Attitude is Everything!

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The undefeated Canadian Women's Curling team! Masters of their mental state.
The undefeated Canadian Women’s Curling team! Masters of their mental state.
With the glow of the Sochi Olympics fading, we recall the highlights, the winners, the exultant moments! There are too many to list, but I’m sure you have a few of your favourites in mind. I watched my share of it, which is saying a lot, since I don’t usually watch TV.

You know what struck me the most, as it does every time I watch the Olympics? The incredible composure some of those athletes have. Sure, they are in their prime physically, but I daresay, they are also masters of their mental state as well.

Speaking of masters of their mental state — and inspiring overachievers — I’m reading Col. Chris Hadfield’s book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. I haven’t finished it yet, so don’t tell me how it ends, okay? Here’s an interesting part about attitude.

In spaceflight, “attitude” refers to orientation: which direction your vehicle is pointing relative to the Sun, Earth and other spacecraft. If you lose control of your attitude, two things happen: the vehicle starts to tumble and spin, disorienting everyone on board, and it also strays from its course, which, if you’re short on time or fuel, could mean the difference between life and death…
In my experience, something similar is true on earth. Ultimately, I don’t determine whether I arrive at the desired professional destination. Too many variables are out of my control. There’s really just one thing I can control: my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me headed in the right direction. So I consciously monitor and correct, if necessary, because losing attitude would be far worse than not achieving my goal. – Col. Chris Hadfield

So, it follows that if I keep a watch on my attitude, I will not tumble out of control, feel disoriented, or stray from my course. I will be on track, feel like I am making progress, and have more overall contentment and lightheartedness. As Chris says, it is more important to maintain attitude than achieve a goal.

A lot of goal-setting, performance-oriented, time-management, efficiency-optimization shtick came out of the late 80’s and 1990’s. This was the heyday of books like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. I’m not saying those aren’t good books, but I feel like the collective personal development mindset focused on achieving goals and nothing was said about attitude. And yet your attitude is the key! You can be happy even when you haven’t met all your goals, and you can look at life as an adventure rather than an obstacle course to conquer.

So let’s start a new wave where attitude is everything! I often lay in bed for a few minutes before getting up, just to check my attitude. I would rather go about my day cheerful and grateful, wouldn’t you? The world needs less grumpy people! As Chris Hadfield says, “losing attitude is far worse than not achieving my goal.” Would the world stop spinning if we all just tossed our goals out a window — or put them on the back burner — and started enjoying life? I think not. 🙂

less grumpy people

Hadfield-An Astronaut's Guide

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The Inner Sky

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I’ve been a little reluctant to write the sequel to my last post. Why? Because then I have to admit that the “endpoints” come from an astrology book. That’s right, astrology, not astronomy! I used to be pretty hard on astrologers, and since I worked as an astronomer, I figured I had every right to be. I mean, how did they get off saying that the stars or planets could affect anything on Earth? I’m a scientist, and there’s nothing scientific about astrology. But since my honey is interested in astrology (so I was pretty hard on him, too), I decided that I shouldn’t judge it completely until I had learned more about it. Darren gave me the same book that he first read about astrology, The Inner Sky: How to Make Wiser Choices for a More Fulfilling Life, by Steven Forrest, so I started reading it. His main point at the beginning of the book is that astrology is not about predicting the future. It is about learning about ourselves. “Astrological forces provide us not with answers, but with questions. The answers we give are our own. Those astrologers who for centuries have been trying to determine our behaviour from our birthcharts have been barking up the wrong tree. Astrology provides the terrain. How we navigate it is our business.”


So this makes me feel a little better about it! But every now and then I still think “how can the stars affect who I am?!” Then I remember something Darren said – it’s not about the stars, it’s really about the season that you are born in. This I can understand a little better; for example, someone born in summer, a year later learns to walk outside, on the grass, in the sun. That’s a developmental milestone, and another person born in winter might turn out to be a little different than the summer child. I still don’t get how the planets affect things, but maybe as I read more, that will make sense. I am only about halfway through the book.

Pop culture astrology, which is ridiculously over-simplified and is focused on future-predicting and superficially trying to control people’s lives, has strayed far from its potential. Those astrologers have let their ego get in the way, thinking they know it all, and dictating to people what will happen or what they should do. Because of this misconception, I don’t even want to admit that I’m interested in astrology; it’s a shameful thing, or at least it is for me, a scientist. Astrology could be thought of more as an exploration of personality types, which is how I’ve been thinking of it. I still don’t quite believe in all of it, and won’t be adopting it as a religion (as some people do), but I am enjoying learning about personalities, and the goals, struggles and tendencies that each one has.

I’m also reading Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, which is the application of the Myers-Briggs personality typing to employment. It’s interesting, too, and I am starting to see different personality types in those around me. It helps me understand people better – perhaps why they do things they do. You can do a quick personality type inventory here.

But, back to the “endpoints.” If you are curious to know what astrology signs correspond to the endpoints from the previous post, send me a comment and I’ll get back to you (I won’t post your email address for all to see)! If you aren’t interested in astrology at all, I hope you’ll at least realize that we’re all made up differently, and applying your feelings/goals/way of doing things to another person isn’t a healthy strategy. We all have our own lives to live; let’s live them to the fullest!


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What is your goal in life? Have you spent much time thinking about it, or does the question catch you off guard? Maybe you don’t even think there’s much point in goals, and just living day-to-day is enough. And that’s a good idea too — I think it’s best to have balance between looking toward a goal (personal, physical, whatever) but also not forgetting to live in the moment.

I’m reading a book about personalities, and it also gets a little philosophical at times. Very interesting stuff… so I thought I would publish what the author calls “endpoints.” They are the goal, or the main wisdom, or even the main struggle, that a certain type has. I’m going to introduce them to you as goals without telling you what personality type they go with… See which ones call out to you and sound like they apply to you!

– To harmonize your internal world with the external one. To live a life of integrity, only doing what you know to be right. Learning not to seek the applause of others, but instead to trust yourself, and find approval within yourself.

– To learn to find serenity and simplicity, and keep it.

– To recognize your seeds of discontent, the intense desire to grow toward perfection, fulfillment… even purity. To give selflessly, but also to learn humility.

– To reach an inner calm that is never upset. To know a peace so profound that nothing in your physical situation (flat tire, loss of job, etc) can upset you. To know inner harmony.candle_holder

– To experience the freedom of true individuality. To defy the norm, the crowd, the social pressures. To be happy to be an exile, at times, because you have stuck up for the truth and spoken your mind.

– To perceive, observe, and understand the world. To unravel the clues to the meaning behind things you experience/witness. To be like a journalist, seeing all.

– To reach inward, to feel every nuance of life and deeper things. To love, trust and accept all that the world offers, even if it is unpleasant or undesirable.

– To live every minute as if it were your last. To strip away pretense, game-playing, and live in truth only. To live intensely in the moment.

– To change the way you see the world, to embrace more mystical ways, to think of consciousness and all the mystery that life is. To realize that no matter what, consciousness is everywhere.

– To live free of limitations, and to go for every challenge, despite roadblocks. To have the courage to say “I am going to pursue what I want/need in my life.”

– To create, to express yourself. To leave nothing hidden in your vast imagination. To learn to truly be yourself, to show exactly who you are to the outside world.

– To get out of your comfort zone, to explore. To learn new things and explore the world intellectually. To grow your intuition, and become more philosophical. Ultimately, to continue on the quest for the meaning to life.

Pause and think about each one as you read them again. Which one calls out to you? Some will certainly appeal more to you than others, and there might even be one that shouts out louder than all the rest! Tune in next week (or whenever I blog next) for more insight into these!