“Humans are distinguished from other species by a massive brain that enables us to imagine a future and influence it by what we do in the present.” – David Suzuki
Humans may not have the most massive brain in terms of pure mass; although I’m not sure what other species I could point out that might have bigger brains. Certainly some dolphins have sizeable brains and one would think that some apes have brains that are nearly as large. It’s hard to imagine what the size of an elephant’s brain may be. Both apes and dolphins show a developed intelligence and ability to learn that is quite impressive; however, it’s that part about imagining a different future and then making that future happen through or plans and actions that really sets us apart.
In a recent post I talked about visualization as a technique to achieve success. Visualization involves not only imagining the future but also imagining how to get there – the plan and the execution of that plan. Visualization lets us imagine the perfect execution and the perfect result; it lets us practice in our minds.
Planning and problem solving are also parts of influencing the future to achieve the future that we have imagined. Unlike visualization, which focuses on the execution; planning focuses on the preparation. Planning is the process whereby we fill in the details and beak the journey to that imagined future state into small, executable steps. Problem solving involves adjusting those plans when we encounter the unexpected or when the expected doesn’t go as expected. While problem solving is part of the execution step it involves little side trips back to the drawing board to react and re-plan in order to overcome setbacks. A massive brain helps with those things, too.
Of course, also lurking in that massive brain for many are such things as fear, uncertainty and doubt. There probably are parallels to those things in other animals. We have likely all seen animals cower in fear or stop in their track, uncertain as to whether to proceed. Other things that impact our ability to get to the future that we’ve imagined may involve our emotions, which also reside in that massive brain. Sometimes emotions blind us to obvious cautionary signs or perhaps egg us on when caution would be the better course of action. Some emotions help and some hurt our efforts to get to the imagined future, but all probably have some impact on the speed at which we advance.
An interesting evolutionary quirk is that our massive brains seem to produce a cumulative positive effect on further brain development .As we invent things to get to that better imagined future we continually make out present better and easier. Our massive brains allowed us to evolve from hunter-gathers focused almost solely upon survival into what has become an information-driven society. We created things to do the hard work involved in surviving and that allowed us more time to spend thinking about that different future and the other things that we needed to make. What has a dolphin or an ape ever invented? They may be smart enough to adapt tools from things that they find in their environment, but they never go to the next level. Sure they have “social structures” within groups of their own species, but those are mostly rudimentary hierarchies based upon survival or mating habits.
So, here we are with our massive brains; what do we do with them? Our calling is to use them to imagine a better future and then make it happen. Do you spend time every now and then just thinking about the future that you would like to have? What do you do then? Do you just write that off as wishful thinking and go back to your “normal” life? Why? Why not take the next steps and turn your imagination loose on the “how” and not just the “what” of your imagined future. Don’t just imagine something that floats out in front of you like a mirage; image also the road to get to that dream future. See the steps and lay out a plan. Then you can begin using visualization to practice executing those steps. It’s all in there somewhere, in your massive brain, if you will just take the time to use it.
Have a great day and take a little time to imagine what you want and where you want to be in 2 years or 5 years or 10 years. That’s the future that you want to imagine. Then imagine a way to get there. Imagine that.