“We are voyagers!”: What Disney’s Moana Taught Me About Coaching

Like most young children her age, my daughter is obsessed with cartoons. For reasons unknown to me and other tortured parents familiar with the human alarm clock of tiny shoving hands accompanied by piercing voice, early Saturday mornings are the preferred time for watching these animated shows. So I remember clearly the morning my daughter interrupted my sleep with a repeated request to watch Moana. Barely awake, I dragged myself to the lounge and turned on the TV to play the movie for her. I settled on the couch hoping to catch a few more minutes of sleep. Boy, was I wrong.

What a great surprise it was to discover this story. I’m not here to promote Disney films, they do a pretty good job of that themselves. But I’ll be honest – I loved this story.

Like other Disney classics that came before it, Moana follows the pattern of the “hero’s journey” as defined by Joseph Campbell. So in that sense, the fairytale ending after facing a big challenge is quite predictable. But there was something special about this movie that I can’t explain. It’s safe to say I’ve gone on to watch it more times than my daughter since that first Saturday! And sometimes, I’m the one who wakes her up to watch it again. Don’t judge me – it’s become our little ritual.

One of the scenes in the movie, where Moana discovers a secret about her ancestors, is one of my favourites.  After finding a cave where explorers’ boats have been stored, unused for centuries, Moana comes to a realisation about her lineage. It leads to a turning point in the movie that sees the young heroine take on a life-changing journey.

As my daughter runs up and down the passage, echoing Moana’s exclamations of “We were voyagers!”, I can’t help but make a connection between this story and the journey of self-discovery that is an integral part of coaching. Every coaching process starts with a person setting out to discover their potential, armed with their history – the stories they’ve been told – and resources that may be known or unknown to them. They take on an intense and deeply personal adventure, facing moments of difficulty and challenges along the way that help them better understand their values and identity. The coach simply facilitates the process, acting as co-pilot, and ensuring that the coachee stays focused and positive until they reach their destination.

Just like Moana, who boards a boat she can barely keep afloat, I consider us to be brave voyagers searching for a greater purpose. The questions that arise then are whether you are ready to take this journey? Is this the right time, who do you want to travel with, and of course what’s your destination? All these questions, the critical preliminary work for any coaching process, seem difficult to answer but are addressed in complete confidentiality and without judgment.

So, fellow voyagers, are you ready to begin your own enriching journey? Welcome aboard.


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