“Worry is a misuse of the imagination.”
~Dan Zadra

I have a great imagination – and only recently have I learned to use it for something worthwhile. When I was a kid, I could, and did, easily imagine the worst things happening. When my mother came home late I knew she was dead. When other kids in school were laughing, I knew it was at me. When I handed in a paper at school, I knew already that I had failed. I was most often wrong.

My dire imaginations continued as I grew older. I envisioned myself at the heart of every conversation that seemed to stop as I entered the room. As the reason for every mistake. As Chicken Little, knowing that the sky was falling and waiting for the other shoe to drop as well. Again, most often wrong.

I’d feel particularly bad about my past imagination, except I know that unfortunately I wasn’t alone in negative made-up stories. All too often I hear others sharing their “worst” interpretation of events, or of other people. I witness clients “knowing” that things will go sour, or that their bosses are annoyed, or that their project won’t succeed. I am their confidante as they share their complaints about their colleagues (or family members) and their absolute confidence that a certain person is incapable, or out to get them. And again, I’ve seen that my clients, their fears, and their interpretations are most often off-base and wrong.

While our false imaginings may, in some ways, help us because they prepare us for the worst outcome or help us think through challenges, I’ve realized that imaging the worst actually deprives and depletes us more than it helps, so I finally had “enough” with using my imagination in this way…or letting it use me. I learned that I can almost as easily imagine good things – positive outcomes, strong relationships, success at home and at work, even simply a great day. And that it gets easier and easier the more I practice and strengthen these imagination muscles, and that the less I worry, the more things seem to go smoothly.

I’ve shared this suggestion with my clients as well, and have seen remarkable occurrences in their lives. Somehow presentations do seem to go smoother when my clients envision the best. Team meetings are more productive when my clients predict a positive outcome. Even tough conversations are a bit easier when my clients imagine an easy time, and a desired result. When they use their imagination in their best interests, their best interests more often appear.

Next time you’re worrying, stop. Imagine the positive and see what happens.

Where do you use your imagination against yourself?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For help imagining the positive, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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