The ability to imagine a potential future that has never yet existed is a wonderful trait. I am talking about being able to “think things up” in ways that have never been tried before. Children seem to come from the womb with this capacity hard wired into their essential natures. But then all too soon something happens as most of us mature, and the world around us squelches that imaginative vision. The result is that we become much better at seeing limitations than opportunities, challenges and obstacles rather than rewards and clear pathways.
In her classic book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards explains how most adults’ artistic abilities are frozen in time at some point in elementary school. She explains that our ability to draw accurately or expressively typically stagnates at the point when our critical abilities overtake our artistic skill development. The tragedy is that along with our artistic skills, we usually begin a lifelong pattern of denigrating our inborn capacities to envision new possibilities. As I work with university students, it is tragically common to hear them say something like, “I am just not creative.”
The biggest lie of the “I’m not creative” myth is that most people are incredibly adept at imagining negative possibilities. In my experience, most of us can think of horrific scenarios that might happen if the wrong sequence of circumstances happened to befall us. Chicken Little ain’t got nothing on me, that’s for sure.
What if for just one day you made a different choice? Could we imagine it better? How else could events unfold? What if the story took a different turn? Then that would be visionary.