“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein
If you’ve been around a young child you know how vivid their imaginations can be. They are born to dream big! And so are we. Young children are an example of pure unadulterated imagination. From imaginary friends to pretend play, they are able to create a new world in which they want to live. Creating what you want in your life is exactly the same process. You have to be able to imagine the life you want and believe that it can be a reality. Unfortunately our creativity and imagination gets stifled by the hustle and bustle of the “real” world. It gets lost in all the messages telling us to “get real” and “be practical.” When this happens our imagination becomes tainted. Instead of seeing how wonderful life can be we focus on all the things we’re afraid might happen if don’t act logically. We might find ourselves saying, “Who am I to do this,” “That’s a stupid idea,” “That would never work.” Even though we believe these thoughts are keeping us safe from taking a risk, we end up living a quiet life of desperation worrying about all the problems we want to avoid, instead of using our imagination to get what we want. So, instead of your imagination getting the best of you, like the kid worried about the monster in the closet, start using your imagination to create the life you want. It all starts with letting yourself dream again. Here are a few ideas.
How to start dreaming
Create a dream board – Getting in touch with your imagination should be fun, and this is one example where you can let go of the seriousness of life and allow yourself to dream again. Create a dream board/vision board where you construct a visual representation of the life you desire. Put images, words, and pictures that inspire you and keep you focused on important goals and aspirations. Place the board somewhere you will see it each day as a reminder to visualize what you want. Keep a dream journal – How many times throughout the day do you have a big idea that falls through the cracks because you didn’t write it down? Instead of losing these ideas find a way to capture them. There are countless apps that allow you save your ideas on the go. I personally use Evernote, but any mobile notepad will work. Write down any dream that comes to mind. Whether it’s a vacation destination, a creative idea, or something you wanted since you were a child write it down when it comes to mind. Get awe-inspired – Inspiration might be one of the most powerful emotions for expanding our mind. This is why people love sports, art, and amazing feats of nature. When we see miraculous displays of strength and power it shakes us up a bit. It reminds us how extraordinary the world is. The universe is creative by its nature and we too are created to use our imagination. Find inspiration in your life. Look up the seven wonders of the world and really reflect on their magnitude. I watched the documentary Africa on Discovery channel over the last month as a simple source of inspiration. Find something to expand your mind. Keep a beginners mind – One way to keep inspired and open-minded is to look at the world through fresh eyes. Keep what Zen Buddhism calls a “beginners mind,” where we approach life as a novice and admit how little we know. This helps us experience things with open receptiveness. You will judge less and accept more. Imagine that you’re experiencing the world for the first time, and be willing to break out of the conditioning that keeps you looking through a stale lens.
Turn imagination into results
“There’s really no secret about our approach. We keep moving forward–opening new doors and doing new things–because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We’re always exploring and experimenting… we call it Imagineering–the blending of creative imagination and technical know-how.” -Walt Disney
For those of you left brainers like me, you may be “thinking” I can’t just be a “dreamer,” I have to get things done! To turn imagination into results, both the creative mind and the rational mind are important, but we don’t want the left brain to stifle our creativity before we get started. Let yourself dream big before you pick apart the idea. You can always go back later to analyze and create a specific plan. This is what Walt Disney was referring to in the above quotation, and what the minimum viable product is all about that Eric Ries explores in his book The Lean Startup. Use imagination to help you visualize the life you desire. Let your ideas free, and then create a plan and system as you go to bring your ideas to fruition. Sometimes this is the only way to materialize our ideas. Dreaming is what keeps us alive! So whatever your dreams may be at this point in your life, whether it’s being wealthy, finding love, or making a difference in the world, embrace them and allow them to unfold naturally. Don’t sell yourself short before you have a chance to begin.