hearts thinking love

Imagineering Your Future

I run a thought experiment in my law school class during which I have the students imagine a series of prompts, and in each instance, notice their physiological response. Feel free to play along. Close your eyes and sink into it. Imagine each prompt individually, and note the concurrent experience in your body.


  • A favorite food, snack or dessert

  • Walking on a tightrope stretched high above a gorge of raging water hundreds of feet below

  • Someone, something, or someplace that you love

In the first instance, the students noticed that they immediately began to salivate. Those who were hungry, also noticed that their stomachs begin to rumble. The moment we think of food, the signal to release digestive enzymes into the mouth and stomach, switches on instantaneously to prepare our bodies for digestion.

In the second instance, students report that they experience “butterflies” at their core or increased heart rate. Though they are sitting safely in their seats, a danger signal has released adrenaline and cortisol into their systems.

In the third instance, many describe warmth around the heart. That’s oxytocin, a neurohormone that protects the heart, and also encourages connection. They also express emotions associated with these experiences, such as feeling “happy” when thinking of their favorite foods, “terror” on the tightrope, and feeling “content and peaceful” when thinking of loving experiences.

As digital-age professionals, we spend most of our time “in our heads,” yet thinking is only one type of human intelligence. To focus solely on reasoning, while ignoring emotional and somatic information, is akin to working only one muscle when we go to the gym.

To be a fully realized lawyer, and human, we need to note our somatic and emotional data, too. This information has a lot to offer. Think for a moment about a time when you knew that a witness was lying, or recall a moment when you realized that you were forgetting something. This awareness of something missing or knowledge that someone is lying begins with information gathered by our senses, which is then translated into thought.  

To some degree, this past year of virtual living has interfered with those sensory perceptions. On screens, we have less access to the visual input and other cues that are so significant in our in-person interactions. While we worked as hard, and perhaps harder over the past 12 months, a year plus of being stalled on a sea of uncertainty has put a ding in our momentum. Thought experiments, like the one above, train our minds to pay attention to what matters by attuning us to signals beyond our intellectual experience.

So what does this have to do with imagineering our future?

Last week, we looked back for some perspective. What has changed for you? Have you shifted your priorities? Or are you itching to get back to a pre-pandemic office routine? Or perhaps you’re devising a combination of the two. The answers to these and many other questions are as varied as the people reading this blog.

As we inch our way toward re-opening and re-engaging, I invite you to pause, articulate what matters to you most in your work environment and your life generally, then begin to align your re-entry with that reality. Close your eyes. Imagine that you’ve made the shifts you’d like to see happen (these could be the “if only” scenarios we imagine when we want things to change). What does that life feel like in your body? What emotions are associated with that physiological experience? Use that to begin imagineering your future.

On a personal note, as part of my re-alignment, I’m moving from Los Angeles to Santa Fe, NM in mid-May, so Thursday Thrive Bites will be taking a one-month spring break, and reconnecting with you again in June (though it’s quite possible that spontaneous thoughts on thriving may appear in your inbox sooner).

In the meantime, as always, keep thriving!