I wanted to be an astronaut when I was growing up. Enough that I went to an engineering-focused college my freshman year, declared myself a physics and electrical engineering major, and signed up for a special tour of NASA in Houston. I even had a whole folder of articles on the space program that I’d cut out of the paper. My college essay was about going to space.
But I’m not an astronaut.
Because I didn’t have the mindset to get there. When I heard that you had to have perfect vision to be an astronaut, I gave up. And I soon switched to majoring in psychology.
Compare that to a man who actually became an astronaut, Chris Hadfield. I watched his masterclass last week and in the last video he was talking about how he became an astronaut.
He decided he wanted to be one when he lived in a country that didn’t even have a space program at the time. And then he spent over a decade-plus working towards that goal, becoming a test pilot, getting a masters, etc. all while that goal was not even something anyone else would have thought was possible. Because of that, when his country finally put an ad in the paper for astronauts he was there and ready to act.
He believed that impossible things happen. And because he did, he succeeded where I failed. He had the mindset to succeed.
I’ve always considered myself a fairly successful person, but I realize looking at what he did that I’ve often chosen the easier path instead of persevering when I faced a setback. (My moving to New Zealand is a perfect example. I do not live there today because I let their rejection of my residency application stop me when there were other options. Just not the convenient options I wanted, so I gave up.)
Fact is, most of us don’t have the vision and resilience to work towards a goal like becoming an astronaut in a country that doesn’t have a space program. Or becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Or a professional athlete. Or anything else that takes years of hard work, focus, and effort.
But I think a lot of us could at least reassess our mindset to achieve greater success.
(The rest of this is writer-specific, but if you’re not a writer think how this could apply to your circumstances instead.)
There’s a writers’ forum I frequent. (The new one, not the old one.) And I have to say…
I am horrified by what I see as the predominant attitude at that place.
There was an entire discussion there a while back about how it’s not possible to make a living at writing and how no one should bother trying because they’ll just be disappointed. And another one there last week by people boasting how they don’t track their sales because that’s a waste of time and effort. And now there’s one about how AMS ads don’t work or maybe only for those who spend five figures on ads because someone tried them and didn’t get them to work for themselves, so clearly they are a sham.
All of which is…bullshit.
And an example of how a poor mindset can sabotage you.
If you tell yourself that no one can do this, including yourself, do you think you’ll succeed? Do you honestly think you’ll push through when things get tough? No.
If you don’t even try to figure out what contributes to your success and what holds you back, do you think you’ll succeed? Maybe. By luck. But who wants to stake their dreams on luck?
If you try something and fail once and then decide that it must not work, do you think you’ll succeed? Not likely. Most people fail at least once on the way to success.
I mean, sure, some people will succeed while saying you can’t, paying no attention to what helps someone succeed, and giving up and changing direction every time they hit a wall. But most won’t.
So if you want to succeed? Aim high. Believe that even if no one else can do it, you can. When you run into a setback, reassess. Pay enough attention to what works and what doesn’t so you can learn and adjust and adapt.
Does that mean you will succeed? No, of course not. The harder the goal the less likely you’ll achieve it no matter what you do. But having the right mindset certainly makes it a helluva lot more likely.