Feel Like Your Coworkers are From Mars? Career and Life Advice from “The Martian”
Talk about feeling lonely and abandoned at work! Consider Matt Damon’s character from the movie “The Martian.” The main character, Mark Watney, is left behind on Mars when his fellow crew members abort their mission after believing he was killed during a storm. In fact, he is alive and the movie shows how he survives on the planet while waiting (and hoping) for NASA to realize he is alive and plan a rescue mission.
Think about Mark Watney when you are having a bad day at work. Seriously, try to imagine being completely alone on another planet. Of course, you may feel that way already! Here are some lessons from The Martian about how to handle unbelievably crazy situations at work and life. (Warning, there might be some spoilers here. Proceed accordingly!)
- Acknowledge what is going on — Once Mark comes to and makes it back to the home base, he records a video. He lays it all out (the limited food supply, not knowing how to contact NASA, understanding that it will take years for them to be able to rescue him, and all the potentially horrible things that could happen on top of the already grim situation). This is about as bad as it can get. But, there is power is acknowledging the facts. Only then can you move into trying to figure out how to fix it.
- Focus on what you can control — After he acknowledges how bad things are, he attacks the situation with logic, ingenuity, his scientific expertise and serious problem solving. He breaks down the situation and chips away at what is in his control. This approach is available to you. Instead of giving up at work, you can break down the situation, assess what you can do to make it better, and then work on your plan to improve it.
- Assume the best of your colleagues — While Mark is stunned at the situation, he never once blames the crew or directs anger at them. True, he is part of a highly-functioning team. But, consider how easy and tempting it would be for him to blame everyone/anyone for leaving him behind. The same is true for all of us in the workplace. Even if your colleagues give you many reasons to distrust them, nothing good comes from being consumed by anger. Assume the best of your colleagues. Give them the benefit of the doubt and it is much more likely that they will do the same for you.
- Set goals and be patient — He had clear goals and every day he worked towards meeting them. You can’t expect to have a magic wand that will immediately make things better. But, when you have goals that you want to achieve, and a plan for how to get there, it is much easier to tolerate being patient. Having goals with defined steps and milestones can be empowering. Once you know that you are working towards something positive, and understand that getting there is a process, it’s much easier to commit to a long haul.
- Have a sense of humor — Mark is well aware of how grave his situation is, but he still manages to have a sense of humor about it. Despite the situation, he can find some humor in his day-to-day and gives himself permission to not take himself too seriously. It’s very helpful if you do the same. Even if you are miserable at work, allow yourself to laugh and not take yourself too seriously.This can make even the most tense or unpleasant situations better.
The saying “it could always be worse” is very true. But, when you are having a rough time just be thankful that you aren’t abandoned on another planet. Hey, it’s all relative, right? At any rate, these lessons from The Martian can come in handy even on Earth.