Since my earliest days as a consultant, probably as some kind of unfulfilled legacy from my days as a headhunter, I have had certain types of ‘conversations’ with men and women of my age. Sometimes these are driven by an event such as redundancy or a cross road in terms of career, or a sense of lack of direction…which may be driving loss of productivity and motivation. I was struck recently by an observation which seemed to me to be very powerful.
This person commented that he hadn’t made a plan in the last 15 years of his work life or indeed in his private life. Somehow the habit that we probably all had in our late teens and early twenties had ceased…that of imagining ourselves in 10 years time, where would we be, what might our life contain, what would we be doing. These days the practicalities and mundanities of life were at the forefront of his mind. In his words, ‘there is no room to dream anymore’.
Perhaps this is a sign of age, or maturity and no doubt there are very important reasons for this refocusing to take place, but surely there is room for both the practical and the far reaching. One of our abilities as humans is to imagine and without it, life becomes intensely dull. Our ability to innovate is driven by this skill, I would argue much of our internal motivation comes from the expectation of a different future, much of our innate optimism is a consequence of this behaviour.
Giving ourselves the mental and physical space and most importantly time to do this is something that we owe ourselves and those around us. For me this is not about outcomes by the way…it’s not necessarily a good admission from a programme manager to say that most of my personal plans don’t come to fruition! What happens however is that the act of imagining opens our minds to the endless possibilities that exist and that results in sudden and often abrupt changes.
Professional sportsmen and women the world over talk about visualisation as a critical part of their preparation…maybe it’s a skill that those of us in commercial life could learn and apply too.