According to developmental psychologists, the foundation of human imagination emerges in childhood and its lifelong trajectory reflects the nature of the support that nurtures it during this time.

Bolster a young child’s budding imagination at home or in school with encouragement and she will sense this and accept more risks in whatever activities and challenges she faces. Such encouragement will prime her to get up and try again when she faces setbacks that would otherwise discourage her. Multiply that a thousand or ten thousand times and a young adult will emerge with the confidence to try, stumble, and try again until she’s satisfied with the results produced.

On the other hand, if you habitually seed a young imagination with doubt or fear or conditional “yes, but” responses, the emergent character of that person will be hesitant and wary of really extending himself for fear of censure and loss of self-esteem.

The first example identifies the foundation of a life characterised by enduring resilience and an increasing ability to live an adventurous, creative life. Such a life will be characterised by stubbed toes, literal and metaphorical, but also by grand, imaginative visions.

Some such visions come to fruition in SelfDesign. As in the case of the 13-year old learner who, last year, successfully designed and tested a prototype for a robotic (prosthetic) hand. And another learner who created and uploaded more than 200 music compositions, including many on self-created instruments. This is the seedbed for innovation that so many social scientists and business leaders are now calling for, including the esteemed Conference Board of Canada.

The tenets of SelfDesign may also be seen in the ‘Manifesto for Children’ published by a leading creativity researcher, E. Paul Torrance, in 1983.


At the end of the day, or rainbow, we need to clearly see or identify the character of the young man or woman emerging from our education system. If we want that person to be resilient, self-determined and confidently imaginative then the education system they encounter throughout their schooling experience needs to prioritize that kind of character nurturance, something we do in SelfDesign.

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
– Albert Einstein

Written by Michael Maser, SelfDesign Learning Foundation and author of Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want