Currents of Change: Inspiring, Creating, Transforming

Currents of Change: Inspiring, Creating, Transforming

Monday, 18 November 2013

A special message from Chris Hadfield: Resilience- The ability to adapt to change

By Chris Hadfield, Astronaut, Former Commander of the International Space Station

There's an old adage that "if you want things to stay the same, things are going to have to change". While the humour in this is wry, the core idea is very sound. Nothing stays the same. Change is normal, to be expected, and thus, most importantly, to be planned for. 
Each of us plans for change to a different degree. In the big picture some of us buy insurance, contribute towards a pension, we even get extra education. These don't really help in the short-term, but are, rather, investments in future ability to adapt to expected changes. 
How do you get ready for unexpected change, though? Knowing that things change is only a part of the solution. The necessity to plan for unforeseen changes is key in being able to adapt. 
In astronaut parlance, we call this “visualizing disaster”. We don’t visualize success, as that is often akin to doing nothing and hoping it all turns out OK. In my book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, I put it this way:
It’s puzzling to me that so many self-help gurus urge people to visu­alize victory, and stop there. Some even insist that if you wish for good things long enough and hard enough, you’ll get them—and, conversely, that if you focus on the negative, you actually invite bad things to happen.

Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive. Likewise, coming up with a plan of action isn’t a waste of time if it gives you peace of mind. While it’s true that you may wind up being ready for some­thing that never happens, if the stakes are at all high, it’s worth it.

You don’t have to walk around perpetually braced for disaster, convinced the sky is about to fall. But it sure is a good idea to have some kind of plan for dealing with unpleasant possibilities. For me, that’s become a reflexive form of mental discipline not just at work but throughout my life. When I get into a really crowded elevator, for instance, I think, “Okay, what are we going to do if we get stuck?” And I start working through what my own role could be, how I could help solve the problem. On a plane, same thing. As I’m buckling my seat belt, I automatically think about what I’ll do if there’s a crisis.

But I’m not a nervous or pessimistic person. Really. If any­thing, I’m annoyingly upbeat. I tend to expect things will turn out well and they usually do. My optimism and confidence come not from feeling I’m luckier than other mortals, and they sure don’t come from visualizing victory. They’re the result of a lifetime spent visualizing defeat and figuring out how to avoid it.
So think about it. How are you planning for change? Have you taken the time to truly visualize the details of what may happen? And more importantly, have you then thought through the details of your actions if/when it happens?
It doesn’t take long to consider and think about it, but the readiness that it gives, the confidence it engenders, will not only make you more likely to handle change well – you’ll be more optimistic in looking forward to change.

Chris Hadfield is the pioneer of many “firsts” in Canadian space history. In 1992, he was among the first chosen as Canada’s second class of astronauts. Three years later, he became the first Canadian to use the Canadarm and the first Canadian to board a Russian spacecraft during his mission to the Russian space station. In 2001, he performed two spacewalks as a mission specialist on STS-100—the first Canadian to do so, and in 2010 the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced Hadfield’s third mission: commanding the International Space Station (ISS)—again a first for a Canadian.
Hadfield launched into space on December 19, 2012 and took command of the ISS on March 13, 2013. His multiple daily Tweets and photographs from space made people see the world differently.
A heavily decorated astronaut, engineer, and test pilot, Hadfield’s many awards include being named a Member of the Order of Ontario (1996); receiving an honourary Doctorate of Laws from Trent University (1999); the Vanier Award (2001); the NASA Exceptional Service Medal (2002); and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2003).
Hadfield is the Friday Lunch keynote speaker at the 2013 A.D. Latornell Symposium.

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