What we can learn from astronauts when they go blind in space

How do you deal with fear?  What is the difference between fear and danger? Does danger cause fear? Or does fear cause danger?

For leaders, that is, a person leading themselves and/or leading others there will be times when there is a great deal of fear – fear of change, fear of letting something go, fear of looking bad – or too good. Fear. It is a primal response and usually an unconscious or learned response, or both.

When I work with leaders coaching them through periods and situations of change we usually spend some time on understanding what puts them into a ‘stressed’ state, or rather that state that has your brain shut down for thinking and just get ready to “flee, fight, or freeze”. It is only when you start to become aware of your “fff” state that you can learn a different more useful response. A response that allows you to access your executive function in your brain (your pre frontal cortex)  to think things through and take appropriate and useful action.

In the video below, Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield tells an inspiring story about what he did when he went blind in space.  His story not only reminds us that having a dream, (in his case, to be an astronaut), allows us to access incredible drive and energy to achieve our dreams, but he also asks the question about danger vs. fear.  Being an astronaut by far, is dangerous. The odds of catastrophe in space are still very, very high.  The dangers are very real. However,  being possessed by the fear of that danger would in fact, create even higher dangers. Instead they train for things that can go wrong. They train and train and train for problems to occur  until such time as they have reprogrammed, or re wired, their responses to that danger so that they are not gripped by fear. Rather, they instantly reappraise the situation and know what to do.

By pushing through our natural fear response by understanding what the dangers are and then preparing for the situation, you can find yourself on the other side of that challenge experiencing amazing and wonderful things. Listen to what Chris says about this.

So we don’t all want to be astronauts but we can learn from them.  In your daily lives, how often do the ‘dangers’ create that primal fear response to such an extent that you don’t do anything?

What to do:

  • Get clarity about what you are perceiving as a danger – what exactly is it? what are the odds? what does it look like? and so on.
  • Step into and imagine that danger to understand how to deal with it
  • Decide all the different strategies you can employ should the danger eventuate.
  • Practice it.

What you might notice is that as you get really clear about what the danger is, you might see that in fact, there is no danger or that what you are afraid of is not ‘real’

You can learn more about the brains stress responses  here and take the free assessment to understand what your key triggers are.

BUT, before you do, give yourself 18 minutes to view this video. It could change your view on spiders forever!

Gai Foskett is one of two Master Certified Coaches in New Zealand. Gai specialises in executive leadership coaching.
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2 Responses to "What we can learn from astronauts when they go blind in space"

  1. Gina

    Hi Gai, I loved this video – such a stark reminder of how great the brain is at being trained! Also a great reminder for one to exercise the ‘anti-fear’ muscle – to overcome fear. As he suggests, the solution for being scared of spiders’ webs is to find as many of them as you can and keep walking into them – on purpose. I’m putting this metaphor into practice!

    • Gai Foskett

      I agree Gina. Also a powerful and inspiring reminder I think that when we reappraise ‘danger’ and dissolve or step into the fear we can pop out in an amazing new reality.

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