This week, Janine and I went to an industry night where you get to meet new trainers and other fitness professionals. This was an interesting night for us and something that I certainly didn't find too inspiring although it was hard to say why. It is not that there aren't people out there giving their all to it and wanting to support others in their health and wellness journey.
I guess when I sit back and look at it, I felt that marketing and selling to people have become more important than an authentic and complex relationship with your mission, purpose and philosophy. In a modern world where streamlining, automation and simplicity are praised, what really became clear to me at this industry night is that there is something extremely surface level about simply saying words.
No no, don't get me wrong, this is not a rant about good or bad, right or wrong. Simply, I wondered, what if the changes we need to see in response to the biggest challenges of our time did not come from governments and businesses, rather they came from you and me, from the communities that we engage with, all working together? I certainly do not believe that the bleak solitude of survivalist and isolationism ideologies are going to propel us forward. I do believe in the tweaking of ruthless commercialism and breaking down the dream that some electable saviour will come riding to our rescue. For me, both personally and professionally, I truly believe the reconnection to the community is where we have to go. As we Rob Hopkins put it: "if we wait for governments, it will be too late. If we act as individuals, it will be too little. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, and it might just be in time."
These are important things to talk openly and honestly about. Getting that the responsibility is on us to spark each other's imagination and envisage a world we want to live in is where this all begins. As we know from the field of positive psychology, imagining a certain outcome can increase the likelihood of its coming to pass. Jackie Andrade & Jon May (University of Plymouth) showed in their research that once people have internalised the skills to imagine a future in which they have reached their desired weight or pattern of behaviour, there is a drastic increase in their attainment of it. Why would it not be the same for these bigger issues in the world?
Yet, in our modern world, this is quite a challenge as we don't give imagination enough time. It is not given enough time in school and not enough time at home, as we increasingly pack our lives, and our kids' lives, with classes and screens. But that doesn't mean there is nothing we can do, in fact doing nothing is part of the solution. Taking some time out from the distractions, the hustle and bustle, simply to be. To embrace who you are and why you move through the world as you do is a powerful step.
To quote Susan Griffin - a feminist and naturalist philosopher - "One might say that human societies have two boundaries. One boundary is drawn by the requirements of the natural world and the other by the collective imagination." By taking some time for your individual imagination, you have an opportunity to change the collective imagination of the communities in which you engage. It is this collective imagination that empowers people around us to help in changing the world.