On the cover of astronaut Chris Hadfield’s book, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” he states that much of his training has been in the negative- looking for everything that could ever go wrong. For those of us who have flown airplanes, we can relate to this.
Unbeknownst to our passengers, us pilots play disaster games in our heads whenever we fly, namely: where am I, and what if my engine quit now? The first one deals with coordinates and local landmarks, so that if you had to call in a mayday you always knew where you were, to inform the open airwaves or the search and rescue of your exact location. The second was to always be on the lookout for safe places to land if that was needed at the last minute. Preferably a place where you could take off again, or next best where the plane was intact, then next best where the plane might get wrecked but everyone would be ok, down the list to picking small trees to take the wings off to slow down your impact. All of this is horror to passengers, who need not practice those mental rehearsals. You are far, far more likely to get in a car crash than an air one.
How Does This Work on the Ground?
You might wonder if focusing on the negative in day-to-day life might permeate your existence with negativity to the point to stifling positive living. We might get paranoid or depressed worrying about all the bad things that could happen. For each individual person there would have to be a spectrum of possibilities relevant to their lifestyle, and then each person would have to apply artistry in focusing on what part of their lives has the most potential to crash and what the preventative or corrective measures would be. So, some aspects of life we’d let run freely without much consideration and other parts we’d practice multiple gradations of bailouts.
Levels in our Brains for Preparation of Problems
These exercises originate deep in our brains at the level of survival, which is our built-in evolutionary mechanism to ensure perpetuation of the species. Healthy fear is a good thing. We take it up a notch to maintain healthy bodies and minds that are consistently in control of our lives and free of pain or death. And there is a notch higher than that, probably as an offshoot of our higher consciousness, where we seek excellence and new experiences that make our lives richer.
Different Levels of Negativity
There are people who don’t look before crossing the street and who text while driving- they are going to die, from not considering that their actions can kill them. There are people who learn what the latest threat is to their children (it’s always changing) and adjust their lives to negate that risk- they and their children will survive. Then there’s those who perform all sorts of complex tasks that require discipline and precision (like going into space)- they live a life of experiences that few of us can imagine and are at less risk than the texters.
So perhaps if we desire excellence in our lives, whatever level we live at, we would do well to embrace some negativity in order to ensure positive outcomes.