7 tips to unleash the power of imagination and achieve better results, fulfil your potential and be happier
Imagination is one of the most beautiful things about being human.
It is also powerful. It helps us grow and progress as a species and as individuals. Without imagination, life would be dull and possibly not worth living.
In this post, we will look first at the importance of imagination, to then go deeper into how to unleash all its power.
The Declaration of Enchantment
Psychologist Craig Chalquist wrote The Declaration of Enchantment as a warning against the forces threatening the power of imagination in today’s society.
It is an interesting document, well worth a look. It made me think about imagination and pushed me to write this article.
I have liked imagining stories, daydreaming and living in fantasy worlds since I was a little boy. I enjoyed using my imagination, so I did it all the time, but I didn’t think much about it. Human beings sometimes use their imagination, and that’s that.
Then I read the Declaration of Enchantment and started thinking about it a bit more.
As Chalquist says in his declaration, imagination is currently under attack from various fronts (“by mass commodification, by religious fundamentalism, by intellectual mechanisation, by political opportunism, by fiscal greed”), and it is an essential part of being human, so we should guard it against all these threats.
That’s why he wrote this declaration, which, like any other declaration worth its salt, has a preamble and a number of articles.
The importance of imagination
The preamble of the Declaration of Enchantment highlights the importance of imagination for humankind:
“We can live a few weeks without food, a few days without water, and a few hours without shelter in an inhospitable clime, but we cannot live for even a moment without some movement of imagination in mind and body. To restrict its enlivening flow is to cripple the wellsprings of health, vitality, and sanity.”
Imagination makes us human. It enriches our lives, and it helps us push forward. It has been behind all human achievements, be them artistic, scientific, or technological.
Without imagination, there wouldn’t have been the Mona Lisa, the Theory of Relativity or The Lord Of The Rings.
As we will see below, without imagination, we wouldn’t have great leaders either.
How to unleash the power of imagination
We know imagination is important, but how can we use it more often and better?
Let’s look at seven practical tips to unleash the power of your imagination.
Tip 1. Save time for reflection, thinking, and of course, imagination
The first thing you need to do is to make time for it.
If you don’t dedicate time to reflection, thinking, and imagination, well, sorry to disappoint you, but it won’t happen.
Stop or at least slow down the rat race you are probably immersed in, and save some time for you, your mind and your thoughts. Spend less time staring at screens and go for a walk more often.
When eating alone, try doing it without looking at TV or Netflix, and enjoy your food and let your mind wander.
If you go for a run, try not to listen to a podcast or music once in a while.
Try sitting still and doing nothing.
These are some of the best moments for my mind to escape the day-to-day problems and drift off into the wondrous world of imagination.
Yours might be completely different, and that’s fine. By all means, find the best moments for you.
Tip 2. Keep your limiting beliefs in check
We all have limiting beliefs that impede us from achieving our full potential.
We all think we are not good at something and that we cannot improve on it. This usually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we end up stuck. Many of us believe we are not creative or imaginative enough and we are better with numbers, Excel spreadsheets or something else.
They aren’t mutually exclusive, so even if we cannot all be Lewis Carroll or Dali, we can all unleash the power of our imagination because we all have it.
Stop believing you cannot use your imagination to get better at what you do and to have a more fulfilling life, because yes, you can.
Tip 3. Ask the right questions
We live in a world where answers are aplenty, but the right questions are difficult to find.
Asking the right questions is an art that can be used in many fields, notably in coaching, but also at the service of your imagination. The more improbable or crazy the question, the more imaginative and creative the answer will be, so don’t be afraid of asking silly questions. The objective is to imagine new solutions and ideas nobody has thought about before, and you don’t get there asking boring questions.
So remember, crazy questions bring about imaginative responses.
Tip 4. Get exposed to diverse ideas
Imagination needs a rich soil full of nutrients to grow and flourish, and diverse ideas are some of the richest nutrients you can get.
Imagination cannot thrive in a mind exposed to the same uniform ideas. The more diverse ideas you get from many different sources, the more imaginative ideas you will have. It is just common sense.
If you always read the same books, talk to the same people and watch the same series, you will have the same ideas. Your imagination will become stale.
On the other hand, if you meet different people from different backgrounds and perspectives, read authors who don’t think like you do and get exposed to novel ideas from different media, you will sow the ground with the right seeds for your imagination to blossom.
Diversity is great for many things; being rich food for imagination is one of them.
Tip 5. What is outside the box? Look for it
Use more lateral thinking or thinking outside the box.
We all have our own way of looking at the world, our own box if you like, but there are always other ways to look at things. When you are thinking about something, trying to find a solution to a problem, or need new ideas, try to think outside your box.
OK, you might ask, but how do you do that? It is your box, after all.
You think about the problem or the issue as you would always do. Then try to think about it from different angles and perspectives. What haven’t you thought about? How would someone very different to you think about it? What are you still missing about it? How would the opposite of what you thought look like?
Be as crazy as possible, and don’t be judgemental or dismissive of your ideas. This is a personal brainstorming session: all ideas, even if they are crazy, are allowed.
Tip 6. Experiment and take risks
There will never be any space for imagination if you don’t experiment with new things and take risks.
It is cosy and comfortable in our comfort zones. Still, if we don’t leave it now and then, it will be difficult to experience all the different things we can to give the appropriate fuel to our imagination. Do familiar things in different ways and see what happens.
Leave your comfort zone, try new things, be open to experimentation, and take risks; then your imagination will fly free.
Tip 7. Use all your senses
When we use our imagination, we usually visualise things, but we also have other senses.
Sight is the sense I use the most, like most people. It is the one sense that takes up most of our brain’s processing power and space, but we also have other senses. When imagining new things, use your smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Imagine how cold and hot it is, the scents in the air, the sounds…
It is often difficult to imagine or even remember smells or tastes, but try to do it, and your possibilities for imagination will expand.
Follow these seven tips, and you will unleash the power of your imagination.
Imagination in the age of AI
Chalquist wrote the Declaration of Enchantment to warn us about some of the risks threatening the use of imagination and give ti the importance it deserves.
There is a threat he didn’t mention, and that’s Artificial Intelligence.
In a world where ChatGPT can answer your questions in correct English, and DALL-E can create visual art following simple prompts, what will be the place for human imagination? Will AI empower our imagination or limit it?
This is still an open question; I don’t have the answer. On the one hand, AI opens new possibilities for us, worlds we couldn’t have imagined, and it might open new windows for our imagination to wander into.
On the other hand, as AI produces more and more new things, we might delegate more and more of our imaginative work to it, thus weakening our imagination muscle. The thinking processes we outsource to computers tend to atrophy with time (who does simple math calculations or remembers their friends’ phone numbers anymore?). Imagination could be next.
Time will tell, but like many other things related to AI, it has the potential for the best and worst.
It will all depend on the use we make of it.
Imagination and the Future Leader
Imagination is a powerful force that can help us get better and closer to our potential. A leader with imagination will be a better leader. They will have more resources to ideate an inspiring vision and an engaging purpose.
They will be able to imagine more diverse possible futures, thus being future ready. Imagination is also an essential part of having an innovation mindset. It is only possible to innovate with imagination.
We need imagination to continue growing as professionals. There is no personal growth without imagination. We need to imagine possible avenues for growth, have new interests and think about new projects and ambitions.
Imagination is a force pushing humans forward. It also pushes our leaders.
The stories we tell ourselves
We, humans, love stories, and there are no good stories without imagination.
When we fail at something, this is because our stories have failed us, and we haven’t been able to create new ones. Imagination is about the stories we tell ourselves.
I can’t think of a better way to close this post than by quoting one of the articles from the Declaration of Enchantment:
Article 11: “Without the gifts of the imagination, we cannot fashion the new stories we need for carrying us forward. Systemic catastrophes like patriarchy, poverty, greed, global warming, habitat destruction, warfare, and bigotry all represent failures of imagination and, therefore, failures of the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, our place in the world, and how we should be with each other”.The Declaration of Enchantment
What new stories will you be creating to move yourself and others forward?
How are you going to use your imagination to improve your lot and that of others?