I recently had the opportunity to take Cayden, my eight year-old grandson, to a hockey game. Fortunately for me he loves watching hockey as much as I do. As we walked into the arena, Cayden immediately noticed all the merchandise for sale. He asked the salesperson how much a “Number 33” jersey would cost, knowing that the price would far exceed his (or grandma’s) budget. He’d already pictured himself wearing one with pride, whether we attended a game or watched on TV. What he didn’t realize was the fact that I already had a “plan b” in the works to purchase one elsewhere. As we took our seats a few minutes later, Cayden said: “It’s OK, Grandma. You don’t have to worry about buying me a jersey. Santa is going to bring me one.” I savoured the moment, having no intentions of shattering Cayden’s imagination. Santa would deliver!
Sadly, for many of us, our curiosity and magical sense of wonder begins to diminish as we age. We become more risk-averse and find ourselves accepting the opinions of others who dismiss our ideas as foolish. In short, we kill our creativity in three specific ways:
Buying into negativity
Consider the manner in which Walt Disney, one of the greatest visionaries of all time, managed adversity and negativity. As the production budget soared during the making of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, the world’s first full-feature animation film made in Technicolor, Disney had to convince his wife, Lillian, his brother, Roy and a highly skeptical group of loan officers at the Bank of America that their financial support required to complete the project would pay off. The majority of the film industry was certain that this multi- million-dollar venture would break the Disney Studio. As the saying goes, the rest is history. Had Disney bought into the opinions of many naysayers he encountered along his business journey, his ingenuity would never have materialized and his dream to build what has since become the world’s most renowned theme park would have been quashed.
Are you allowing yourself to remain entangled in the values of others? If Disney had accepted that the Great Depression was his lot in life and that the film industry were right all along for thinking that his dreams were outrageous, he would have manufactured a completely different version of history.
Subscribing to the fear of failure
How often do we talk ourselves out of a great idea? “That will never work”, “what a stupid thought”! It is likely that we unconsciously dismiss our creative genius more than we realize. On each occasion messages that sow the seed of doubt become the norm… to the point where it becomes natural to start questioning the power of what we can in fact create with our minds. Renowned thought leader Seth Goden describes the power of fear: “Fear will push you to avert your eyes. Fear will make you think you have nothing to say.” Predictably, our thoughts will go precisely to whatever it is that we are not supposed to be thinking about. Instead, redesign your fear-laden phrases that reside in your head to start with a positive.
Accepting self-limiting beliefs
In order to live in our imagination and alter our perspective, we may need to re-boot the most complex human computer; i.e. our brain. We have acquired a manner of thinking and interpreting information over a particular period of time and as a result, we have unconsciously and habitually trained the mind to react or respond to situations.
Living in your imagination stimulates your creativity and allows you to live your life without boundaries. Any time that you find yourself questioning, or placing limitations on your creative process, remember that your have the capacity to initiate and act on your unique ideas. Remind yourself to watch children at play; reveling in the moment; creating their own cast of characters and source of entertainment.
There is every reason to believe in make-believe…many of us did so once upon a time. It is this precise sense of wonderment that gives rise to the most extraordinary achievements that we embrace as part of our lifestyle on a daily basis. It is at the core of scientific and technological breakthroughs that we consume and enjoy. There would be no legacy of business visionaries to admire if imagination did not matter.
About the author
A former media executive and highly sought-after business speaker, Michelle Ray (@michelleraycsp) has delivered has delivered her powerful messages on leadership, accountability and engaged workplaces to the C-Suites of global corporations, academia, diverse association and government groups since 1995. She is the author of Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons in Business & in Life and founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute and recently presented at the Professional Convention Management Association Convening Leaders Conference. Noted as one of “three speakers to watch”, Michelle was inspired to write this blog based on the conference theme “Cultivating Creative Moments”.
Image credit: “Words Refer To Ideas Innovation Process And Creativity” by Stuart Miles