I’m not talking about the imagination you use to create new products, services, and/or experiences. I’m talking about the imagination you use every day in your interactions with other people—customers, employees, vendors or potential clients—that may be holding you and your business back.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to get a hold of a potential new client and leave three messages over three days and none of them are returned, what is your imagination telling you? “They must not be interested.” Or, “Cold calling doesn’t work.” Or, “Better cross them off the list.” But are any of those true? Maybe. Maybe not. We don’t know for sure. However our imagination is usually confident that it does.
Or, let’s say that you delegate a task to Sally that’s supposed to get done by Friday at 3:00 p.m. It’s now 3:10 p.m. on Friday afternoon and she hasn’t handed in her completed task yet. What’s your imagination telling you? “I knew she wouldn’t get it done on time. Sally is ALWAYS undependable.” Or, “I guess Sally doesn’t believe me when I say a task needs to be done by 3:00 p.m. on Friday.” Or, “There she goes again being rebellious. Sally doesn’t respect me. I ought to fire her.” Are any of these true? Maybe. Maybe not.
Or let’s take Anwar. Let’s say that you’re making a sales presentation to Anwar and you notice that he’s fidgety. What is your imagination telling you? “He can’t wait for this to be over.” Or, “He isn’t interested.” Or “Anwar. Humm. That sounds Muslim, he’s fidgety, therefore he must be a terrorist and there must be a bomb about to go off” Isn’t it amazing how far and how fast our imaginations take us? But are any of these imaginations correct? Probably not.
Yet the imaginations you and I have in our minds every day do affect our behavior. If we imagine that someone isn’t interested (even if they are), we give up. On the other hand, if we imagine that someone is interested (and they’re not), we keep plugging away (and possibly destroying the relationship).
In psychological terms, what we’re talking about is the difference between “Noticing” and “Imagining.” When we’re noticing something, like someone looking at their watch or twirling their hair or arriving late to a meeting, we’re simply naming the actual fact. “I noticed that Sally didn’t turn in her assignment by 3:00 p.m.”
However, when we allow our imagination to ascribe meaning to something we noticed, that’s when we get into trouble—because what we imagine may not be true.
The reason the potential client didn’t return our calls/emails may be because he’s on vacation. Or it may be that his mother is seriously ill and in the hospital and he’s consumed by that. Or it may be that his admin screens his calls/emails and hasn’t put them through to him. Or it may be that your emails got caught in the new IT email filter his company just implemented last week and he never received them. Or …
In other words, the only thing we know for sure is that you sent three messages and your prospect hasn’t responded—everything else is simply imagination—until we have more information.
Hopefully, you’re beginning to see how powerful this principle is. For example, Iet’s say several of your clients/customers are gone on summer vacation and aren’t that interested in doing any new business right now. That’s what we notice. But what does our imagination do with that?
We imagine that everyone in our target market must be on vacation and doesn’t want to do business—so we write off whole months of lead generation and sales conversations. But should we? Apart from testing, we don’t know. It may turn out that a lot of people in your market are more reachable right now since “everyone” thinks the summer is a bad time to close deals in your market.
I can’t overstate how frequently this mistake is made (like daily :-).
So, how have you ascribed value (by using your imagination) to something you noticed that hasn’t been right on—and how has that cost you? Maybe a customer. Or a relationship. Or time. Or money.
And then, how has your imagination hindered you personally? What have you imagined to be true about someone or something that has kept you from achieving your goals?
Once you begin to see this distinction between “noticing” and “imagining,” hopefully you’ll start questioning yourself, on a daily basis, and asking, “Did I just imagine something to be true—that may not be true?”
Once you clear out the faulty imaginations that are holding you back, I’m confident that much will change for you and your business!
To your accelerated success!
P.S. I want to thank Steven Gaffney for sharing this concept. He’s right on the money about this distinction!
P.P.S. If you have some classic imagination ideas that hold leaders back, we’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below (and don’t forget to link the posts you like and pass them around).