Life Lessons On Imagination

The power of imagination goes well beyond creativity.

There is a big downside to getting old. Your muscles and joints ache, you get tired sooner and you may even get some gray hairs. These things will all happen, but age changes something even more important: the imagination.

Using one muscle, we can sit back and imagine lands of fantasy or create products the world's never seen. This ability to imagine makes our brains larger than any super computer.


As I get older, I often get poisoned with the way things are or should be. My brain starts to work against me. My knowledge and experiences start to limit my imagination.

Kids don't have this problem. They don't know what limits exist, so their imaginations run wild. Somewhere along the way, we put limits on ourselves and in the process limit what we can create.

The power of imagination goes well beyond creativity. It's so powerful that the brain can't tell the different between what is real and imagined. 

Psychologists at the University of Chicago ran an amazing study. They took three groups of basketball players. For thirty days, one group practiced foul shots every day. The next group imagined shooting foul shots for thirty days. The last group did nothing.

After thirty days they tested each group. The first group, who practiced shooting, improved 24 percent. The third group, who did nothing, saw no improvement. The second group, who imagined the shots, improved 23 percent!

The brain processes all the information it receives. It can come from real world sights, sounds and smells, or it can come from what's imagined. In the end, the brain doesn't care, it reacts the same way.

I use my imagination every day for all sorts of things. I use it to get better results at work, solve complex problems or have fun.

Like all muscles, I need to take care of my brain and exercise it, if I want it to grow and stay strong. 

Here are a few of the tricks I’ve learned that help me expand my imagination.

1. Remove constraints.

Our brain loves to come up with reasons why we can't do something. These negative thoughts seem to flow faster than positive one. Audrey Hepburn said, "Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible.'" I try to remember this line when I'm getting ready to imagine a new solution. By removing constraints, I am free to see a new world of possibilities.

2. Get inspired.

Imagination starts with inspiration. One of my best sources of inspiration is from books. For the past few years I've tried to read thirty to fifty new books every year. I also started watching TED talks online. The sources of inspiration are endless and this is rocket fuel for my imagination.

3. Combine ideas.

Ideas often pop into my head and I may think they aren't worth much. Lately, I've been trying to capture every one that comes to mind. I'm writing them down so I can see how an average idea can combine with another one. The two together can often be more powerful than the individual ones. An easy way to remember this tip, is to think of a Pineapple Pen. Who knew combining these two things would turn into a viral hit!

4. Take a break.

Like all muscles our brains can get tired. When they are, the imagination seems to shut down. I can often feel this happening. When it does I take a break. I try to forget everything and clear my mind.

Have you ever tried to think of something and the harder you worked at it the less you could remember? The imagination seems to work in the same way. By creating some space and setting the problem aside for a while, great ideas often come to mind with ease. 

5. Move around.

Five years ago, I started standing at my desk. One of the benefits is that I can take a quick pause and walk around. This gets my heart rate up, my blood flowing and gives me a change of scenery. All these things seem to help feed my imagination.

6. Take a shower.

I can't explain why, but when water runs over my head, it often spurs a thought. Some are great ideas and some are worthless. Regardless, they always seem to come. To make sure I don't forget a moment of inspiration, I've added a pad of waterproof paper to the shower.

SJ Travel Photo and Video / Shutterstock

7. Get outside.

Mother Nature provides amazing inspiration. She is the perfect carpenter, architect, innovator or artist there is. It's instant inspiration whenever I take the time to look.

8. Change perspective.

A new perspective allows me to see problems in a new way. By coming at issues from a different angle, it often leads to new ideas. Solving a riddle is a great example. The solution is never what you think it is. It requires a different perspective. By looking at the situation from a new angle, the solution often becomes obvious.

9. Practice.

Another simple way I improve my imagination is to practice. I take a few minutes and write down ideas about work, family or anything else I am thinking about. The more I can get ideas to the flow, the easier they seem to come days or weeks later.

10. Add a time limit.

In some cases, adding the pressure of time forces better ideas. I find that I worry less about having "good" ideas and focus more on quantity. When the time is up, I can go back and figure out which ideas make sense to pursue.

Einstein was one of the best when it came to imagination. I could try to sum up this lesson, but I'd rather leave it to him.

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." —Albert Einstein. 

This story originally appeared on Chad Bockius' blog and is part of a series of letters to his kids. His goal is to reflect on and capture as many life lessons as possible. Chad is a father of two, non-profit founder and a serial tech entrepreneur. He loves sharing his experiences to help others live a more fulfilling and successful life. You can follow him on Medium and on his blog

Cover image via Shutterstock.


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