Imagination and problem-solving

Life is full of problems. If we made a list of problems (or challenges, if you prefer) for most of us, it would be a very long list.

And that’s fine.

Life is what it is, and whatever we deal with we try to do the best we can.

There is just one problem with problem-solving.

In order to solve the problem, we might describe or think about the current situation, what maintains it, what we have done in the past to solve it, what options we currently see, and so on.

Our approach to problem-solving will be influenced by our beliefs about problems, what factors to include, how problem-focused or how solutions-focused we prefer to be, and so on.

I have no quibbles with this as much good and outstanding work is done every day using these approaches.

However, solving problems, regardless of approach, requires a kind of “download” of the problem space or solution space in order to make it accessible to be worked with.

This download reproduces the very factors in our mind or consciousness that maintains the problem.

You can try this out for size yourself by thinking right now on an appropriate but very tenacious problem you are dealing with these days.

And there it is.

If we assume that the solution space in some sense needs to be larger and wider than the problem space, a shift of awareness from problem space to solution space automatically widens our focus and the scope of possibilities we can entertain.

But imagine a much, much, much wider space powered by your infinite imagination that holds both the problem space and the solution space, and suddenly you have moved from the well-known shallow shores to the wide open uncharted waters.

Imagination work thus shifts our focus from problems and solutions to the generative power of this deepest and widest part of ourselves.

It expands our scope of possibilities far beyond the mere creation of solutions to well-known problems.

It makes solutions-generation much more powerful.

Our moving forward suddenly takes place in wide open waters in what almost seems to be a completely different world.

And our list of problems? Well, many problems tend to fall away as irrelevant, others are seen from much more empowering perspectives, still others are taken to a higher level of creative capacity. We may also shift our focus to different problems and challenges that are far more interesting and engaging.

So, in imagination work we don’t necessarily approach problems and challenges directly, although we could. Instead we expand the power and scope of our imagination gently and graciously to such a degree that the lives we live and anything that happens in them in time become transformed completely.

It is after all the infinite imagination in me and in you we are talking about.

It is truly magical.

Entrepreneurial Power Requires an Abundance of Imagination

It may seem obvious once stated, but business and social entrepreneurs need imagination in huge amounts in order to succueed in our ever-changing world.

This is true from self-employed business owners serving customers locally all the way up to CEOs of vast global corporations.

The entrepreneur senses or sees or imagines future opportunities, chooses among the possibilities thus sensed, imagined, and generated, and sets out to make the visions, the products or the services fact in the world.

A living, active imagination enhances both vision and business acumen.

Imagination thus helps generating the vision that may go far beyond what is known. It helps generating the plan. It helps iteration and development. It helps implementation and graceful adjustments.

It helps at every part of the journey.

Everything we see around us exists because someone somewhere imagined it and then made it fact in the world.

If you are an entrepreneur at any level, you are no different.

Your living and vidid imagination helps the dynamics of entrepreneruship in its broadest sense towards your fulfilment and success.

Going Beyond the Known

Without imagination we tend to get stuck within what we already know.

The life we live, the jobs we have, the relationships to significant others that we have, the types of leisure we pursue, etc.

We may think that we are imaginative and very creative because we can draw, sing or compose, paint pictures or solve problems at work. I don’t deny the skills people have in this regard.

While mileage vary, most people can create and problem-solve, and some even become the go-to-guys-and-girls because of their track record in this regard.

However, in most cases it is my experience that people use their imagination “inside” the life they have known so far. It is tinkering and tailoring like a soldier that spies on endless possibilities but refrains from going all the way. Rather stay inside, then.

Imagination work takes you outside.

Imagination work transforms your life from a three-course menu with five choices of each to a life far beyond the limits of what you have known.

Going beyond the known is essential to truly creative problem-solving.

To an ethical life lived well and to the full it is essential.

Therapy, Coaching, and Imagination Work – What’s the Difference?

Trying to describe the difference between coaching and therapy can drive most coaches and coaching trainers nuts.

“Therapy is oriented towards the past; coaching is oriented towards the present and the future,” some might say. But is coaching more present- and future-oriented than therapy? No, not really, at least not always.

“Therapy and coaching use different tools,” some might also say. But that doesn’t really help us either as there are often a considerable overlap between coaching and therapy in this regard.

And so it goes on and on, from approach to approach, framework to framework. The overlaps and similarities are considerable in models, methods, techniques, etc. So what is a more suitable anwser?

The real difference lies not in “the what” or “the how” but in “the who”:

People in need of therapy often experience great emotional and debilitating pain in one or more areas of their lives, and for longer periods of time. Traumas from past experiences belong to this category. For this reason, in therapy, as the great Australian coaching psychologist Michael Cavanaugh once wrote, we bring peace to the disturbed.

in contrast, people in need of coaching function very well in their lives, some even at extremely high levels of performance. They may experience negative emotions like stress,  anxiety or doubt or even a lack of a sense of purpose, but never to the debilitating extent as people in need of therapy do  As a result, overall mental health and well-being are still high, and, following Michael Cavanaugh, in coaching, rather than bringing peace to the disturbed we disturb the peace. We disturb the peace by challenging our clients appropriately in order to faciliate the necessary transformations in goals, performance, achievements, and overall well-being and satisfaction.

Using a bike as a metaphor, in therapy we repair the bike so we can use it. In coaching we figure out where to go and how to deal with the challenges lying ahead.

And in imagination work? Well, in addition to what we might do in other types of coaching, in imagination work, metamorphorically speaking, we learn to fly.

Or put in another way:

We expand our creative power far beyond the ordinary and thus enabling us in making our highest and deepest visions and values fact in the world.

Of course, nothing in this world is guaranteed. That’s part of the great adventure called life. But still – the scope of our possibilities and action potency expand tremendously and through this our chances for success.

So we can heal & repair, clarify & act, expand & create.

These are the essential differences.

The Two Principles of Liberty

At the bottom of a life lived well in liberty lie two principles.

The first is the principle of “freedom from”:

Freedom from coercion, freedom from force, freedom from threats of force.

All human beings have a free will. As a will that is free, it is not caused by any-thing else than itself.

It can be influenced, however, by coercion, force or threats of force (and that is why these are used – to affect the will in order to affect behaviour).

To be free, then, is to be free from these forces.

But then, what?

That is where the second principle enters the picture.

The second principle is the principle of “freedom to”.

Freedom to create, to live the life the way you want it, to go after you highest and deepest dreams and turn them into manifest reality.

What that might be, is of course up to you.

It can never be up to anybody else.

It could be all of those things, places, people, experiences, and so on that give you and those around you the most profound levels of fulfilment. That part is up to you.

We can say that the principle of “freedom from” takes you half way.

It clears the space so you can be in this world uncoerced and unforced.

The other half way, the one that leads onto the infinite road of creation, is the principle of “freedom to”:

Freedom to create what is most profound and meaningful to you.

Freedom from and freedom to – the two principles of a life lived good and well in liberty.

Ethics and Your Infinite Imagination

Inevitably the question arises – how can one be free and ethical, ethical and free, both at the same time?

One could argue that morality puts limits on our behaviour, beyond which we shouldn’t go, but if we are bound by these limits, are we then wholly free?

The answer is as simple as it is profound:

There are infinite ways of doing Evil and infinite ways of doing Good. The restrictions that morality puts on us do not limit our freedom in as much as we always have an infinite number of infinites available to us to do Good.

The right ethical choice, then, is to use our infinite imagination to do Good in the infinite ways that are available to us or that can be created by us.

Given this, if you had this power, and infinite possiblities, and infinite ways of doing Good, what would you like to create?

The Power of Limits

The infinite imagination knows no limits.

The world, as an extension and use of space, does.

When the Zen painter stands in front of his empty canvas, the whole universe and beyond is open to him. Anything can be painted, anything can be created, and so he does.

As he moves his brush spontaneously to the rhythm of his powerful strokes, the paint immediately excludes other uses of that space by different strokes or no strokes at all.

But without limits, nothing can be created, so he smiles, and moves on without pause or hesitation.

As he continues to paint on his canvas and on his life, limits are what draws him to completion.

To be successful, therefore, in painting and in life, you need the power of limits to work for you.

Our Imagination Opens Up Space

Often, when people are under severe stress, they feel crammed into a very small space. Pressure starts to build. Over time the pressure can become unbearable.

Imagination work opens up space.

Road blocks, mental blocks and all kinds of challenges can now be dealt with elegantly, efficiently and creatively. New paths, new vistas, new spaces before unseen now become visible and are used to great effect.

Over time the built-up pressure diminishes and the sheer delight of wondrous adventure takes its rightful place.

Gaining the ability to open up space on an ongoing basis is one of the most powerful results of working with our infinite imagination.

Individuals are Creative, not Groups

A group of people may form a task force with the goal in mind to create something new and spectacular –  a breakthrough strategy, an innovative product, an hitherto unseen piece of art, something that promises to change the world…

…but if none of the members are creative, there will be no sparks to fuel the fire, and no fuel to grow. and expand.

A group of highly creative people can work wonders only if they are creative as individuals.

Of course, individuals in groups can hinder even the most noble creative intentions with their “won’t work” attitudes  and “have tried that” criticisms and so on, but without creativity from the participating individuals, there will be nothing to criticise, nothing to support, nothing to work with, nothing to try out, nothing to learn from.

If you want to work effectively with other people’s ideas, your own minds must be capable of sparking new ideas, of seeing new connections, and moving into new horizons as these move into view and you create and move into them.

Therefore, all group creativity, like charity, begins at home.

Uniquely, Creatively You

Your creative power springs from you. It is the source that feeds the river and its flow.

We can discuss what this means, but we will always get back to the notion that the source is you as an individual.

Without the individual, without you being You, there is no creative power. To think otherwise is to imagine a river without a source.

Without it, no lake, no pond, no brook, no spring to feed your Nile.

The river and its flow, and the source is You.