There is a connection between being imaginative and being highly effective. Before we start the journey of improving effectiveness, we must master the ability to see things differently and... imagine.
"Your most important work is always ahead of you, never behind you."
-- Stephen Covey
A few years ago I participated in a workshop based on Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". My initial reaction when the workshop began was that I had read it all before in one form or the other. And yet, it was not long before something happened. It was probably a magical combination of the powerful way the messages were communicated and that right point of time in my life when I was ready to absorb it. Whatever it was, it set the wheels in motion, and eventually, has affected (and still is) so many aspects of my life.
In a sense, the concept of seempli was seeded in that workshop. In retrospect, all the pieces of the puzzle were there in my mind before that. But it was only when I was asked to think about my vision and my mission statement that these pieces began to form a vibrant and coherent picture.
Today, I would like to close the loop and reflect on how imagination and the ability to see things differently - two of the core capabilities we are aiming to develop and master with seempli - are essential to being effective. And what better way is there to do so than to see how they affect the implementation of The Seven Habits.
The Seven Habits journey begins with developing the habit of Being Proactive. What seems to be a simple enough concept is, in fact, the cornerstone of all the habits that follow, and it is far from being trivial to implement. Most of us are already wired to respond almost automatically in so many situations. Many of us are used to do what we are expected to do. Many of us don't feel we are controlling the grand scheme of our lives.
One of the ways to break the reactive loop is to imagine an alternative. Imagination is a one the key elements that give us the power to choose our reaction and to set a course toward our goals. That is what makes us different from any other living creature on earth.
The second habit is built on top of our ability to be proactive. It is quite explicitly the habit of imagination: Begin with the End in Mind. Envisioning your future, sketching a vision, and gradually setting the path toward realizing it, is a pure act of imagination. If you can't imagine a better or more profound future for yourself, for your family, for your team, and your organization, you will not be able to realize it.
The first two habits are the foundation of being more effective. When you master them together with the third habit (Put First Things First), you are on your way to a Private Victory. The ability to imagine is the engine required to achieve the Private Victory. Without imagination, we are doomed to re-live our present. Constantly improving is by definition where we aim at when we are talking about being highly effective people.
So, developing our imagination - re-igniting our ability to create a different world in our mind - is a precondition for being able to master the first part of The 7 Habits model.
When we aim for a Public Victory, we need to add another core capability to the model.
See Things Differently
Adopting a Win-Win mindset and Seeking First to Understand (Habits 4 and 5) don't come naturally to many. Most of us are not "programmed" like that as adults. That's why we can adopt these habits only after we have achieved a Private Victory.
But it takes more than a private victory to overcome our natural tendency to be heard and to explain ourselves first. Ditching the idea of “my way or your way” requires us to change the way we see the world - literally.
Habit 5, in particular, asks us to place ourselves in the other person's shoes - or to see things the way they are seeing them and deeply understand what is important for them. You have to to do that regardless of how you see the world and what you consider to be important. That is the most profound and pure act of seeing things differently. And obviously, it is far from being easy for most of us by default.
Habit 6 - Synergize - brings imagination back to the front as it instructs us to aim for a new alternative. An alternative that will help us achieve both our goals and the goals of other parties, and by that produce even better results.
Once again, this is not possible to achieve mechanically. It requires all parties involved to be able to imagine the option that such a better alternative exists, and then to imagine what form it can take. It is a purely creative process: taking our goals and current ideas (and maybe some constraints) as input and coming up with a new creation which is better than anything any of the parties could have produced by themselves.
Habit 0: Be Imaginative
It may sound unnatural at first, but imagination and the ability to see things differently are the living core of becoming more effective. And just like The 7 Habits model applies to personal relationships as well as to organizational and professional contexts, the Observe-Imagine skill is the basis for both personal, organizational and professional development.
The entire 7 Habits model is based on the assumption that we are capable of seeing thing differently, imagining, and creating a new reality - first in our mind, and then in the real world. If you read this column on a regular basis you already know that this assumption is 100% correct: we are born with these skills. At the same time, most of us need to re-ignite these skills and master them actively as adults. Without doing so, creativity and imagination are likely to degrade when confronted with the day-to-day demands we are facing.
You can call it a prerequisite or Habit 0. In a sense, it's like the need to be in physical shape before you can improve your basketball skills. Being imaginative - practicing and developing this skill, and turning it into a habit as natural as breathing - is essential to start the journey toward defining and achieving your goals.
Imagination is the basic tool needed to change any paradigm. And changing paradigms is the only way to move forward. Otherwise, you can only hope to continue doing what you have already done. And apart from not being really effective, this doesn't sound quite satisfying (or fun…).
Lidor’s visual artworks, which are focused on the things hundreds and thousands of people pass by in the street every day, led him to create seempli to inspire people to practice creative observation on a daily basis.
Using seempli Lidor works with individuals, teams, and organizations seeking to develop and enhance their creativity.