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where the wild things are

Nothing is beyond a child’s imaginative reach. A cardboard box can be a rocket ship, a laboratory, or a dark cave. A ramshackle stack of pillows can be a castle, a home, or a secret world. A child’s mind can re-imagine anything and everything as anything and everything else. In a wonder-filled world children are inspired by possibility and find happiness and comfort in created spaces. They bend and shape their world to make the most of their experience.

As adults, a great many things have moved beyond our imaginative reach. The world has become concrete and imagination seldom plays into our everyday mix. Many of us have jobs in which we’re tasked to imagine and re-imagine, but the majority of us do so within a finite space. In a expectation-filled world, adults are often discouraged by impossibility and frequently find happiness and comfort in existing spaces. We bend and shape ourselves to experience the world as we perceive it.

We also tend to stumble over rationality. We prize it, yet we’re inevitably restricted by it. At the same time, learning and logic get in our way. Yes, they’ve opened many personal and professional doors for us, but they’ve shut many others. Think about it: When was we last time you used a colander as a space helmet? Or the static-filled channel on the TV as a communication portal? Or a brush as a microphone? Or a towel as a cape? At first blush, these far-fetched pursuits appear inappropriate if not ridiculous, and in some ways they are. That’s part of my point. If we only consider what’s “appropriate” or not “ridiculous” we miss a great many other things. If we look beyond judgment we see that the above pursuits also illustrate expansive thought and self-appreciative action (among many positive others).

We’re also held back by rational, logical, learning-based approaches that largely deem the realm of imagination as irrelevant to our existence–especially in professional settings. As a result, we increasingly stifle our imagination based on the expectations, verbalizations, and behaviors of others. For better and worse, we internalize these external cues and limit our imaginative ability. To make matters worse, we don’t know where to draw the line (between appropriate and inappropriate imaginative thought and behavior). Resultantly, we usually nix both in the workplace (if not in our personal lives) to play it safe, and we sideline a great deal of our creative, innovative, and productive potential in the process.

The question, then, is how do we regain the imaginative abilities we’ve lost? For starters, we can play games that call for imaginative play (e.g. role-playing and creative games among others). We can also bend the rules of possibility and entertain flights of fancy (e.g. remember how we did it as a child to relearn how to do it as an adult). We can imagine and embrace things that defy our sense of logic and reason to stretch our ability to do both (e.g. fantasize and conceptualize without self-judgment). We can also envision a world that is empowered but not limited by our learning, and enable ourselves to learn in new ways (e.g. thinking “outside of the box” and reward ourselves for doing so). These are but a few of many ideas I can come up with and surely you can come up with many more.

The bottom line is this: A childlike approach can help us to recapture the imaginative possibilities that elude us and the imaginative potential that can benefit us. Play can enable us to remember and reconnect with our imaginative selves. Imaginative endeavors can invigorate our creative vision, our innovative ideation, and our productive ability. By empowering and accepting our unique, imaginative, and playful selves, we expand the realms of acceptance and possibility. We also create relatively limitless personal and professional opportunities for ourselves and others.

The future exists within us. Let’s open our minds to see and create it in glorious color. We must accept and embrace our unique perspectives. Let’s release our imagination and let’s come more fully to life. Only then can we change for the better. When we remember and make use of our childlike abilities, we empower ourselves to re-imagine and improve our shared world. Only then will our everyday inspire us.

(I posted this article on my business-oriented blog earlier today, but I wanted to share it on my more personally-oriented blog as well (e.g. this one!). Even though my writing is aimed at our professional lives, it also–directly and indirectly–touches on our personal ones.)

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