You hear it so often that it becomes one of those things that you really don’t think about it. “Use your imagination” is the phrase or thought that I’m talking about. I believe that many of us actually fear our own imagination. That’s tragic, don’t be afraid. It occurs to me that most people have the desire, deep down, to use their imagination more — but have no idea how. Here’s how.
- First of all Access your imagination more often. Do it deliberately. If you ask your imagination for ideas or visions once a year it’s a bit like that faucet in the back of the house you never use. When you turn it on, it’s going to act surprised, it’s going to sputter, make awful noises, nasty stuff might come out — and it may not work at all. Don’t give up on it. Put visioning and use of imagination on your calendar, like once a week, or even once a day. You’ll find that the images and ideas you get will flow better as your imagination faucet gets unclogged and the valve gets greased.
- Have a challenge in mind. While imagination is hard to steer, thinking about and keeping a particular challenge in mind is how you suggest what you’d like your imagination to work on. It may not listen. Imagination tends to work on the problem that you Really Care about, and that may not even be something your conscious mind knows about, or, is deliberately burying. So keep a challenge in mind and see what happens. If your imagination goes to Problem B, well, let it go. That is, go with the flow.
- Ask your imagination for images, ideas, and suggestions for the challenge you have in mind. And this is key — just let it go — in your minds eye. Do Not Edit or try to Steer Your Imagination as it happens. Close your eyes. Just let it rip. And rip some more, and rip as long as you can. If you like, write down what’s coming up in the stream of images. You can also record them into your smart phone. Some people “see” things, others hear things, everyone is different and there is no one right way, don’t judge yourself. You’ll be surprised when you listen back or read back your notes how fluid your imagination is, and, one of those wacky images might suggest a real actionable idea or concept. This is what you’re hoping for, and believe me, it happens. But it takes effort.
- Realize that your imagination is only partially under your control. You’re working with your own subconscious when you do deliberate imagination. Your subconscious is a huge, complex, swirling sea. The images it puts in your minds eye are thrown up from the bottom of Davey Jones locker. Let it be. Write it down. Think about what it means later. Don’t worry if you’re doing it right, you are, you can’t do it wrong. Give up control. Don’t be afraid, everything will be okay.
- You’ll need to learn how to use what your imagination is giving you. This is not trivial. Your imagination often speaks to you in symbols — not always, sometimes you get a vision of a solution all wrapped up in a bow — when this happens say Thank You! I would steer clear of all the Freudian or Jungian classic interpretations of particular symbols or images. Symbols are highly contextual to you and the challenges you’re thinking about, and so, just let your mind make connections instinctively. Notice how you feel about a symbol. There is wisdom speaking to you in those vague feelings. And if it’s a nasty feeling, don’t just reject it, explore it. Remember that the biggest ideas represent very uncomfortable change. If a symbol refuses to be interpreted, ask your mind, your imagination, to give you another symbol to help you make meaning of the first. Then look at the pool of symbols and see what it’s suggesting to you. This all takes skill and practice, so, go back to suggestion #1.
There’s more to say about this, more tools, and techniques, but if you’re getting back into your imagination, it might be a good place to start. For a bit more on this topic, have a look at this video of my talk at TEDx Stormont in Ireland.