In our modern society, and especially in business, we tend to lean more toward practicality and tangibility over imagination. And that’s during the good times. When you factor in the ridiculous amount of stress and pressures most of us are feeling now on a regular basis, it’s even easier to dismiss irresponsible notions like daydreaming. During times of significant anxiety, the natural inclination is to stick to familiar models, routines, and behaviors. This normalcy is comforting and can help us better cope when things seem to be spinning out of control.
The reality though, is those are the exact times you should be doing just the opposite.
“Imagination…makes it possible for us to think outside the confines of our present perceptual reality, to consider…possibilities for the future, and to weigh alternatives against one another. Thus, imagination makes possible all our thinking about what is, what has been, and, perhaps most important, what might be.”Nigel J.T. Thomas
What makes daydreaming a key to success?
Imagination is essential for innovation.
Without imagination, there would be no iPhone, airplanes, cars, or indoor plumbing. The ability to think outside the box, and imagine “what if” or “why not” is absolutely essential to continued innovation. This is true whether talking about far-reaching inventions or the way you run your local business.
Imagination helps you explore ideas.
When doing brainstorming exercises with clients, more often than not, they get in their own way when left to their own devices. If we’re trying to think of new ideas or goals, they usually block most of the bigger ideas because they are also thinking about their current daily challenges and problems. The solution is to instruct them to ignore these limitations and imagine that literally anything is possible. Once they do that, and fire up their imaginations, the ideas, concepts, and revelations come fast and furious. Every single time.
Imagination helps build and shape the future.
Like with innovation, imagination is what fuels the advancements we make and the future we build. The best part is, we all have an innate ability to utilize our minds to envision a future outside of our present conditions, environment, and reality. If you’re not using your imagination to help mold and shape the future, you’re just along for the ride. You have just as much ability as anyone else to imagine where we could be going, don’t waste that power.
Like any other skills you use on a daily basis, your ability to use your imagination becomes stronger the more you do it. As a kid, this comes naturally. Far too often though, as an adult, the significance of using your imagination loses its luster. Recognizing the benefits you get from regularly daydreaming becomes less and less clear. You get more and more stuck in your habits and routines. Unknowingly, through television, movies, and even social media, you increasingly rely on the imagination of others.
Before you know it, if you’re not careful, you’ve lost your ability to imagine.
Unlike the countless adults, bosses, coaches, and teachers who have told you to “get your head out of the clouds” and “stop daydreaming,” I’m here to tell you to do the opposite. Don’t listen to them. Your imagination is one of the most valuable skills you can strengthen to boost your business.
How To Improve Your Imagination
When running a business, you’re constantly bombarded with “have-tos” and it can feel like you’ve got no free time to add anything else to your already overstuffed schedule. I challenge you to add “daydream” as a line-item on your weekly—or even better, daily—to-do list. Regularly disengaging and allowing your thoughts the opportunity to drift and wander, can help you overcome obstacles, be more creative, make better decisions, and better imagine a roadmap to where you’re trying to go.
I remember a few years ago, one of my kids wanted this chemistry/science experiment set for Christmas. As is typical, they got bored with it pretty quick. I had a hell of a time playing with it.
As we get older, our interests tend to narrow and our enthusiasm for learning new things trends down. The only new things we do try are those that we are already convinced we’ll enjoy. Don’t do that. Always try new things. Investigate subjects you have no knowledge in, or think you have no interest in. While in the end you may decide not to continue pursuing it, you’ll most likely glean some helpful info anyway.
Very rarely are we doing just one thing at a time. If we’re on a walk, we’re listening to a podcast. If we’re playing a sport or in the car, we’re listening to music. If we’re eating dinner, we’re watching a movie or TV. Make time to just observe, thinking only about what you’re observing at that moment. The next time you go for a walk, leave your phone at home and notice everything around you—the plants, flowers, trees, grass, animals, houses, sky, clouds, people, cars, and signs. Sit outside and just sit, watching how the clouds go by, the trees move in the breeze, or how the sun feels on your face. Give your mind, eyes, and ears the freedom to focus in on, and study, whatever it is that catches their attention.
Experiment with different art forms, even if you feel like you don’t have any artistic ability. Try dancing, painting, drawing, writing, photography, sculpting, music, cooking, winemaking—the list goes on and on. How good you are, or aren’t, is completely irrelevant. You’re not trying to become the next Monet or Taylor Swift. The point is to immerse yourself in an activity that, by its very nature, helps to encourage your imagination, nurture your creativity, and keeps you focused on the task at hand.
Without question, one of the absolute best ways to up your imagination game is through play. Unfortunately, as adults, even when we’re “playing” we have to have rules—team sports, races, matches, competitions, workouts. That’s not play, that’s active structure. I’m talking old school, no electronics, 5-year-old-you-on-the-playground style play. Playing for the simple joy of playing. Disengage from any and all responsibilities, worries, anxieties, and concerns and embrace your inner kid. If in doubt on how to do this, willingly step into the imaginative world of your kids for a bit. At the very least, you’ll quickly re-discover the unrivaled ability play has to relieve stress.
Imagination can be a powerful asset to your business, giving you the ability to think outside the confines of reality. This is invaluable in envisioning a better product, improved ways of doing things, and overcoming obstacles. If this last year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to embrace the power of imagination and be creative when it comes to how we live and work. By regularly strengthening and utilizing your imagination, you can tap into endless possibilities and positively change your life, your business, and your world.