Ken planned for years to make the flight. He studied, practiced and trained with tireless intensity. As the medical staff explained his condition, Ken struggled to accept the news. His fate on Apollo 13’s flight to the moon was sealed because of the measles. Although he was certain their diagnosis was wrong there was nothing he could do now but stand aside and watch.
In April 1970, Apollo 13 experienced a series of problems en route to the moon. As a result they had to abort the mission and return to earth. The crew was told to shut down the command module and power down all of the computers to preserve the little battery energy remaining. On earth NASA scrambled to develop a start-up sequence that would use only 20 amps of power. They called Ken Mattingly for help.
Ken sat in the flight simulator for hours working on the sequence. The frustration levels were high as time was running out. With each trial Ken exceeded 20 amps. The Flight Operations Director told him to omit something, to get the amperage down to 20. Ken exclaimed, “I can’t! They need every one of these steps to get back here!” Flight Ops responds, “Ken, you’re telling us what you need. We’re telling you what we have to work with – 20 amps.” And in that moment Ken accepts “what is” and goes back to work. Later, Ken developed a sequence that used only 20 amps of power.
Everyday in our practice people struggle accepting “what is”. Some of us spend hours wishing for what was while others fear what might be. The hours slowly expand into days and the days into weeks. Accepting “what is” frees your mind to work on what could be. The mind constantly seeks solutions and evidence to support our thoughts. If we are anchored to the past or fearing the future, suddenly everywhere we look we discover something to reinforce our position. What we think is what we say, what we say is what we do and what we do is what we get.
What would have happened if Ken Mattingly refused to accept the reality of the 20 amp limit? Apollo 13 wouldn’t have been one of America’s greatest recoveries. It would have been a tragic disaster.
How much of your day do you or your patients spend wishing for what was or fearing what might be? Accept “what is” first and begin planning to reach for what could be.
Make Today Count.
Author. Teacher. Therapist.