How do you cultivate a fantastic imagination

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein 

One of the greatest assets that you have as a human being is the incredible power of your own imagination. 

Do you understand the importance of your imagination but do not feel inspired by it or do not quite know how to access its power?

Do you ever doubt the power and efficacy of your imagination? 

Here are some ideas that might help:

1. Understand The Power and Importance Of Your Imagination

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”― Albert Einstein

One of the first shifts that you may have to make is to access your imagination more often to solve problems and come up with innovative solutions.

Ask yourself: How often and to what extent do you use and access your imagination?

Many of us have grown up with conditioning that did not do much for us to tap into the power of our imagination. You may have heard things like:

“Building castles in the air is not a good thing and a waste of time” 

“Imagination, daydreaming and magical thinking are only for children”

“Being lost in your imagination is selfish and self-centered”

“I am not the creative type. I have no imagination.”

Every idea and all innovative solutions first originated in someone’s mind as a question or as part of their imagination.

Many great creative people understood and accessed the power of their imagination. It is believed that Edison used to go into a daydream and a reverie to wander freely in his imagination while rocking in his favorite chair.

According to creativity researcher and scholar, Sir Ken Robinson:

“We have this extraordinary human power, the power of imagination. We take it totally for granted. This capacity to bring in to mind things that aren’t present, and on that base is to hypothesize about things that have never been, but could be. Every feature of human culture in my view is the consequence of this unique capacity.”

Watch the short clip on imagination here:

Action Tips:

Schedule time to unleash your imagination on your problems and to come up with novel solutions.

The more you use your imagination, the more vivid and detailed it gets.

 “Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.”― Philip José Farmer

2. Can Imagination And Vivid Visualization Increase Your Performance?

“For imagination sets the goal picture which our automatic mechanism works on. We act, or fail to act, not because of will, as is so commonly believed, but because of imagination.”- Maxwell Maltz

Bob Bowman, the coach of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps says that Phelps is the best that he has ever seen in terms of athletes visualizing their race outcomes. Phelps has the amazing ability to visualize or imagine the perfect race as if he is sitting in the stands and as if he is in the water.

Phelps also goes through various scenarios where things might be less than optimal such as if his suit got ripped or if his goggles broke and has all of those outcomes programmed in his nervous system. All he has to do is to choose one and go with it if it happens.

This ability of Phelps to favorably visualize and deal with adversity may have cost Serbian rival Milorad Cavic his race in the Milan world championships in 2009. Phelps was past his historical 8 golds at the 2008 Olympics and had not trained as hard since then.

Phelps was even wearing an older model speed suit that Cavic made the mistake of making fun of. Cavic was very confident of winning because just the previous night he had broken Phelps’s world record. On top of that, Phelps had collided head first with a swimmer in the warm-up just an hour before leaving him with cracked goggles and blurred vision in one eye.

Cavic took the lead in the first 50 meters but amazingly Phelps blew past him and reclaimed his world record. I believe that this is an example of the amazing performance advantage that visualization and imagination confers athletes. You can read the Washington Post article here.

Research from peak performance athletes and from the classic book, PsychoPsybernetics by Dr. Malcolm Maltz has also shown the effectiveness of imaginative visualization.

Much like the example of Phelps, Dr. Malcolm Maltz describes that peak performance is highly enhanced in top athletes by visualizing the race in their minds.

Action Tips:

Use the power of your imagination to visualize vividly what you would like to be successful in.

Allow your imagination to become a complement to your habitual action and hard work.

Just Like Michael Phelps, when you visualize, there should be no doubt at all in the outcome towards success and excellence. 

“Everything you can imagine is real.” ― Pablo Picasso

3. How Does Imagination Really Work: The Sub-conscious Connection

“Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives. ”— Robert Collier

 Imagination originates in the thinking brain, also called the new brain or the neocortex. But as your thoughts and imagined outcomes get infused with the power of your emotions and vivid images, they have a chance to filter into your limbic brain or the sub-conscious.

The limbic brain can process a lot more information when compared to the conscious brain and is also responsible for all our habits and emotions. As your imagination becomes visceral, your naturally intelligent sub-conscious pushes for physical and mental changes that align you in the direction of the fulfillment of that desire.

This does not mean that things will just automatically happen but what it means is that you are getting the rider and the elephant on board and will experience less resistance and excuses to take inspired action.

The rider and the elephant metaphor of Jonathan Haidt, the author of the book, The Happiness Hypothesis gives us a good understanding of how the system works. The rider is the conscious, thinking and imagining brain and the elephant is the sub-conscious automatic and unconscious limbic brain.

The rider cannot train or control the elephant by force alone. However, silencing the mind through meditation and entering into a deep state of relaxation makes the sub-conscious more amenable to autosuggestion or proclaiming something is true for you and feels natural to you. 

This state of silence is a fertile ground for your imagination to replace existing beliefs and “memes” with something of your own choosing. As the new belief takes hold and becomes a visceral feeling in your sub-conscious, you will be inspired to act and behave in new ways to fulfill that end.

Action Tip:

Use your imagination to craft the life of your choosing and then get very excited and use the power of emotions to embed it deep within your unconscious brain.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

4. The Power of Imagination in Transcending Your Problems: Fear Less, Imagine more

“If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go? That’s the question that changed my life for ever.”- Amy Purdy, Living Beyond Limits, TEDx talk

Amy Purdy had a great life and was beginning her career as a massage therapist when one day without any warning she became sick with bacterial meningitis. In the next few months, she lost her spleen, her kidneys and both her legs below her knees.

The ordeal left Amy physically and emotionally broken with no hope and possibility to pursue her passion of snowboarding, her interest in traveling and all the adventures that she wanted to live. In the next few months, Amy escaped from reality and crawled into her bed with her prosthetic legs next to her.

Luckily for her, it dawned on her that she needed to let the old Amy go and embrace change and the new Amy. Then her imagination revealed to her that she did not need to be confined to one height anymore and could be as tall or short as she wanted depending on who she was dating. Then she imagined that her feet were never going to get cold again and she could fit into all the shoes in the store.

Her thoughts and her imagination were revealing a glimmer of hope to her.

“It was at this moment that I asked myself that life defining question: if my life were a book and I were the author, how would I want the story to go? And I began to daydream. I daydreamed as I did when I was a little girl and I imagined myself walking gracefully, helping other people through my journey and snowboarding again. And I didn’t just see myself carving down a mountain of powder, I could actually feel it. I could feel the wind against my face and the beat of my racing heart as if it were happening in that very moment. And that is when a new chapter in my life began.” Amy Purdy, Living Beyond Limits, TEDx talk

Amazingly four months later she was back on a snowboard! She had decided to make a pair of legs herself that she could snowboard in and along with her shoemaker put together artificial legs that would work for her.

The shoes along with a donated kidney from her father allowed Amy to not only snowboard but also receive two world cup gold medals making her the highest ranked adaptive female snowboarder in the world.

“if I would ever wanna change my situation,I would have to say No because my legs haven’t disabled me, if anything they’ve enabled me, they forced me to rely on my imagination and to believe in the possibilities, and that’s why I believe that our imaginations can be used as tools for breaking through borders because in our minds, we can do anything and we can be anything. It’s believing in those dreams and facing our fears head on that allows us to live our lives beyond our limits.” – Amy Purdy, Living Beyond Limits, TEDx talk

Action Tips:

Use the amazing power of imagination to push through borders and challenges that seem insurmountable.

Fire up your imagination, believe in your dreams and face your fears head on to live a life beyond limits.

Watch the TEDx talk here:

“Because fear kills everything,” Mo had once told her. “Your mind, your heart, your imagination.”― Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

5. Do Not Limit Imagination To Just Pictures And Engage All The Senses 

“There is the strange power we have of changing facts by the force of the imagination.”― Virginia Woolf

Do not shut your senses off when you imagine…

Include all the senses in your imagination and make it rich. Some of us are visual learners while others are kinesthetic and others learn best while reading and writing.

Make your imagination vivid by including what comes naturally to you. For example, you may not be able to imagine sequences of images very well but you may excel in imagining other modalities such as smell, touch and sound. You may be excellent in infusing your visualization with emotional charge and great feelings.

DO not feel compelled to stay within any single modality but make your visualizations and imagination vivid and rich by including numerous modalities. Your senses are wonderful tools for you to engage while unleashing the power of the imaginative mind. Make it colorful and exciting. Make your imagination your personal ally and your best friend. 

“A daily dose of daydreaming heals the heart, soothes the soul, and strengthens the imagination.”― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway

Action Tip:

Visualize and imagine in vivid colors, with an exciting emotional spark and by engaging all the senses that you can summon. 

6. Engage Your Imagination By Accessing Your Inner Child

“Imagination is the highest kite that can fly.” ― Lauren Bacall, By Myself and Then Some

Deep within you is the realm of the little child where imagination runs rife and anything is possible. It is an area where endless curiosity is encouraged and mistakes are laughed away.

It is the realm of your inner child. And most of us were highly imaginative, enthusiastic and had an element of magical thinking when we were children.

However, you may have buried that self deep within you fearing the ridicule of the world, fearing it is not safe to unleash that imaginative side of you.

It is that very inner child that I want you to access. I want you to lose the fear of imagining solutions to impossible things.

In your imagination, anything is possible. If you engage and take action on that great idea that originated deep in your imagination, who knows where it might take you.

Action Tips:

Allow the expression of the inner imaginative and creative child.

Make a safe zone where the inner child can express itself without criticism and judgment.

7. The Magic of Imagineering

“So rapid is the flight of dreams upon the wings of imagination.”― Alexander Dumas

Imagineering was imagined by the aluminum company Alcoa in 1940. According to the original TIME magazine advertisement:

“Imagineering is letting your imagination soar, and then engineering it down to earth.”

Alcoa’s advertisement also consisted of a banner that read “The place they do imagineering.”

The idea of imagineering was further popularized and brought into the mainstream by the Walt Disney Company. Disney created a design and development part of their company dedicated to setting up their theme parks worldwide and called their employees “imagineers.”

“We make the magic.” That’s our motto at Walt Disney Imagineering, and it’s a belief that permeates everything we do. From castles, mountains and mansions to fireworks spectaculars, Imagineers are the creative force behind the iconic Disney attractions and experiences that our guests have come to know and love.”- Walt Disney Imagineering statement on their website

How can you become an imagineer in your own life? I have outlined 8 possible steps:

1. Identify an insurmountable problem.

2. Instead of stress and struggle, unleash your imagination and let it come up with the possibilities that you have never dreamed of.

3. Mix, connect, combine and let things fall together in your imagination.

4. Look and imagine things from perspectives that you never thought you could assume. Allow your imagination to soar.

5. Allow the ideas to collide and give it down time to incubate in your imagination.

6. When you get an insight, capture the idea and then get to work on it.

7. Use the product of your imagination to build something new—a prototype.

8. Now imagine ways that your prototype can benefit people and how you can make it accessible to them.

“Imagination means nothing without doing.” ― Charles Chaplin

Now over to you! How do you use and unleash the power of your imagination to create greater good in your life and in the lives of others? Please let me know in the comments below.


Filed Under: CREATIVITY, MORE AWESOMENESS!Tagged With: creativity, happy, imagination, imagine, vizualize