By now most of you would know about mind-blowing landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity. In the history of space exploration this is one of those events that will stand in people’s minds alongside the moon-landing, which inspired generations of people to pursue careers in science and some to become astronauts as well. You can follow regular updates on this at the NASA site or at the space.com site.
But that is not the sole reason for today’s post. What was accomplished was unprecedented, in terms of the complexity of the maneuvers as well as the sheer audacity of the project. What was also amazing was the sheer joy on the faces of the team that worked to make this happen, as well as the amazing collegiality of the team as evinced in the post-landing press conference. Every individual on stage thanked and gave all the credit to the person to their left (that reported to them) and the entire team that worked with that person. This is something that I’ve repeatedly seen within academia, science and research teams – the acknowledgment of team work and instinctive sharing of credit among all stakeholders. One theory I had for this was that their exposure to things that awe and amaze them sets them up to be happier and more collaborative.
It turns out that recent research into happiness backs that up. A recent study by Stanford psychologists shows that “… experiencing awe made people feel they had more time to spare. This in turn led them to be more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to give up time to help others.”. This is something that as parents we should inculcate in our children at an early age. There is so much around them in their daily experiences to be in awe of. It also goes back to feeding and fostering curiosity in them to see the bigger picture of achievements such as that of Curiosity.
As adults it is not too late for us to feed the inner child and lose some cynicism and experience awe about things around us too. The Olympics provides a perfect opportunity for that as well. Achievements such as those of Usain Bolt in the 100m, or of women’s boxing participants such as Mary Kom who’s keeping India’s dreams of an Olympic gold alive, or of Quanitta Underwood (who unfortunately didn’t make it to the semis) are awe-inspiring and tell us how much we can accomplish as humans with some talent and a lot of hard work. More on this on another post some day.
So in short, take deep breaths. Look around you. Be in awe. Get inspired. Be happy.