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Goals and the Canadian Astronaut

9th Feb, 2015

Goals and The Canadian Astronaut – Beginning with the end in mind

I was recently driving to a meeting with a client whilst listening to BBC Radio 5 Live. Chris Hadfield, the Canadian Astronaut, was being interviewed live on radio and his interviewers were pupils at a school in Manchester.

One of the pupils started the interview by asking Chris how he’d become an astronaut. Chris explained how he’d wanted to be an astronaut since the age of 10. He remembered the moment he saw the first moon landing and how, from that day, he’d become obsessed with space travel. He decided he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. However, he faced a number of obstacles. He lived on a farm in the middle of Canada and Canada didn’t have a space programme.

Undeterred Chris effectively put together his own astronaut training programme, taking a step by step approach. He decided it would be useful to focus on technical subjects at school. He learnt to fly gliders and enrolled in Russian language classes. After leaving school he decided to enrol in the military and take a mechanical engineering degree as he figured an astronaut would need practical engineering and flying skills. He then trained to be a fighter pilot.

When the Canadian Government decided to co-fund a space project with the USA who do you think met all of the criteria to be the first Canadian in space? Chris Hadfield of course! His message to the Manchester school pupils, and indeed his 5 Live audience, was simple – “Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become”. We have recently run some ‘taking ownership of your career’ workshops and we regularly hear that most people spend more time planning their holidays than their career! 

What are your career plans for the next year? 

Chris’s message also resonated with me with the work that we do on our coaching skills programmes. In coaching we often differentiate between the End Goal and Performance or Interim Goals. The End Goal is the big goal, the thing that motivates us and drives us on, but which we seldom have total control over. Performance or Interim Goals are smaller achievable steps which take us in the direction of our End Goal. Since the age of ten Chris had had an End Goal and he’d also done a great job of breaking this down into a number of smaller steps. As Steven Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” would say Chris had “started with the end in mind”. 

What are your End Goals this year? What are the Performance or Interim goals that will help you get there? 

“Yes, but what if you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up?” asked another pupil. “Great question!” I thought to myself, “I wonder how Chris is going to answer that one!” Chris’s response was equally impressive.

He encouraged his audience to think about what they enjoyed doing. If they walked into a book shop which sections did they find themselves invariably drawn to? He invited his audience to then start to play with these ideas. If, for example, they found themselves drawn to the photography, cookery and Egyptology sections how could they follow these interests into a potential future career? Could they for example become a food photographer, research a book on the Pharaohs, or experiment with innovative recipes? 

Having warmed to his subject Chris encouraged the pupils to notice what they enjoyed doing and to follow their passion. If they were interested in history why not go and visit the British Museum one day? One visit wouldn’t make them an eminent Egyptologist but they would know more about ancient Egypt by the end of the day than they had at the start. It would be a small step in the right direction and one which followed their passion. 

Again Chris’s message really resonated with me. In my coaching work I often find myself asking my coachee what they enjoy doing. What do they do well that also energises them – as opposed to things that they do well but actually drain them – and how can they seek out more of these opportunities?

What do you do well that also energies you? How can you build on that strength? What will be a first small step towards your goal?

Food for thought?

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