Actualization

Photo by Navicor: A meteor during the peak of the 2009 Leonid Meteor Shower. The photograph shows the meteor, afterglow, and wake as distinct components.The first few times I listened to Daft Punk’s album Random Access Memories, I hated the very last song “Contact.” More precisely, I couldn’t stand how the song ends with an increasingly higher and higher pitched landing sound of an unidentified object approaching Earth. Today, I love this song. I love it because it makes me think about actualization.

I use the word actualization to describe the moments through which new ideas become reality. Usually, these moments feel a little hurried and crazy, but also invigorating and vibrant: A thing that has never been before is becoming real and you are making it happen. Actualization may be felt in an innovative project coming to completion, production of an artwork, the beginnings of a new life pursuit, or following through on a decision to do something new.

Actualization is an important part of futuring and future shaping because it is always part of forging new paths, and we will need new paths to successfully confront longstanding challenges we’ve inherited and face forward to the new ones that emerge.

However, actualization is not always fun. It often can generate fear. It is frightening to put yourself and your new idea out in the world, and that fear can trigger all variety of crippling doubt. When I am actualizing a new idea, I have to actively ward off pre-obstacles—reasons why I think the idea won’t work—even before I’ve taken any first steps toward making it happen. Actualization is also scary for others—it’s easy to fear change and desire a fictional “retrotopia”—clinging to the now that has already become the past and no longer can be. In groups, pre-obstacles can take the form of negative relational dynamics among group members.

If our capacity for actualization is important, how do we become better at actualizing new ideas?

The answer is practice. Doing builds capacity. Working individually and part of groups, we must experience the worst and best parts of actualizing new ideas frequently to gain an understanding of ourselves in relationship to such processes.

A common myth that persists about creativity, collaboration, and making new things with groups is that these skills are innate and portable. It simply isn’t true that you can bring a brand new team together that has limited actualization experience and magical forces of  collaboration will move everyone to be their best and make something great together. Every group is unique and requires experience making new ideas happen together to maximize their actualization capacity. The first attempt is usually messy. Subsequent times become easier and hold greater potential.

Actualizing new ideas is thrilling. It is essential for humanity’s resilience, innovation, and adaptivity. It is important to look for places in your life where you can actualize new ideas with others and keep building your capacity to make new things happen.

When I hear Daft Punk’s “Contact” today, I imagine what new ideas we may actualize next. I turn it up and enjoy the thrill of the arrival.

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