A Coaching Power Tool created by Bill Benoist
(Career Coach, UNITED STATES)
The imagination of a child is nothing short of remarkable. A few wood chips from the garden and a zoo can be built in minutes. Add some small plastic animals, a few toy cars and the child will play for hours.
Unlike many adults, children left to their own ingenuity can find discovery and interest. Children don’t need to spend money, go far places, or indulge in unhealthy activities just to have fun. Unlike adults, children seldom express boredom. Give a child a time out in his bedroom and you may find him hours later under a fortress of blankets, or totally engaged in a Harry Potter novel dreaming about adventures in far-away lands.
For many children, imagination and play is soon replaced by more structural activities. Last year’s game of hide and seek may be a little league team this year. Academic test scores replace colorful drawings on the refrigerator. The right brain activities that predominated early childhood years are soon pushed aside by well-meaning parents and teachers who encourage the development of left-hemisphere sided brain skills of logic, math, and science. However, if we don’t continue to cultivate the imagination of our right-brain hemisphere we risk stagnation. Our lives become tactical rather than strategic. We see only the day-to-day and not the future of tomorrow.
No doubt, we need to develop the left side of our brains. What would our world be like without bridge builders, without doctors, without those who could build the rockets to fly us to the moon? Not only would we be in a state of stagnation, we would likely be in a state of peril. Without the development of our left-brains, we could easily flounder and die.
However, sometimes we fail to give adequate attention to the cultivation of the right hemisphere side of our brains. Without our artistic touch and creativity, many of us would forget how to dream. Furthermore, without imagination we may never visualize. Visualization uses the left side of our brain hemisphere to provide us the steps needed to ensure our dreams are realized. Imagine what our world would look like today had Martin Luther King notacted upon his dream, or had Kennedy never pursued his dream for America to reach the moon. A dream without a plan will always remain just that – a dream.
In order for us to lead a healthy, happy and successful life, we need to depend upon both hemispheres of our brain. Without the development of our right brain, we would struggle to understand a forest exists past the tree in front of us. Without the development of our left-brain, we would struggle to find a way around the tree.
Unfortunately, despiteall the scientific evidence of the left-brain, right brain thinking, there continues to be a strong tilt towards the development of the left brain hemisphere. Many cultures tend to prize left-side thinking more highly and take the development of left-side thinking more seriously. As we learned in early elementary grades, weare rewarded and recognized for our left-brain achievements. However, if we fail to develop our right brain creativity and imagination, we can easily forget the importance such cultivation offers us.
To imagine is to create something that has not previously existed. When we imagine we are exercising the right side of our brain. Martin Luther King imagined a culture that promoted equality among all people. This was not something that previously existed.
Imagination allows us to experience situations from new points of view. We are able to mentally explore the past and future without judgment or obstacles. Like brainstorming, nothing can ever be too silly for the imagination.
Imagination is the foundation to invent and bring new ideas to life. Sometimes, we have no idea as to where our imaginations will lead us. A child doesn’t imagine creating a zoo on the sidewalk and then stop short with self-talk as to why such a creation cannot work. Rather, the child begins to transition the zoo into a new adventure following his or her imagination. Bythe end of the day, the zoo may have become a space colony on the planet Mars.
Stagnation can be defined as the state of standing still. For example,water becomes stagnate when it ceases to flow. Along the same lines, when we stop using our imagination weno longer move ourselves forward in life. We only see the tree in front of us and we forget there is a forest just ahead. If we have no imagination, or no dreams, we have trouble finding reasons to move ahead. People can become stagnated in many areas of their lives.For one person, it maybe the job that offers no challenge. For another, it may be the marriage that has no excitement.
For yet another, stagnation may be a life without purpose or passion. Unfortunately, many of us know individuals like these; individuals who over the course of years – even decades, demonstrate little or no change with their lives.
Why do people stop imagining? For many, being stagnate is safer. Doing something new for the first time can be scary. For others, failure to succeed may be the driving force of remaining stagnated. These individuals fear what others will think if they are not successful, so they never try. After time, these individuals simply stop imagining something different, something better, exists.
Many of our clients who have come to coaching have forgotten how to dream. They no longer dream of a better job, a brighter tomorrow, or more money, because they have already told themselves those things in life were not for them. They are stuck, they are in a rut, and many cannot see the forest past the tree. Often, our clients believe imagination is for children and has no room in an adult’s life. As coaches, we need to help our clients see new perspectives and this often begins with imagination.
Regardless of career or walk of life, imagination of a better tomorrow and the visualization of how to make the image happen can be for everyone. Imagination helps us to get out of our ruts, to help us dream for a better tomorrow. Imagination is the foundation needed to help us change.
What would our culture be like today had Martin Luther King not dreamed of a better future in 1950? Once Martin Luther King imagined a culture of equality he began to visualize a path to reach this goal. Inspired by Gandhi, King’s visualization was an avenue of nonviolent resistance. In 1955, King’s visualization turned to strategic implementation with the Montgomery bus boycott (King, 1998).