the beach this summer” can be great motivators. It’s easy to start out full of energy and motivation at the beginning because our focus is on the end result.

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          However, there’s a disconnect with our brain’s focus before we start our goals and after we actually begin. Before we start putting the work in, we’re focused on the reward. Then, slowly but surely, we begin to focus more on the effort (i.e. hard work) it takes to get that reward. The key is to redirect our focus back to the reward as often as it takes to push through.

          2. Goals Are Undefined or Unrealistic

          Perhaps you want to write a bestselling novel or become the next viral YouTube star. Well, that’s great, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but how do you plan to make any of this happen? Without a clear definition of your goals, they’re just wishy-washy fantasies.

          If you’ve never read a book or written anything longer than a tweet, writing a bestselling novel is unrealistic. Likewise, simply saying you want to be a viral YouTube star is too vague without putting some specifications in place.

          Give some definition to those goals by setting smaller goals along the way, like “join a writers group” or “make one new video a week.” This will help give you some focus while you work towards those loftier goals.

          3. There Are Too Many Things on Your Plate

          Having multiple goals at the same time is not a bad thing. However, having so many goals that nothing ever takes a priority will yield poor results all around. If you feel like you’re never fully accomplishing one task or can’t seem to recognize which things are a top priority, there’s a good chance you have set too many goals at once.

          A lot of us like to think we’re masters of multitasking, but science says otherwise. Be careful not to overload yourself, learn to prioritize, and you’ll reach your goals faster.

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          4. Poor Planning Derails All Efforts

          Just about every goal is going to require at least some planning, and others are, of course, going to need extensive planning. If you neglect to work out the steps for how to actually get from point A to point B, well, you very likely will never make it to point B.

          Maybe you want to increase your business’s customer base by 30 percent in the next year. Will you need to hire more staff to make this happen? What new strategies can be put in place? Do old marketing efforts need to be reworked or discarded? Asking/answering these sorts of questions in the beginning and along the way is crucial.

          5. Losing Sight of the “Why” Factor

          Let’s say that you must uproot your family and move to a new town for a job. If you have teenagers, they’re almost certainly going to put up some fuss. When the inevitable “why?” comes up, it might be easy to say they have to move because mom or dad has a new job and leave it at that. That’s the reason, but it’s not the why.

          Perhaps the move means a higher income for a more comfortable lifestyle or the security of living in a safer environment. It’s easy to lose focus of the why factor when it comes to working towards a goal, and this can hinder progress. Make sure you periodically reexamine why you have that goal in the first place.

          6. Excuses, Excuses, and More Excuses

          Everybody makes excuses from time to time. Rattling off excuses on why a goal isn’t worth pursuing or didn’t work out is often easier than pushing forward. While some excuses may very well be valid, others are just total cop-outs.

          Excuses are a convenience when it comes to abandoning a goal, but they’re also paralyzing. If not kept in check, excuses can derail every goal you attempt. If you feel yourself in danger of hitting the brakes on a goal, take a good look and ask yourself if the reason is valid or just a flimsy excuse.

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          7. Fear of Failure

          Not reaching a goal because of the fear of failure is crippling and an insecurity that can seriously hold you back in life. Nobody wants to fail, and a fear of failure often stems from a need for perfectionism.

          The avoidance of taking risks, however, is no way to go through life. The good thing is that by looking at why you may have a fear of failing, you can learn to overcome it and avoid letting it sabotage your goals.

          8. Failing to Anticipate Obstacles

          Guess what? That fantastic, shiny goal of yours with the too-good-to-fail plan is almost certainly not going to go perfectly to plan. Problems arise, and obstacles get in the way—that’s just how the universe works. If you fail to plan for some of these problems ahead of time, they may just prevent you from reaching your goal altogether.

          Try building in strategies and incentives for when you may feel yourself losing focus or run into problems. Having a rock-solid plan A is always a good thing, but a pretty good plan B isn’t a bad idea either.

          9. There Is No Set Deadline

          Whether it’s trying to learn a new skill or becoming a tycoon of industry, set a deadline for yourself, and write it down! You’re 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down[1], and if you don’t put a deadline on them, they’re not going to happen.

          So why is a deadline so important for accomplishing a goal? It holds you accountable for your time. Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds. Okay, when? If you set a deadline of June 1st, you’ll either meet it or you won’t, and a deadline puts the pressure on you to get up and get to work!

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          10. Allowing Naysayers to Doubt the Goal

          The bigger the goal, the more people you may have doubting that you can accomplish it. It’s easy to listen to the naysayers and allow their doubt to sidetrack and even derail your goals, and this can be why we fail to achieve our goals. There are always going to be critics and haters, and a lot of that negativity is rooted in jealousy.

          Don’t allow their doubt to get the best of you, and, instead, use it as fuel for the fire to buckle down on your focus and forge ahead.

          11. Procrastination Delays Goals

          Abraham Lincoln reportedly once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Out of all the reasons why we fail to achieve our goals, none are as deadly as procrastination.

          It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll start tomorrow or reach an obstacle in your plan and decide to handle it later. Too many times though, later never comes, and motivation dies out.

          According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the best ways to beat procrastination is to publicly commit[2]. Most people want to avoid looking lazy or like a failure, and telling others we’re going to do something reinforces our brain’s focus on the reward.

          The Bottom Line

          Accomplishing goals is seldom easy and can often take a long time and a lot of mental and physical sweat. Now that you know some of the reasons why people don’t reach their goals, you can improve your chances of crossing the finish line to victory.

          More Tips on Completing Goals

          Featured photo credit: Mael BALLAND via unsplash.com

          Reference

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