- What role do imagination and creativity play in your chosen profession and in your current industry, organization, and job? In your other roles (citizen, parent, partner, single person, homeowner, gardener, cook, athlete, whatever)?
- What are some specific creative challenges you face currently?
- What would you like to make?
- What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen?
- What types of solutions would transform your industry or profession?
Whether your career and adult life are on the verge of lift-off, going full throttle, or floating in that space of pre-retirement satisfaction, nostalgia, and regret, you need to think about this essential question:
How can I respond to this present time of rapid technological change, social upheaval, and economic uncertainty in a way that will fulfill my vision for the future?
That is the ultimate example of what I call “solution-seeking.” Here are some practices to try:
- Choose multiple paths. You seldom need to settle for either/or. Sometimes you can choose one project, career, or lifestyle and still have the best of the option you didn’t pursue. The harder the choice was to make, the better it is to try this.
- Take thoughtful detours and side trips whenever you can. Don’t neglect true talents because they don’t pay your bills. Assert your right to try something different. Dabble unapologetically.
- Be both an intern and a mentor. Everyone always has the potential to be an intern at one thing and a mentor at another. Everyone could benefit from having and being both. Any group of three or more people can find a project on which to collaborate.
- Pretend honestly. The world of make-believe can be your friend, as long as everyone affected agrees to play.
- Look across conventional boundaries for knowledge, ideas, tools, and collaborators. Anyone willing to think and work can contribute to any project even if it’s only in a small way. Outsiders and amateur can make invaluable contributions. Teams can be fluid. You can energize solution seeking by linking your challenge to someone else’s.
- Embrace slowness if necessary. It’s better to take a long time to get there than it is to wait until the right time or give up. Always be conscious of the process, but be very thoughtful about imposing deadlines, outlines, timelines, and needless constraints. Put your dream at the radius of everything you do rather than on its own linear path.
Not all of these approaches require you to work with others, but most will steer you toward collaborative relationships. Those relationships could be the beginning of your Think Pond.
Sometimes when starting a new project, it’s good to spend some time reading and playing with ideas before making a methodical plan. This may not be progress in the traditional sense, but it may help you:
- Envision success and see obstacles more clearly.
- Identify what is not important and foresee ideas you might have to argue against.
- Step back and ask some important philosophical questions that will help you understand the people involved.
- Find connections that are not obvious.