Future orientation and the power of imagination
Future orientation is a vital element of our creative being and imagination is the key feature of it. Especially if we use our imagination to boost our hope and optimism to shape a better future for our lives and work with others.
Picasso captured brilliantly the power of imagining by saying: “If you can imagine something, it exists”. We use our imagination to predict, influence or determine what will happen next and somehow shape the world we want to live in. A desired world where our problems are solved, our conflicts are settled and our efforts are acknowledged and rewarded.
Exceptional leaders share this fascinating quality, the ability to direct attention to a desired future of fulfilled dreams by sharing imaginative stories that inspire and motivate their followers, outlining what they aspire to create and achieve together. “I have a dream” was a great example of an imaginative story shared by Martin Luther King, a vision of a world of freedom, equality and justice that seized the need for change and channeled people’s efforts to make it real.
In a professional setting, imagining as an intentional and systematic exercise to visualize a brighter future is liberating and can generate innovative ideas to overcome blocking situations, reveal unseen possibilities and approach challenges in a more inventive way. It also provides the reasoning to steer decisions and actions in the present in order to start working for our collective aims in the here and now. Imagining, is our first step to make things happen, our stimulation to develop a sense of destination towards the change and improvement we seek in any given situation. Our imagination can capture an exceptional performance, a fruitful collaboration, a perfect product of our work or a substantial impact to our fellow citizens. An assertive aspiration which boosts optimism, makes a challenging present bearable and gives meaning to our endeavors.
In AHUM coaching practice, future orientation and imaginative story-telling have essential role. In a carefully defined context, we invite the people we work with to visualize a future situation of collective achievement, excellence and positive impact. A perfect end-destination which directs the journey ahead and creates the conditions to shape the road map, identify key milestones and agree the way they will contribute to the common effort. Based on the wonderful idea of Peter Lang and Elspeth McAdam that “problems are frustrated dreams”, we reframe challenges into aspirations and conflicts and differences into common goals, inviting people to take ownership of the desired change and commit to implement their share of action to realise it.
According to our experience, when the members of a group share stories about the past, a counterproductive atmosphere can emerge due to the emotional luggage their stories carry in many situations. Especially if they focus too much on what went wrong and who is to blame for their difficulties, without making a constructive step forward. Too much focus on the past cannot secure action taking for a better future and it’s not certain that revisiting and understanding deeper the causes of a certain challenge can provide the way to move on.
In our practice, we explore the past with the intention to reveal the collective brilliance of the people we work with, what brings effectiveness and accomplishment, what gives pride and dignity, what is valuable and irreplaceable to preserve and nurture. In our approach, story-telling is focused on highlighting the core elements of system’s being and progress, its ultimate moments of unity, collaboration and excellence. It is our vehicle to explore the richness of the system, its unique set of collective strengths on which future actions can be founded.
Focus on the future cultivates the hope and confidence that the desired change is possible within our capacity and control. It elevates our sense of ownership, a powerful feeling that we can take the initiative and act to improve our work and life together. Imaginative story-telling is malleable and open to creativity if exercised through an inclusive process of respectful and acknowledging inquiry, aiming at generating a practical outcome, bridging imagination and abstract thinking with concrete doings. In such a setup, it is always possible to imagine a blameless, uniting future of fulfilled dreams and create the conditions for immediate action.