I like mantras. Every once in a while I adopt a new personal mantra and litter my world with it; tacking it to my refrigerator, my computer, and my office walls. I’ve had the same mantra for several years now:
Those two words are staring at me now from the wall beyond my computer. I cut them out of a glossy brochure I discovered at a science museum years ago.
It’s a short phrase, but powerful. Being mindful of this motivational tagline keeps imagination at the center of my daily thinking habits. It’s so easy to forget about imagination; I don’t really need it at the grocery store or dry cleaner. I can pull weeds, swim laps, do loads of laundry, and drive to work without an ounce of imagination.
The problem is when I ignore imagination during more significant and consequential moments of my day – while contemplating the Helen Frankenthaler painting at our museum, problem-solving with my teenage daughter, or tackling a new project at work, for example.
Asking What if? is like opening the window to a cabin boarded up for the winter. All of a sudden you see the cobwebs in the corner and the dust heaping on the tables. So often in our daily lives, we take those cobwebs for granted. Remembering to ask What if? forces me to thrust open the window and shine some light on them. Asking What if? reminds me that I have the capacity to make change. Asking What if? provokes me to think in a new way. Asking What if? challenges me to acknowledge that some of those old cobwebs are not doing a darn thing to enhance my life or work or relationships.
What if I let all of the weeds grow this year!
What if I go to a museum I’ve never visited before to discover a new mantra?
Happily, I am not the only one who espouses the benefits of asking What if? The Lincoln Center Institute is a champion of imaginative thinking habits.
What if you start asking What if? periodically today? I’d love to hear about the cobwebs you discover and choose to sweep away.
Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Merilee Mostov, Manager for Creative Initiatives