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Why ‘The Martian’ is a great lesson in resilience

Ever seen The Martian? OK, so confession here, I love it, the book too. I was watching it again the other day (much to my partner’s amusement, he doesn’t do the whole watching /reading the same thing more than once) and it occurred to me that the character Mark Watney is a glowing example of what we in the therapy world call ILOC (Internal Locus of Control – I’ll come back to this).So, for those of you who haven’t seen or read it, The Martian (in short) is about a team of astronauts who go on a mission to Mars.While they are there, they have to evacuate quickly due to a storm and Mark Watney gets left behind, his team mates believing he is dead.



Well, needless to say, our hero is not dead. He regains consciousness only to find his team gone and himself completely alone on Mars. After much cursing and a bit of first aid, Watney gets to thinking about what exactly he can do. It is several years before the next mission is due to arrive on Mars, he has no way to communicate with earth because the comms system was taken out by the storm and his food rations are insufficient to sustain him that long anyway. But here is the thing, our intrepid explorer is a Botanist and he quickly gets to work figuring out how he can grow enough food on Mars to sustain him until another mission can rescue him.

Aside from the wit and humour peppered throughout the film, it is also a story of immense hope and a lot of ILOC (see, I promised I’d come back to that). In brief, Internal Locus of Control is a mindset of resilience, it is where we believe that we are responsible for ourselves and we have the choice about how we choose to respond to a given situation. Now Mark Watney was in a pretty desperate situation, I think you would agree. But did he give up? Did he sit and mope and wait to die? Hell no! I quote “At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home” (Mark Watney).


As I watched the film, I got to thinking about how this is actually quite relevant in the current COVID-19 pandemic. When we are surrounded by negative messaging on the news, on social media, when we are unable to see our loved ones and to have a simple hug, it can be easy to slip into negative thinking. So, here’s the thing, be more Watney, work the problem and then work the next problem. Focus on what you can do and get to work on it. And if you need support, get in touch for a free discovery call to find out how I can help. You got this.

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