Do you wish you had a magic wand to make change happen more quickly in your workplace?
Do you long for new ways to help your team be more flexible and take on a more future-focused POV? Are your leaders stuck in a legacy or rigid mindset married to business as usual?
In our recent Future of Work Roundtable, live illustrator and change activator Patti Dobrowolski of Up Your Creative Genius held a highly visual and interactive presentation that demonstrated how the secret weapon to adopting new behaviors and openness to new ideas lives within each of us: our imagination.
To see the full session featuring Patti’s mesmerizing live drawing visit our YouTube channel.
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“What is imagination? When you’re a child, your imagination works freely. If you want to role-play a scenario, you’re in the scenario. You have to overcome some sort of challenge or maybe you’re just playing with anything that is there. We use our imagination freely and we have these ‘imaginary friends’ until a certain age where we’re stopped in that whole process and we’re brought back to reality.
Now, these are two parts of our brain that are actually working. One is abstraction, which is what our brain does when it’s on defaulting, and it’s daydreaming. If you take a walk and you’re not really working a problem, if you are in the shower, or you’re just doing some kind of repetitive exercise, then you’re in this state of abstraction, or this alpha state, is where all of the cool things happen. That’s our imagination.
Now, in my universe, I consider the imagination to be linked to creative genius. We always think of creative genius like Einstein, oh, was a creative genius, but in fact, in the old days, a creative genius was seen as an entity that lived in the walls of your house, and you could call on the creative genius to get an answer to a solution. People went to the Oracle because they felt like that was a place they could access their creative genius.
What’s happened over time is that the Romans decided they would attach it to a person, so that then, people were that, and then they could control people based on that. This is the person who has the ‘answers.’ What’s true is we all have access to it. Imagination is something that we do every moment of every day. Anytime you are handling a problem, you’re accessing your imagination.
Anytime you are handling a problem, you’re accessing your imagination.
Now, sometimes you’re accessing what is the second part of your brain, which is the control function. That’s the task-driven part of it. It’s analytical. It’s going to problem-solve for you. When you are in a stressful situation, it defaults to control and in the control state then, it does not just try to help you figure out how to get out of it. It sends cortisol into your system, so this other abstraction part of you goes behind the scenes, and it’s way in the background. This is like if you can imagine the stage, this is now you’re back in the dressing room, fixing your costume, because you’re not going to be able to come to the forefront until the cortisol is resolved.
One way that you can actually get yourself to be open to new ideas is to draw, because drawing integrates all parts of your brain, and it’s shown to have decreased your anxiety, and also, the other piece is that if you simply draw the infinity symbol in the air like this. Just do that first, because now we’re going to do a little bit of drawing with our imagination and accessing it, but I want you to be calm about it. Not worry about if your drawings look good. Anything that you do, you have to turn to that and say, ‘That is fantastic,’ because we’re rewiring that. We got to get those neurotransmitters dinging the, ‘Yes, fantastic.’
Overriding the Brain’s Control State to Unlock Imagination
When you’re working with a team, you can imagine when they’re worried about their job, how they’re in that state, and it’s impossible for them to brainstorm new ideas. Think about strategy for the future. They can’t even envision the future because they’re so afraid in the environment that we’re in. That’s what COVID’s done to many of us, if you watch the news, any of that. That puts you in your control state.
You’re trying to control everything and you can see how it polarizes people, you make up stories about everything because it takes you to your negative bias. Any kind of unconscious bias you have, it taps it right away. It takes it right up to the surface. You’re in your unconscious bias, acting from that place, instead of being open. You want to really relax yourself.
Why is that important? What happens in our default or our negative bias is that when we’re up against the challenge, for example, we default to what was known, and when we are challenging ourselves to become different in any way, or change something that we’re doing, or having a conversation that we’re unfamiliar with, then we default to that old way of doing things. We grip onto the ways we’ve always responded. We relive constantly with our imagination, this old way of being, our old selves, but we can untether ourselves from that.
One of the quotes I have from Oprah, she says, ‘Think like a queen. a queen is not afraid of failure. Failure if you step out, and you fail, you learn from it, and that equals greatness. Those are the stepping stones to greatness.’ Using our imagination, it’s always triggering us to take a different path.
Using our imagination, it’s always triggering us to take a different path.
Tapping Into Our Imagination to Envision a Better Future
Remember, the default when you’re up against a situation like the past, is for you to go back to that old way of thinking. How do we reroute our imagination? A couple of things that we could do immediately to reroute the imagination is to envision a positive future. Even in when you’re in a fantastic place to even envision a better future than that, will actually propel you towards it, because envisioning anything new in a positive way increases the serotonin in your body, right? It increases that dopamine hit you get, and then when you start to take any action on it, it will change you. It changes everything you do.
Right now, I was thinking that it would be fun if you, on this part, I want you to capture– let’s imagine that it’s five years from today. Not just next year. Let’s go five years out in the best-case scenario. I want you to first start by thinking about how you will feel five years from today in the best-case scenario. You could do it related to where you work or what you do. You could do it related to your entire life, but I want you to envision some goodness out there.
Now, I want you to get specific about it. You know you’re there, what have you got? If you’re in business for yourself, is that a seven-figure business? Is it that you have the relationship you’ve longed for? Is it that you’re making your own movie? Is it that your team is aligned? Is it that you’re the CEO, or that you’re at a high level of leadership? What is it in very specific terms? Get specific for something that you’d really think would be an awesome goal. Maybe you have your own nonprofit. Maybe you’ve just met the person that you’ve always dreamed about meeting, right?
You could see, now, the way that when we envision things, we think, ‘Oh, we’re just envisioning it.’ A lot of people say, ‘Oh, vision board. Yes, I’ve done that.’ Let me just say that when you draw a picture of your vision, and then you put it somewhere you can see it every day, and you continue to reprogram yourself by feeling these feelings, this is actually what activates change in you, right? Then we tap into the RAS system, the reticular activating system, so it starts showing you, you. Everywhere you go, everything you see, I see is all the ways that you can become more of your best self, of this self.
When we do this and we live this, and then we take action on it, it changes us. The more that you can envision it, and use your brain for you, it will replace the default, the default to the negative bias. Often, if you want to really do this well, that you envision this as if it’s happening right now. We always talk about this, that imagination is the force behind everything.
If you can imagine that everything is made up of energy, you’re in charge of that energy. You’re in charge of the energy when you walk into the room.
Part of what you need to realize is your energy is powerful. You carry it with you everywhere. When you get up in the day, before you get out of bed, you want to set your frame for the best possible experience you can have. Nikolai Tesla would do that before he would go to sleep at night. He’d envision his day, the next day, what he would write about his day it says if it had already happened, because the brain doesn’t understand past, present and future.
That’s why we don’t realize when change is happening, because we’re not programmed to see it. We’re programmed to make sure we’re safe. You have to turn up this imaginative, this abstraction faculty, any chance you can get. You begin to see the ways in which this is coming to reality, right?
The brain lives in the eternal now, it doesn’t exist in time. It doesn’t know past, present, or future. It believes that everything you’ve ever seen, heard, dreamed, watched in a movie, you had that experience yourself. That’s what it thinks. Since it thinks that way, why not live that way until you’ve trained the rest of you to catch up? Dreaming that actually imprints it into your hippocampus, so it believes that you, that’s in your energy field now.
There’s a technique called Vajrayana. That is where you envision yourself as that person and you visualize them so clearly so that you merge with them and you understand their perspective. You can do this with anybody. You can do it with somebody that you really want to become. If you think that you are the next Oprah, you are the next whoever, Benjamin Hardy PhD, you are the next. You simply put that person in front of you. You envision them as fully as you can and then you allow yourself to step into their shoes so that you learn and grow from that perspective, because we’re all connected.”
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