Astronaut Chris Hadfield on Success and the Meaning of Life

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield sat down with Peter Mansbridge on CBC’s The National to discuss his experience aboard the International Space Station.

Two thoughts stand out – his words on success and his version of the meaning of life:

If you view crossing the finish line as the measure of your life, you’re setting yourself up for a personal disaster. … Commanding a spaceship or doing a spacewalk is a very rare, singular moment-in-time event in the continuum of life. You need to honor the highs and the peaks in the moments — you need to prepare your life for them — but recognize the fact that the preparation for those moments is your life and, in fact, that’s the richness of your life. … The challenge that we set for each other, and the way that we shape ourselves to rise to that challenge, is life.

I’ve had a tremendous privilege of perspective that almost nobody has had. When you talk about the meaning of life, we tend to think about it as life on Earth. To be away from the planet for a long time and to be able to see it constantly out the window allows you a reflection on it that is really hard to get just in regular day-to-day. So I think if there is any sort of meaning of life, it’s got to be very personal. How does the life that you lead affect your own conclusions about what’s important to you?