Astronaut Chris Hadfield Explains How To Conquer Your Worst Fears

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield — gave a mind-blowing talk tonight in Vancouver at TED 2014.

The video isn’t live yet, but we watched on a live stream.

He started the talk by asking: “What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?”

Hadfield has done more scary things than the average person. When he took his first shuttle flight in 1979 the odds of catastrophic failure were 1 in 38.

“Why would we take that risk? Why would you do something that dangerous? I was inspired as a youngster that this is what I wanted to do.” he said. “You do it because by the end of the day you are going to be floating effortlessly in space or you are going to be dead.”

“It allows you to go places, and see things, and experience things that would otherwise be denied to you,” he said.

So what’s advice to other people for dealing with fear?

It has to do with thinking about the real risk, he said. Hadfield used the fear of spiders as an example. There are only 240 poisonous spiders out of the 50,000 species known, he said. Specifically, in Vancouver, there’s one venomous spider that isn’t deadly but delivers a nasty sting. So, if you are even slightly careful, you can avoid getting bitten. In other words, the danger is entirely different than the fear.

“The next time you see a spider web, check that it’s not a black widow, and walk into it,” he said. “That’s how you get over it. If you walk through 100 spider webs and you will have changed your fundamental human behaviour.”

You will have lost your caveman instinct to fear the spider, by “learning the difference between perceived danger and absolute danger.”

You can apply that to anything, he said. Even being blinded during a space walk.

When you do that, “you have taken the dreams of that 9-year-old boy, which were impossible and dauntingly terrifying, and turned them into practice. And that allows you to come back with an amazing set of experiences and a level of inspiration for other people,” he said. So, “fear not.”

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