"Work the Problem"
The weekend before last, my wife and I saw the new Ridley Scott film The Martian. As a huge fan of Andy Weir's novel, I was hoping that the movie would do the book justice. And it did. Matt Damon was perfect as Mark Watney, and the essential nerdiness and humor made the transition intact, if simplified a bit.
[SPOILER ALERT: What follows reveals major plot points of the movie and the book. Read ahead at your peril!]
One of my favorite sequences in both novel and movie was near the end of the story, where Watney's launch into orbit to rendezvous with his crewmates hits a major snag, and it looks like the two spacecraft are going to miss each other by several kilometers. Watney's launch vehicle has no remaining fuel, and the much larger Hermes does not have traditional rocket engines to close the gap in time.
But (and this is my point) the mission commander is not one to panic. "Work the problem," she tells her crew. And they do, figuring out how to close the distance between the two ships, then figuring out how to slow down enough to retrieve Watney successfully. No one freaks out. No one gives up.
This really is the theme of the whole movie. When Watney is stranded with no communications and limited supplies, he doesn't despair. He gets to work. When a supply mission to send supplies to the stranded astronaut blows up during launch, an astrodynamicist (which is a cooler title than I will ever have) does some lateral thinking and comes up with a rescue plan. This is apparently what astronauts (and astrodynamicists) do. They work the problem until the problem is solved, then they work the next problem. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The more I reflect on this, the more I think "work the problem" is the correct strategy for many (most?) of the struggles in life, but it's a strategy that is entirely inconsistent with worry. If you're worrying, you are expending energy that could be used in more productive ways.
So you're facing a problem in your job? Don't ignore it hoping it will go away. Work the problem.
Your marriage is a wreck? Get a babysitter, take your spouse out for coffee, and work the problem.
Your relationship with God isn't where you want it to be? Grab your Bible, hit your knees, and work the problem.