Close your eyes, IMAGINE…
We often find ourselves in moments of pure relaxation, or pure boredom, being whisked away onto a journey of the mind. We think of the next holiday we might take, furnishing our first home, driving the new car we want to buy for the first time, starting our own business. There are no limits to our imagination. Imagination doesn’t even stick to the limits we set for ourselves. It often makes us yearn for the things we want. It inspires us to reach for our biggest dreams. It even has the ability, in some cases, to change the course of our lives completely.
There is a catch. Imagination might be powerful, but it is fragile. In today’s society, imagination can be crushed and ignored in the blink of an eye. Disappointment, judgment, loss and betrayal have become an inevitable part of our lives. When combined with the need for reason, knowledge, time-efficiency and practicality, an environment is created that has no place for imagination at all.
To try and find imagination’s place in our lives, we need to take a look at what imagination is.
Imagination is the faculty of the brain which forms new ideas, images or concepts which are not present to the senses. Imagination utilizes our strongest muscle, our brain. We are born with the ability to imagine. It is the ability of the mind to be creative and resourceful, to access a world of the improbable or the impossible.
Many people today consider imagination to be about pretend, -child’s play. As we become older, we have little time for childish things and we push them aside and forget about them. In most cases imagination is assigned as a form of relaxation when there is nothing more important to do. The fact is, imagination is by no means a waste of time. Research has shown that as many of 11 areas of your brain are actively participating while we are imagining. Using so many areas of our brain might result in some great ideas, if you have the faith you need in your own imagination.
Imagination requires faith. Learning to trust your brain is much harder then you might think. However, once you get the hang of it, it can be very beneficial. With the help of imagination, your brain is capable of creating something that has never existed. Things such as great art work, beautiful music, astounding photography, brilliant scientific breakthroughs, successful business concepts and even lasting love stories all began in the imagination of the person responsible. However, every single one of them had to be able to trust their ability to turn what it is they had imagined into a reality, despite the odd failure every now and again.
Imagination in Children
Problem solving and creative thinking are skills that we all have to have in life. Imagination is undoubtedly at the core of these skills. The encouragement and development of a child’s imagination is crucial.
A great way to do this is to allow your child to be curious about things. Letting them explore their environment and develop solutions to problems they may come across, while discretely guiding them toward a safe and successful outcome. This helps the child to build self-assurance and develop their imagination at the same time.
Another important thing to remember is that it is okay for a child to be curious. Creating an environment where in a child feels comfortable to ask questions is a sure fire method to nurture their imagination. They should know that they are allowed to ask questions, even about the awkward stuff. Misinformation can lead to a lack in judgment later in life. Focus on letting your child know that questions are a welcome and encouraged part of life, and treat all questions they might have for you as important and reasonable.
Reading books, writing stories, learning to play an instrument, exploring and introducing them to things which might still be foreign to them are more examples of sure fire ways to encourage a child’s imagination.
In later years, as children grow into teens, it is a good idea to gradually begin to allow them to make their own decisions. Letting them experiment with activities, sport, their own religion and even certain risks. This will let them form a better understanding of themselves and what they are interested in which allow them to better channel their imagination. Why is this important?
Channeling your imagination effectively as you get older can be a very valuable tool when deciding on study options, crafting a career, and succeeding in life as you grow. It allows you to head in the direction that will make you happy, and boosts your chances of success by letting you come up with new and radical ideas.
Imagination in Adults
It is true that we are all born with the ability to imagine. However, we cannot stop developing our imagination as adults. When we do, our imagination does not get any stronger anymore. We loose the ability to adapt our imagination to our ever-changing lives. I call this settling.
Allowing ourselves to act on our imagination is the only way to ‘keep our imagination current.’ It is way of proving to ourselves that our thoughts and ideas are still relevant. It prevents us from becoming unhappy because we aren’t doing what we want to be doing.
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were my last day, do I want to do that which I am about to do today?’ And if the answer had been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
I am using this quote for the second time, but it does offer a very good explanation of the statement I made before it. You see, Steve Jobs knew that it was time to make a change every time he realized that he wasn’t doing what he wanted to be doing. The question is how is that change made? The answer certainly can’t be found in a google a search or a self-help book. Everything you will find when you go looking for a way to make that change will be things that had worked for someone else. There is no author or website that can tell you precisely how to change what you are doing. However, all hope is not lost.
The answer is imagination.
Often times the ideas and concepts we come up with are just our subconscious trying to tell us that we aren’t happy, and pointing us into a direction that will make us happy. So why not listen to it?
Write down the ideas and concepts that pop up in your imagination. Read through your list and decide which ones might work. Now, use your imagination again, to figure out a practical plan on how you can implement your idea or concept in your life.
Imagination in Business
The idea for this blog and two other business concepts sat in my mind for more then three years before I started to act on them. I was conditioned to conform to what is considered ‘the way things are done.’ I was too afraid to trust my brain… to believe in my imagination. So what changed?
Well this story has two parts to it. First off, I watched an interview that was held with Steve Jobs. He explained how people often don’t know why they do things. They just do them because they were done the day before, and the day before that, and so on. Steve Jobs built his success on doing things that other people weren’t doing. Imagining ways to do things that set him apart form the rest. He was often ridiculed for this, in large part to the great dismay of those who had ridiculed him.
Then I read a book titled The Laws of Success, by Napoleon Hill. During the first two pages he attributes some of the biggest business successes to imagination. Saying, “That was the beginning of the Armour Institute of Technology, one of the very practical schools of the country. The school was born in the “imagination” of a young man who never would have been heard of outside of the community in which he preached had it not been for the “imagination,” plus the capital, of Philip D. Armour.”
That’s great, but what about the capital?
“There is always capital for those who can figure out a practical plan to use it.”
Imagination plays a massive role in business on the executive level. The idea for the business had to come from someone’s imagination after all. Forming an idea for a business and then acting on it is always a risk. It takes thousands of hours of dedication, craftsmanship, innovation, and imagination to turn a good idea into a good product or a thriving business. It requires courage. You will be spending a lot of time on developing your idea into something tangible. And it might not work out. However, if you use your imagination effectively, and if it has been well developed, chances are you won’t fail.
Imagination is also important when it comes to marketing a business. Launching initiatives, organizing marketing strategies and planning campaigns all need imagination to be done well and successfully.
Then there is that all important skillset that can be the difference between an average employee and a wonderful employee, -problem solving. Using creativeness and radical thinking to come up with highly effective and innovative ideas to solve everyday problems in the work place can be very critical in business.
Tips on Developing Your Imagination
There is no magic wand here. Everyone is different, and you will eventually figure out a regiment for keeping your imagination current and up-to-date with yourself, providing you work at it. Here are a few tips which may help in developing your imagination.
- Find patterns. Finding patterns in things keeps your creativity in tip-top shape. Patterns can be found everywhere in life; in the clouds, in the scattered paperwork on your desk, in music, in traffic. You just have to look.
- Draw. Another way to keep your creativity sharp is to draw. Even if you aren’t very good at drawing, just pick up a pencil and try your best to put the image that is already in your imagination onto a piece of paper.
- Read. Reading builds knowledge and curiosity. Read often and read everything.
- Change. Change your environment. Paint the walls, get a new wallpaper, replace your ornaments, turn your desk and find a potted plant. Do this every few months. A fresh environment has been proven to promote a fresh way of thinking.
- Write. Keep a journal on your ideas and your thoughts on them. Great ideas often come bit by bit. Having a record of your ideas can help you to stay on track and to put a great idea together.
- Metaphors. Coming up with metaphors for your ideas is a good way of understanding them completely.
Control Your Imagination, Don’t Let It Control You
The mind has a weird way of turning a thought into an obsession and an obsession into a depression. Be careful not to let your imagination run away with you.
Remember that even though your imagination can become your reality, while you are in the process of making it into your reality you still have a day to day life to worry about. Healthy thinking habits mean that you know what your limitations are, and stick to them even when your imagination doesn’t. Being always aware of your priorities.
When you use your imagination effectively, it is very possible that your thoughts will overwhelm you every now and then. This is normal.
When this happens, give yourself a break. Take a few days, or even a few weeks, and focus on something that you enjoy. A hobby, your job. Something that relaxes you and will allow you to clear you mind and get a new, clearer perspective on what is going on in your mind.
So, imagination is a tool that can lead to success and happiness if it nurtured and used correctly and effectively. We are all born with it, it is merely our responsibility to make use of it. In doing so, you are guaranteed to enrich your life and have a fantastic time doing so!