Social science has determined that we are “path dependent.” This means we are prisoners of our past experiences. The scientific assumption is that the past determines the present. Working from the positive lens, I often ask, “When does the future determine the present?” The room goes silent. Eventually someone says, “When we are committed to a goal.”
I was dreaming. A fierce animal was three feet from me and about to pounce. The image was so vivid that my body reacted. I suddenly raised my arms in defense and the action woke me up. I marveled that my unconscious could create an image so real that my body would respond. My imagination was creating my reality.
It is true that the past generally determines the present. Most people are prisoners of their culture and they live lives of “quiet desperation.” Organizations are full of quiet desperation and vast resources are unrecognized, untapped, and generally wasted.
It is also true that we can take control of our lives and find meaning. Personal empowerment and leadership originates with this question from Robert Fritz: “What result do I want to create?”
When we focus the conscious mind on our highest desire, we begin to trigger the unconscious mind. This interpenetration can give rise to a vivid image like the fierce animal that was about to pounce. The body responds to the image and the body behaves in new ways. This new behavior can stimulate others to respond. The new interactions that follow can give rise to new collective images. The new, shared images can be so vivid that the group responds in new ways. This is one path to conscious culture change. We call it leadership. We seldom see leadership, but when it exists, a vivid image of the desired future disrupts path dependence and creates purpose, experience, and learning.
While it is true that the past determines the present, it is also true that the future can determine the present. When we choose to live to a higher purpose, we can find the discipline to state the future we truly desire and give life to the images that emerge. When we do so, we live more meaningfully and we begin to lead.
In our organization, what are our governing images?
Do these images come from the past or the future?
What is our most noble, vivid, shared, future image?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?