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Imagine . . .

It is difficult for me to express just how important I think imagination is.

It’s often used as a word that has rather trivial and childish overtones, but far from being an irrelevant plaything, imagination is absolutely at the core of our being. What we imagine for ourselves defines how we are able to progress and grow through life, and far from being a given skill, is something that it is possible to nurture and inspire in an individual - who may or may not be yourself – at any age.

In fact, not only is imagination undervalued, but when people (usually children) are described as having a vivid imagination, the comment is often tinged with connotations of something to be wary of, probably treated with caution and definitely not encouraged to grow further. The very fact that the phrase ‘over-active imagination’ is commonly used is very telling, how can you have too much imagination? What you imagine for yourself or your work, has a direct effect on your life, so surely the more actively that’s working for you, (within the boundaries of delusion of course!) then that’s all for the better.

Some years ago, I worked with a huge secondary school for young people with learning disabilities, delivering the curriculum through the creation of their own theatrical performance. One day I went into rehearsal, and one of the lead characters was off sick. A new girl had just started in the school, and clearly had some deep emotional and mental health issues. At first, she placed herself in the prop-making group, but fairly early on, as the performance group started to read through the script, unprompted, she moved over to join us instead.

She asked if she might ‘read in’ the part of the absent girl, and I said, “Of course.” She started hesitantly, but as we worked on the short scene, marked it out in the space, and rehearsed it again and again - she grew in confidence, to the degree that she began supporting and coaching the other actors.

At the end of the session, she came to me and asked, “Do you think I could really do this, I mean really, on stage, in front of people and everything?” I told her I absolutely thought she could do it, and do it brilliantly . . . and I’m not kidding you, I could see this young woman’s horizons widen. Her idea of what she could be, expanded in front of me. Her shift in what she was able to imagine for herself, created something new deep inside her, something that could be her future. She went on to play the lead and brought the house down!

So, I would like to put forward the case for imagination to take it’s rightful place at the heart of our personal development – something to be treasured, encouraged and lauded as possibly our most precious and important tool.

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