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All About You: Using your imagination to get out of a rut

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

We all know what’s it’s like to be “stuck in a rut,” even if it’s only for a short time. The phrase is believed to have originated in the early 1800s, when wheels from covered wagons would eventually end up in a “rut,” or a worn groove in a path. Back then it meant the wagon would have a hard time moving forward.

Although the meaning may vary, today we often use the expression when we don’t know how to get out of (or don’t feel like getting out of) a boring situation, or when we feel generally uninspired. Even if you’re one of the blessed few who never seems to get stuck in a rut, no doubt you know people who do. One tool we all possess that has helped me get out of ruts is my imagination.

Humans can imagine anything. That includes fun ways to eliminate boredom, innovative ways to engage employees during safety meetings and solutions to all sorts of other challenges!

Albert Einstein realized how powerful our imagination is. Several times he spoke about it. (“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”) In fact, he attributed his success as a theoretical physicist to his imagination rather than his ability to understand complicated equations and concepts.

Here are a few ways to strengthen your imagination.

Believe you are imaginative!

Too often when I host seminars and ask safety professionals to use their imagination, I hear “I’m not the creative type.” What tickles me is that often, after I’ve encouraged them, these same people come up with awesome ideas. Remember this: You have the same equipment (brain and mind) as the most renowned thinkers in the world. Of course, you’ve got to do more than just believe in your abilities. As with any skill, you’ve got to work at it and take some practical steps to strengthen your imagination muscles, such as:

Vary your experiences. If you do the same thing every day – wake up, go to work, stop at the same store on the way home, eat dinner, watch the same shows on TV, etc. – you’re not giving your imagination much to work with. Routines feel good; that’s why we stick with them. That’s also why new experiences can be challenging. But it’s a challenge worth overcoming, because new experiences stretch your senses and thoughts. Check out a new store or go to a public lecture on a subject you know little about. You don’t have to do this constantly; just enough to shake the cobwebs off your routines.

Most of us have a comfort zone that leads us to want things to stay the same. Yet, there is no way that can happen. Just in the last few years, look at how much our society has changed and made an impact on our lives. By using your imagination and opening up to new experiences, you’ll be better able to change yourself and jump right into any transformation.

Read and watch different stuff. Over the years I’ve come up with many creative safety ideas for my talks and consulting after reading magazines I’d never read before but had randomly picked up. Likewise with books – I read a wide variety. Just as having the same experiences will stifle your imagination, if you only read one type of magazine or book or watch the same type of show over and over again, you’ll be doing a disservice to your imagination.

Now and again, check out a magazine, TV channel or website that’s new to you. My favorite website is www.stumbleupon.com. It’s free, and it’s a great tool for expanding your imagination if you select interests outside your usual taste.

Your imagination can give you the inspiration to jump out of a stagnant time in your life like a wooden wedge can get a wagon wheel out of the mud! Give it a try.

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Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit www.makesafetyfun.com.

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