The power of our imagination is phenomenal. It is often an underused source of helping us navigate our way through the challenges of life. This is especially true in the workplace. Quite often we either stifle or underestimate this very skill which can be used, to either shape the future of our workplace, or to change unhealthy or stressful situations in the here and now. Up until recently, talking about using our imagination in the workplace sounded like a flight of fancy, but as our understanding around quantum science deepens, it is becoming clearer about the ways we can use our imagination to build better workplaces and create new ways of empowering others.
Two nights ago, I went swimming. It was an activity I had been looking forward to all day. I usually go quite late because it tends to be more peaceful and as I swim I can ruminate and contemplate.
Tired and tense for the first 10 lengths or so, instead or relaxing, I found my mind worrying about a number of pieces of work I had still to complete. The anticipated peaceful relaxing swim was eluding me
As I carried on, I remembered a technique I use quite frequently with clients. It is the “What if” frame. It’s a well-known Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique used to help people tap into their imagination and explore situations they otherwise might consider being impossible. It is usually used to break down limiting beliefs.
For example, a friend of mine loves his sales job, but confessed once he sometimes felt frustrated because never seemed to earn more than £50k annually. He had never exceeded this figure and was convinced it wouldn’t get any better. When I asked why he thought that was, he explained he didn’t think the number of customers were available to exceed that limit.
I recognised his frustration because he had simply hit a limiting belief. I asked “What If you were able to find ways to exceed earnings of 50k?” What would you have done differently, and what else could you do? He furrowed his brow and started thinking. What this technique does, is lift a person over the “I can’t” barrier, and helps open up possibilities, to incorporate ideas and suggestions, to achieve a different outcome.
Asking “what if” can be a powerful way to get your creative juices flowing. So when my daughter’s friend was planning her wedding, she floundered about the kind of venue she wanted and the colour of the bridesmaid’s dresses etc. So I asked her “what if, you had the wedding of your dreams, what would the surroundings look like?” This and questions like it helped her to begin to describe her highest desires. From there, she was able to begin to imagine and thus describe what would work for her.
When swimming, two nights ago, I didn’t need to use my imagination, or break down my limiting beliefs. On the contrary, my imagination was working overtime, and it was my lack of limiting beliefs, (I know only too well the possibilities open to me!), that were actually overwhelming me and making me feel stressed. So when the “ What if ” came to my mind it was in a different context again.
As I swam, I recalled the final way I use “What if” exercises with clients, which helps them to get in touch with feelings. Used in this way asking “what if ” is used to switch feelings. If you are feeling low because you are scared something isn’t going to happen, or things haven’t worked out in the first place, the state you are creating can become like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For example, you’ve applied for a job, but you didn’t get through the last job interview, and your confidence took a dent. Your anxiety about failing and the pressure you feel to be successful this time round simply intensifies. You worry about it for days beforehand, and by the time you get in front of the interview panel, you are so nervous, they can’t help but wonder if actually you are up to the job because you have been wringing your hands, and stammered your way all through the interview, simply because your anxiety took over.
If, before the interview, you had asked yourself the question, “What if I were successful at getting this job?” You imagine what it would feel like and get in touch with the joy, excitement, gratitude and enthusiasm you would experience. If you took that experience/state into the interview room, believe me, your interviewers would also have a completely different experience of interviewing you.
Ten minutes into my swimming session, I simply asked myself. “What if everything was OK?” I immediately stopped worrying, the knots in my back started to relax, and suddenly my state felt peaceful. As I swam on, I realised the worst thing I can do is not take my own advice. What was almost certainly going to turn out a most stressful hour of battling against feeling overwhelmed and anxious, completely switched. I realised if everything was OK, I could enjoy this hour, and simply unwind and relax. So I transformed the next fifty minutes.
Why not transform your next hour and imagine “What if, everything was OK?”
Christina has managed people for twenty seven years and led hugely successful teams. She has worked with people at all levels in various organisations to help them achieve their potential, and she has been actively involved in the learning and development field in a number of different roles.
People Discovery is a Leadership Development coach and consultant based in North East England, working globally.
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