When I was eight years old I thought I was from Pluto. I told my sister the Pluto people would come and get me one day and take me home. My sister Vicky, bless her cotton socks, believed me.

I always felt a little different. I was born with a large birthmark on my cheek and naturally stood out. My parents named me Zoë, which was an unusual name for 1970 in England. 

I was different.

I often wondered how I fitted in – in high school, at University. Then I had the joy of discovering belonging at summer camp. I felt safe. These were my friends, my lifelong buddies.

I’ve had that experience a few times: summer camp, Outward Bound, and now again at Thought Leaders.

Talking to leaders and people in these various communities, I know that we don’t always feel safe. We don’t always feel like we belong.

Other people can be intimidating. We make up stories about what they think of us, how we don’t quite fit.

I’ve had that on and off with my Thought Leaders community.

Until I decided to run an experiment.

I played the ‘imagine if…’ game.

‘Imagine if I truly belonged. Imagine if everyone adored me and loved my company. Imagine if I only felt love when I turned up. Imagine if I showed up as love and helped others feel like they belonged…’

This was a game-changer. 

Instead of looking for validation of  “I belong / I don’t belong”, I chose a different perspective and lived as if that were true.

And it became true.

I belonged. I felt love for everyone. People enjoyed my company and I enjoyed theirs.

Playing the ‘imagine if…’ game gives us a chance to create a new orientation, and to live through a different lens.

It’s no more true than the lens of ‘I don’t belong’.

Yet, we can have the experience of either belief, I belong / I don’t belong, by simply choosing to live through a different frame.

I’m choosing the one that feels good.

What game of ‘imagine if…’ might you play to change your experience?

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  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.