There may be times on your journey toward your goals when the situation seems hopeless. When you look toward your vision and can’t see any path that will lead you there. What do you do then?
Imagine you were presumed dead and left behind on a mission to Mars, with only minimal support equipment. That is the premise of The Martian, a novel by Andy Weir, which was made into a major motion picture.
Would you curl up and die? Or would you, as protagonist Mark Watney does, proceed to do everything in your power to ensure your survival and ultimate rescue?
Here are 6 lessons we can learn from the character Mark Watney as he faces a hopeless situation:
1. Focus on the moment
When Mark discovered that he had been left for dead on Mars, he knew he was desperately out of luck. But he didn’t want to die on the surface, so he made his way into the Hab, the self-sustaining habitation unit, and tended to his wounds.
Even the knowledge that the situation was hopeless didn’t stop Mark from taking the immediate actions
necessary to ensure his short term survival.
“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” – Eckhart Tolle
2. Try anyway
When Mark was left behind, his first reaction was to think that the situation was impossible. But, although he “knew it was hopeless”, he “tried firing up the communications array”.
If you haven’t tried yet, you don’t know with certainty that an action will fail. Although not everything that you try will succeed, 100% of the things you don’t try will fail, simply through lack of trying.
3. Take stock of your situation
After a good night’s sleep, Mark was feeling a little more hopeful. He took stock of his supplies, and found that there was food to last him for 300 days. The Hab was intact, and the oxygenator was working. He found the Rovers buried in sand, but otherwise functional; same with the solar cell arrays. The water reclaimer was working too, but there was no backup.
Although there was no solution to help him get rescued and back to earth, he knew what he had to work with, and how he could meet his short-term survival needs.
4. Make a short-term plan
Mark knew that the next mission to Mars, Mars 4, would arrive in about four years. The planned landing location for Mars 4 wasn’t in the same location where he was, but he thought that if he could somehow work out a way to communicate with Earth, they might be able to arrange a rescue.
Even though he didn’t know how he could survive four years, he made a plan to fix the radio, so that he could attempt to communicate with earth.
Mark didn’t have answers to everything, and he only had imperfect answers to what he did know, but he went ahead with a plan and a purpose. He took action, doing the best that he could for the moment, and figured he would solve the other problems as he went along.
5. Solutions don’t have to be sophisticated
Throughout the book, Mark is ingenious at solving many engineering problems. But much of what he does only requires common sense or practical knowledge. He even uses plain old duct tape for some of his solutions.
He doesn’t get stuck into thinking that there is only one way to solve a problem, or that you can only do something if you have the proper tools. He doesn’t just play by the rules; he makes up rules as he goes along.
He creates practical solutions to many of the problems that he encounters. The results may not be pretty, but they often work. He does the best that he can with the materials that he has at his disposal.
6. Don’t give up
One defining characteristic of Mark is his dogged refusal to quit. Sometimes he gets depressed, but then he rallies himself and tries something. No matter how dire the situation gets, he refuses to just lay down and die.
At one point he says, “Things weren’t 100 percent successful. They say no plan survives first contact with implementation. I’d have to agree.”
Marks accepts bumps in the road, even dreadful setbacks, and just gets on with business. There is always a next problem to solve, and he always pulls himself together to focus on solving it.
“Never give up, and be confident in what you do. There may be tough times, but the difficulties which you face will make you more determined to achieve your objectives and to win against all the odds.” – Marta
Mark Watney may be a fictional character, but the lessons we learned can be put to good use in the real world. When you find yourself stalled when working toward a vision or goal, think to yourself, “How can I be like Mark?”