Go for the Goal
Hadfield wouldn’t have gotten to where he is today without an intense focus on achieving his goals, and he’s approaching his post-space life with the same determination. And it’s not just work-related accomplishments he’s after. He says he wants to learn how coniferous trees evolve and reproduce, which may seem like something he could just find out on the Internet, but Hadfield is not about to take the easy way out. “I might say, I’m going to spend the weekend learning everything there is to know about pine cones, and by Sunday night I’ll have changed who I am and moved myself slightly closer to something I like in life,” he says.
The often philosophical Hadfield is a big proponent of pushing yourself to be better. “Give yourself a challenge and then change yourself to be closer to that dream,” he says. “By Sunday night, you’ll be a slightly different person.”
“Give yourself a challenge and then change yourself to be closer to that dream. By Sunday night, you’ll be a slightly different person.”
Hadfield has “thousands” of goals, he says, but one big one is to continue the work he did on the space station. Not the science or the flying but, rather, the inspiring. He regularly visits schools and gives speeches about life on the ISS, what he learned about the world during his six months in space, and how to achieve your dreams.
While Hadfield will always be remembered for being the first Canadian space station commander, it’s his work as an inspirational and motivational speaker that could have the biggest impact on our planet. By retelling his own story and by showing the incredible sights he’s seen, he’s making people realize that anything is possible. And the more people who pursue their dreams, the better off we’ll all be. “It’s necessary to inspire children, who are right on the edge of so many possibilities,” he says. “You can’t raise the standard of living without new inventions or new technology or without questioning things and pushing back, and that comes with inspiring and challenging young people.”
Hadfield’s seen how the space program has influenced innovation. He’s given talks at leading technology companies, like Twitter and Tumblr, and while no one there has been an astronaut, they all talk about how the space program has allowed them to dream big. “They’re fascinated with space exploration, and it pushes their brains and drives them to recognize the fabric they belong to,” he says.
Not all astronauts speak about their experiences like Hadfield does. He could live out a quiet retirement, but after what he’s seen in space, he can’t just sit still. “I’m one of the first human beings to have left Earth on a semi-permanent basis,” he says. “To keep that to myself would be very short-sighted and selfish.” Sharing his experiences is crucial and important work, he says. “The more information you have, the more likely you are to help someone else – especially a young person – make better decisions in life.”
It’s been a few months since I sat next to that nine-year-old on that flight to Mexico, but I can’t help but wonder how Hadfield’s words will influence him one day. As he stared out the airplane window, looking down on Earth for the first time, he was probably as amazed at what he was seeing as Hadfield was the first time he flew into space. This kid is just starting to figure out life’s possibilities, and if Hadfield can play a small part in helping him achieve his dreams, then that’s a greater reward than anything he accomplished in space. “To kids, life is still a possibility,” he says. “They see it as something that’s yet to happen. They’re more engaged and they’re curious, so why not talk to them over Skype from the space station while I’m eating lunch? You can’t just keep life to yourself.”