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10 Inspiring Life Lessons from Astronaut Chris Hadfield

10 Inspiring Life Lessons from Astronaut Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield is an amazing human being. He commanded the International Space Station. He used YouTube to teach us about life in orbit. He used Twitter to give us a new perspective on our planet. He did that viral cover of Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Then he came home. He wrote a book called An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. I read that book. It was awesome. Here are some things I learned from it.

1. Have an attitude

In NASA terminology, your attitude is your orientation relative to two positions, for example your spaceship relative to the Earth and a satellite. Losing your attitude is bad, because you could end up drifting, lost and alone in outer space.

Chris Hadfield also thinks of life trajectory like attitude control – you need to stay on the right path to achieve your goals. It’s always not in your control whether you get there or not, but you can do everything in your power to make it happen. In life, losing your attitude – drifting from your path – is way worse than not reaching your destination.

2. Aim for zero

In any given situation, according to Hadfield, you’re either a ‘plus-one’, a ‘zero’ or a ‘minus-one’. If you’re a plus-one, you’re actively adding value. If you’re a zero, you’re generally competent and don’t get in the way. Being a minus-one sucks, because you’re a liability and actively cause problems.

However, if you’re a plus-one and you walk into a situation trying to prove how great you are, you can go from a plus one to a minus one – your ‘I got this’ mentality might easily irritate and prove detrimental to the dynamic.

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So the best thing to do in a new situation? Aim for zero. Listen. Observe. Offer advice. Don’t try to take control of everything. If you know what you’re doing, you won’t need to tell people you’re a plus one. They’ll know it.

3. Utilise the power of negative thinking

‘Negative thinking’ sounds pessimistic. Defeatist. But when you think about it, planning for the worst can actually be energising and confidence-boosting. How? Well, if you always prepare a contingency for every scenario you’ll never be caught off-guard.

Chris Hadfield’s approach is to ask: “What’s the next thing that could kill me?” It sounds exhausting and masochistic. But actually, it isn’t. By thinking about what could go wrong in any specific situation, you preempt problems with your own solutions.

And that means you can actually relax and enjoy life, knowing you’re ready to act if things go wrong.

Chris Hadfield being interviewed

    4. Sweat the small stuff

    “An astronaut who doesn’t sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut,” says Hadfield. The lesson: averting disaster isn’t about making one-off life-or-death decisions – it’s about learning and understanding all the little things that develop into a bigger issue. An example of astronaut small stuff is knowing the ‘boldface’ – the tried-and-tested instructions that make up NASA’s Flight Rules manual.

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    Not sweating the small stuff runs counter to conventional wisdom, yet there’s truth in it. Yes, an astronaut’s work environment is radically more hostile and dangerous than most people’s. But the point is that paying attention to the granular details – like physical health symptoms or signs of car trouble – makes you incrementally safer.

    5. Do care what others think

    It’s hard to accept we’re not in control of our own destiny. But the fact is other people have more influence over the course of our careers and lives than we do. Chris Hadfield has been to space three times – in 1995 and 2001 on the Space Shuttle and 2013 on the ISS. Yet no matter how hard he worked, it was always someone else’s decision to put him on a mission.

    Which means it makes sense to care what people think about you and your performance. So get feedback. Learn from it. Improve. If the only opinion you’re worried about is your own, you’re probably going to limit your progress.

    6. When the stakes are high, preparation is everything

    We can’t always control what happens to us in life when big moments come around. But we can control how prepared we are. It might seem obvious to prepare if you’re planning to pilot a Soyuz rocket to the ISS, but many of us fail to prepare for normal stuff in life – even if we know there are big moments are coming up.

    So whether it’s a big exam, a job interview or sports final, when the high-stakes situations arise planning for success is key. In most scenarios, Hadfield argues that you’ve passed or failed before you even begin, depending on your level of preparation.

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    Chris Hadfield speaking about his experience

      7. Good leadership means leading the way, not bullying other people to do things your way

      Some people are very successful at intimidating people into going along with their plans. It’s the brute force approach to getting things done. But leading through coercion and bullying others means you’re building your leadership credentials on very weak foundations.

      Chris Hadfield reckons the better way to lead is by proving the best course of action. Setting an example. It’s the consensus-building approach. By showing people the right path, you’re creating a stronger platform for teamwork and leadership. People will follow you because they want to, not because they have to.

      8. Put groupthink at the core of your teamwork

      For Hadfield, the key question to ask when you’re part of a team is: “How can I help get us to where we need to go?” It’s beautifully simple: put the team before yourself, and you’re more likely to win.

      Hadfield argues that you really don’t need to be a superhero to be a valuable member of a team – empathy and a sense of humour are often more important. He also suggests that searching for ways to lighten the mood is never a waste of time, because it encourages expeditionary spirit – everyone pulling together in extraordinary circumstances to collectively accomplish a shared goal.

      Conversely, while sharing common gripes can create a bond between team mates, excessive whining is corrosive and the antithesis of expeditionary behaviour.

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      Chris Hadfield (left) post-landing

        Credit: NASA

        9. Criticise the problem, never the person

        Chris Hadfield believes that if you need to make a strong criticism, it’s better to pinpoint the problem rather than attack the person. Yes, it can be frustrating when you suffer for someone’s mistake, but ridiculing or berating a colleague is counter-productive. ‘Work the problem’ is a core mantra of NASA culture. It’s not about ego.

        In fact, Hadfield advocates going out of your way to help colleagues improve in all areas. This seems strange coming from the hyper-competitive world of NASA, but Hadfield argues that promoting colleagues’ interests helps you stay competitive. Plus you have a vested interest in your colleagues’ success – the better they are, the more they can help you succeed.

        10. Be ready. Work. Hard. Enjoy it!

        Ultimately, Chris Hadfield’s life lessons boil down to being the best that you can be through hard work and preparation. This approach has taken him from being a fighter pilot and test pilot right through to a 20-year astronaut career. It’s not a ground-breaking philosophy, admittedly, but then how often do we truly earn the things we want by working for them? How often do we just wish or hope they’d happen?

        Featured photo credit: NASA via flickr.com

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        Last Updated on July 2, 2020

        Simple Hacks on How to Relieve Neck Pain Fast (and Naturally)

        Simple Hacks on How to Relieve Neck Pain Fast (and Naturally)

        There is very little in life as annoying or distracting as neck pain. Most people find that neck pain is temporary. What can you do if your neck pain seems chronic or if it comes and goes with no obvious source?

        Whether you have simply slept on your neck wrong or you are working late, hunched over a keyboard half the night, neck pain is, well, a pain in the neck!

        What most people are unaware of is that there are little known hacks that can help you find relief from neck pain fast and naturally. This means no pills or expensive exercise equipment to buy.

        How can you get relief from neck pain?

        There are several easy steps to follow to find the perfect hack for solving your neck pain fast and easy.

        How Did I End Up With This Pain in the Neck?

        Neck pain often has an I-was-looking-right-at-it source that we don’t recognize at first glance. Once you identify the source of the pain, you can take the best corrective measure, or several measures if need be!

        Ask yourself these questions to find a possible source:

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        • Do you spend much of the day sitting (desk job, typing, etc.)?
        • How old are your mattress and pillow?
        • How much exercise do you work into an average day?
        • How do you manage stress?
        • Have you been injured or in an accident (no matter how small) lately?

        Perhaps one last question to ask yourself might be, “Is my pain a regular occurrence, or is my neck pain something that has just cropped up?

        Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start searching for answers.

        Remedies for Neck Pain

        Once you know the source, try tapping into one (or several) of these solutions to start healing your neck pain now.

        1. Everyday Activities

        One of the important factors with neck pain will be your everyday activities. Other than an injury or accident, one of the largest factors for neck pain includes working overtime in an office and the stress that work entails[1].

        Due to the coronavirus, many people find themselves working from home, in kitchens, basements, using a barstool, and/or other equipment that was not designed for humans to spend hours on end, typing and looking at a computer screen.

        If you find that your neck pain has occurred during the past few months due to a job change, or if you suddenly began working from home, your issue may be due to ergonomics. Invest in an adjustable office chair to help make your workspace more neck-friendly.

        2. Age of Mattress and Pillow

        The age of your mattress and pillow should also be considered. Pillows, on average, should be changed every 3 years, and a mattress every 7-10 years. No matter how good or comfortable you think these items are, the truth is that they are hurting your neck and back with a lack of support.

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        A good mattress is well worth the investment, and pillows are always on sale, as well as wallet-friendly. If you haven’t tried them, a water-filled pillow can be comfortable for many people.

        3. Exercise/Movement/Stretching

        It’s that old exercise question that no one wants to hear. This time around, it has been difficult for many people to get in good exercise since they have been housebound due to the quarantine. There are plenty of ways to get in some good, old-fashioned exercise.

        Stretching exercises are even more important than before since many people do not get enough movement while sitting at home. There are hundreds of at-home exercise, dance, and yoga videos that require little to no equipment, so even if you’re a beginner, give it a go.

        4. Stress and Stress Management

        Stress is a hidden danger that robs more people of health than even most doctors realize. While everyone has stress, not everyone recognizes it, nor do they have a means of managing it. Exercise is one of the best ways to release stress, with meditation and yoga being the best ways to manage and relieve stress. All of these will remove tightness in the muscles and relieve neck pain.

        5. Accident or Injury

        If you have been involved in an accident or injured yourself lately (falling down, or having something fall on you, for example) and your neck pain began after this incident, you should speak with your doctor about this as soon as possible.

        6. On-Going Problem or Sudden Occurrence

        Finally, if your neck pain is something that has occurred recently, it could simply be that you slept on it wrong or turned your neck too hard. That will make this a very temporary condition. You can try some easy stretches for pain relief .

        An on-going problem, however, might respond better to some other alternative methods, including:

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        • Slowly moving and stretching your neck. Do not move too quickly or too far. Roll your head from side to side, shoulder to shoulder, to the front and to the back.
        • Ice packs work well for some people, while heat works best for others.
        • Be aware of how you use your cell phone or tablet. If you keep your neck bent downward for too long to look at it, you can develop an annoying pain called text-neck or tech-neck. Take breaks and look up to stretch those neck muscles.
        • Long hours driving can also be hard on the neck. Look from side to side as far as you can, as well as up and down to prevent a stiff neck.

         

        Still Have Tight Neck Muscles? 3 Tips for Finding Relief

        When tight neck muscles are not responding to the typical heat, ice, or massage treatments, you might want to give the following a try:

        1. Gua Sha

        This is an ancient Chinese practice that might seem a bit odd, but it works for many people. In this practice, a trained individual uses a spoon or other object and makes short strokes down the neck. It is believed that poor blood circulation causes it to become stagnant, if you will, and blocks the positive energy needed for life, called qi.

        Fresh blood will indeed allow oxygen and nutrients to feed the tissues in a given area, and one study found that gua sha worked where traditional methods, such as heat therapy, did not[2].

        2. Swimming

        You probably know that swimming is a terrific low-impact exercise that works wonders for those with back and knee pain, but did you know that it also works well for neck pain and tight muscles? It helps if the water is tepid and not cold, but even just floating on your back can offer tremendous relief since most of the body weight is suspended by the buoyancy of water.

        3. Chiropractic Massage

        Not your typical day spa massage, chiropractic massage is performed under the guidance of a chiropractor. A trained massage therapist will still do the massage, but this time, the chiropractor will have discussed your neck pain and any problems you might be having with them. Many people have found real relief from neck pain through chiropractic massage.

        The Best Treatment for Neck Pain

        When you need to find relief from neck pain and nothing you have tried previously seems to give you more than a few minutes of relief, spending some time with a chiropractor often times can fix this issue, and it doesn’t often return if you follow a healthy lifestyle.

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        I’m certain that many of you are thinking about those awful videos with those loud cracking noises you’ve seen on social media, or you are recalling a news story which might have suggested that allowing a chiropractor anywhere near your neck might be a health hazard[3]. Nothing could be further from the truth.

        You should try the other suggestions in this article before you head off to the chiropractor, but when all else fails, don’t let neck pain nag you day in and day out. Take steps to make an appointment, and you will be surprised at the results.

        What Can a Chiropractor Do for Neck Pain?

        Many people mistakenly believe that the only technique a chiropractor will use is a neck adjustment. Chiropractors are trained in a variety of methods that are designed to help you find the pain relief you are seeking.

        A few of the methods a chiropractor might use include:

        • Cervical Manual Traction
        • Flexion-Distraction
        • Cervical Mobilization
        • Ultrasound
        • Cervical Drop Technique
        • Trigger Point Therapy

        There are many more options, but your chiropractor should explain to you which techniques s/he intends to use and why[4]

        The Bottom Line

        If neck pain wreaks havoc in your life regularly, the best way to stop it is to identify the source and attack it from that angle.

        Getting plenty of exercises, having a proper posture, and buying an office chair that provides plenty of support, as well as a regular stretching program, will keep your neck strong and flexible for many years to come.

        More Tips on Healing Neck Pain

        Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

        Reference

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