We’ve been reading this very cool autobiography called “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” written by Chris Hadfield, someone who has seen the sun rise every 92 minutes while orbiting earth at 17,500 miles an hour in the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station and who had to overcome some impressive obstacles on the way to getting his dream job.
For starters he’s from Canada, a country that didn’t have its own space program at the time Chris, at the age of 9, was so inspired by watching the first man walk on the moon that he decided to become an astronaut. He goes on to say in his book:
“There was no program I could enroll in, no manual I could read, no one even to ask. There was only one option, I decided. I had to imagine what an astronaut might do if he were 9 years old, then do the exact same thing. I could get started immediately. Would an astronaut eat his vegetables or have potato chips instead? Sleep in late or get up early to read a book?”
He keeps following his dream all through high school and university but says as well: “Since the odds of becoming an astronaut were nonexistent, I knew it would be pretty silly to hang my sense of self-worth on it. My attitude was more, “It’s probably not going to happen, but I should do things that keep me moving in the right direction, just in case – and I should be sure those things interest me, so that whatever happens, I’m happy.”
As you can tell from the title of his book (and the photo on the left) he kept moving in the right direction and got his dream job.
This reminded me that to achieve seemingly “impossible” things we don’t always have to create a concrete action plan with each step carefully worked out – because that’s “impossible” to do at the time.
Instead what we always need is a strong dream, the determination to do the work and the awareness and flexibility to take opportunities when they present themselves.
My husband, by his own description, was not exactly a goal setter and achiever as a teenager, or even throughout most of his twenties. By the time he was 29 he had settled down in country Austria, with family, a permanent job in the IT department of a large local manufacturing company, on a trajectory
set to deliver him into retirement while remaining in the same place, with the same job, surrounded by his friends from high school.
He didn’t have any SMART goals or action plans or motivation strategies, none of which were taught in Austrian schools at the time, and was simply coasting along without direction other than the one imposed by family and work, but he had two dreams, which had been on his mind since he was very young and which he kept talking about, much to the astonishment of his friends. “Why would you want to do that?”, was their refrain.
He always wanted to live in a country with a foreign language and he wanted to live on the ocean (Austria being landlocked and all).
Doesn’t sound like much and not exactly difficult to achieve today, but where he grew up everything was designed around staying put and nothing encouraged him to go for these dreams or even consider them achievable.
So there he is, at age 29, all settled down, probably not even thinking much about these dreams anymore, and a year later he celebrates his 30th birthday in Australia, and has lived there ever since.
Now it takes a LOT more to become an astronaut than to move to Australia, that’s for sure, but he still has something in common with Chris Hadfield: they both had seemingly impossible dreams without an actual idea of how to make them happen, but hung on to them nonetheless. And both took small steps which were within their reach.
Chris Hadfield consciously planned his career trajectory from an early age by following the simple premise of “what would an astronaut do (if he was 9 years old)?” while my husband kept preparing himself in ways he wasn’t even aware of: every holiday was designed around the ocean and he kept practicing his foreign language skills by reading magazines and books and visiting countries where these languages are spoken. The latter especially seemed to be a wasted effort because there was no practical need or use for any of this where he lived and worked.
But both came particularly handy when he was offered a job in Sydney, a job he hadn’t even been looking for and which started by someone making a passing comment at work.
So tell me, which “impossible” dreams are you hanging on to and which small steps are you taking towards making them a reality, some of which can you might not even be aware of?
And if you were aware, which steps could you be taking to keep moving in the right direction, just in case?
Go read Chris’ book – there are a lot more gems in it!