Imagine your way to a more fulfilling career

July 2020

Every morning my 6-year old jumps onto our bed and asks me what we’re going to do today, believing that anything could happen.

I, however, believe that today will be very much like yesterday. I don’t say it out loud in case today is the day I have a Covid-19 home-schooling breakthrough, but mostly today will be like yesterday. Who is right? More importantly, who is better off? Her best friend is her imagination; mine is e-mail.

Before you start thinking I’m talking about unicorns, fairies and enchanted forests, bear with me. Imagination is merely the action of forming new ideas of external objects not present to the senses. It is the act of “presencing” something new based on who you are: your experiences, your thoughts, your skills, your yearnings. It is unique to you and we all have it – we just don’t all make space for it.

In 2009, there was a leadership conference in my city. One of my favourite thinkers, Malcolm Gladwell, was coming to town and I longed to hear him speak in person. The tickets were expensive and I couldn’t justify the personal expense. Every day I drove past the posters on my way to work longing for a ticket.

On the day of the conference, I drove past the same posters and wondered, “what would it be like to be there today?” I decided to drive to the venue and take a chance. My plan was to wait until everyone had gone in and then ask if I could sit outside the door and eavesdrop on Malcolm’s session.

A kind soul was willing to indulge my imagination and granted me access for the entire day. I was blown away and overwhelmed with gratitude.

What does all of this mean for everyday work? We need to make space for our imagination. Imagine grand, bold moves; risky new opportunities for those much-needed step changes that spice up your career. Like your personal relationships, your career is a relationship that needs variety, out of the ordinary “wow” moments.

Imagine you could craft your role to suit your strengths and passions. What would you do? With whom would you work? How would you allocate your time, attention and energy?

At the end of every day, my 6-year old asks me to read her a story. It is often the last thing I feel like doing after a lockdown day of playing, baking, home-schooling, wiping away tears (sometimes mine) and cleaning, but I read to her anyway. I do it, because I know it fuels her imagination and deepens our connection. The same can happen at work when we share our stories and imagine the future possibilities together.