My husband, as an aerospace engineer, worked on many NASA projects, but his favorite hands down was the Voyager 1 and 2 missions. Recently we reminisced by watching the new PBS special, The Farthest—Voyager in Space. Launched in 1977 the Voyagers made a plethora of significant discoveries, including:
- 3 new moons at Jupiter
- 4 new moons at Saturn
- 11 new moons at Uranus
- 6 new moons at Neptune
- Lightening on a planet other than earth (Jupiter)
- Active volcanoes beyond earth (on Jupiter’s moon, Io)
And on August 25, 2012 Voyager 1 was the first spacecraft ever to leave the heliosphere and enter interstellar space. Voyager 2 is set to follow suit in a few years.
Like the old-world European trailblazers who ventured courageously into the unknown to discover new worlds, the Voyagers may well do the same—although my logical husband makes sure I understand just how far-flung that idea is. Not that life on other planets is so remote. But that intelligent life finding one of our tiny Voyagers amid infinite space is highly unlikely. And if found there’s the necessary technology to decode the Golden Record—music and language selections whose aim is to convey our civilization to another. And if decoded, can members of that alien civilization comprehend it? A lot of “If’s” and “Highly Unlikely’s.”
Still. I like to dream. Imagine how finding new territories and meeting their inhabitants from the great beyond would enlarge our view of life on planet earth—how it could shake up our understanding of life in general!
The Voyager View is one big, adventuresome, hopeful view—which brings me to the three points of my 2018 vow.
Remember the Whole is Always There
In a workshop I attended several months ago, participants were asked to recall a time when we were awestruck. A colleague related a time in Colorado under the huge night sky, how she looked up in wonder at the magnificent masses of stars and cried from sheer amazement. She explained, “These stars are always here—this view exists, even when not visible to our eyes. If only I can remember.”
In coaching, we might call this a “reframe.” It’s easy to get tangled in the bits and pieces of our reality, especially when under duress. It usually helps for someone else to gift us with a larger view. “Your little girl (who is stubborn and persistent) will become a powerful woman who can make her needs known.”
I think it also helps to remember that we are always bigger than the sum of our parts. For instance, by making sure I call what I do “parent” coaching and not parenting coaching, I make sure I am aligned to support the whole person who is a parent. That person does the parenting, not me.
Being cognizant of the whole of things, often supports us to address difficult issues with more ease and effectiveness. Writing in her popular blog, Brain Pickings, Maria Popova emphasizes, “I don’t think it is possible to contribute to the present moment in any meaningful way while being wholly engulfed by it. It is only by stepping out of it, by taking a telescopic perspective, that we can then dip back in and do the work that our time asks of us.”
Stay Open and Curious
Early in my teaching career, I was trained as a Great Books Discussion Leader. The Great Books Program introduced young readers to classic tales through a read-before; discuss after approach. The adults who facilitated the children’s discussions had only one rule to abide by: Ask only those questions we ourselves do not know the answers to.
What? “How do I ask questions about Jack and the Beanstalk to second graders that I don’t know the answer to?” was my first question to our Great Books Trainer. I will always remember his response: “Stay open to any possibility. Ask questions from your own curiosity.”
Much easier said than done. But when I can put aside what I think and mind sweep limiting narratives that too often take up too much headspace—this advice has served me well as a teacher, a parent coach and as a trainer of parent coaches. Over the last six months I’ve noticed recent research about the positive effects of curiosity.
Asked, “What is the best book on positive psychology that you read recently?” David Cooperrider, founder of Appreciative Inquiry without any hesitation responded:
“Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan.”
Before I heard this exchange, I would not have put curiosity and positive psychology in same sentence. But there you have it. This book is now on my 2018 reading list.
Act With Hope
Several years ago I wrote an article, “Are You a High Hopes Parent?” I re-read it recently and these words jumped out, as relevant as ever:
“High hopes may seem like a myth when we look around today at all the suffering, fragmentation, unhappiness, and outright fear, terror, and paranoia. Yet, brain research continues to amass data that hopeful people are more effective problem solvers than non-hopeful people. And, what we pay attention to grows. Conversely, what we fail to give our attention shrinks. If we focus on our hope, our hope grows. If we are awash in despair, well, that, of course, washes out our hope.”
Being realistic, I know 2018 won’t magically bring peace, mutual respect and caring understanding to everyone on the planet. Yet, by noticing the big picture, staying open to and curious about life’s adventures, and keeping a hopeful eye in the dark —I can do my part as I regularly check on Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 throughout the coming year.
Copyright, Gloria DeGaetano, 2017.