This weekend my wife and I will be keeping three of our grandchildren and I can’t wait. The twins are 6 and the youngest, 3. We’ve been thinking all week about the fun things we will do together. This morning, while pondering today’s Brief, I was reminded of one of the great joys of being with children; which is their boundless capacity for imagination. It is nothing short of amazing how freely and effortlessly they enter into a world that we adults have sadly ‘grown’ out of along the way. But if we are willing, our children and grandchildren can happily lead us, hand-in-crayon, marker, dirt, or paint-covered hand, back into the lost world of our imaginations.
We must suspend the controls and boundaries that give us our ‘real’ world false sense of comfort, like schedules, order, budgets, responsibilities, stresses, and so on. Children take great delight taking us into their world that knows none of these limits or burdens. All we have to do is walk, crawl, roll, or dive headlong into it with them and listen as they tell stories and describe how they see, smell, taste and feel the world around them. Hopefully they will not have grown so ‘real-world-savvy’ that their imaginations have become too clouded by our influences.
This ‘world-savviness’ for adults comes from years of experiences; of failures and triumphs, of sameness and surprises, of hurts and joys has erected imaginary walls and ceilings around our hopes and expectations just as real as the scarcity of those boundaries in the minds of our children. The great challenge our clients face as in planning the futures they want for themselves is remaining so tightly tethered to the realities of their present circumstances. There is as the same time an inability to imagine grander or uniquely different ideals from today’s realities in their future, while at the same time a lack of faith of confidence in achieving them if they bother to put them into their plan.
Today’s divisions, ugliness, and doubts only play into the negative narratives we hear. But planning, done well, recognizes these realities without dwelling on them or getting mired in them, and more importantly, reveals alternatives and options to break free from them. When a child encounters an immovable boundary, she goes around it. How often it seems we adults simply stop when we encounter a barrier, or start over with a new solution that retraces ground we’ve already covered.
Our imagination (“the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses” Google) is one of God’s greatest gifts to us humans, in fact it is one of the abilities that makes us unique among all creatures. Sadly we seem to be using it or thinking about it less and less. The following chart demonstrates how mentions of the word ‘imagination’ in literature have dropped by 50% in the past 210 years.
Seems that as science, physics, and perhaps even our shared experiences teach us more about our ‘real’ world, the less we care or dare to imagine how it might be better, almost as if hoping so was futile. Well take heart – imagining better futures is NOT futile.
Imagining is the first and mandatory step toward turning present realities into better, even ideal future realities. Imagination inspires goals and aspirations, which become the building blocks of a life plan that motivates and informs actions today and every day along the way. Resources, talents, abilities, time, and many other ingredients are added to empower the plan toward its objectives. With commitment and continual tweaking and adjusting the plan remains confidently aligned to meet or exceed every important goal and aspiration it’s aimed at.
The next time you spend some some time with children or grandchildren, watch and learn just how devoutly committed they are to their imaginary goals – whether you can see them or not.