Chris Hadfield on Fear

Chris Hadfield knows a thing or two about fear. While just about every Canadian knows who he is, Chris is an astronaut who recently commanded the International Space Station. Now retired, it’s his new mission to inspire the next generation of astronauts as he was inspired as a kid.

As with many astronauts, Chris was first a military test pilot. As you can imagine, Chris had to learn to navigate and systematically conquer his own fears.

Now, not to blow my own horn, but it’s pretty cool when someone as famous as Chris agrees with me, even if he doesn’t know it. Chris distinguishes between real and imagined fear, which I refer to as real and manufactured fears.

For Chris, an imagined fear is your caveman gut reaction to seeing something scary, like a big hairy spider. Logically however, the chances of the spider being poisonous is very remote.  So to get over your fear of spiders, he suggests walking through as many spider webs as you can, until you no longer feel any fear. This is the basis of exposure therapy, whereby you experience the same fear over and over, each time reducing your stress reaction until it’s gone.

To achieve your goals and dreams, you might not be placed in mortal danger like Chris was, but you do need to step outside of your cozy comfort zone. It’s a given that you are going to feel afraid. It’s a natural, common reaction.

Will you let the fear stop you? Or will you desensitize yourself to the fear? Expose yourself to the scary bits as often as possible, or practice every scenario in advance, until what was scary is now commonplace.

In order to get over my fear of heights, I would go scrambling and climbing. At first, even a slight drop off would have me paralyzed in fear. Each time I went out, I got a little more brave, and a little less scared. Now I laugh at what used to freak me out, and I’m able to do bigger and bigger trips.

Desensitize, and seize the day!

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