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Remember when you had imaginary friends when you were young?
Most of us spent a great deal of our time as children creating imaginary worlds by ourselves or with the other kids we played with. As children we did this effortlessly, and with great conviction. But as we grew older we start to experiment with using our imagination less and less. I’ll bet at some point you may have even been told that daydreaming was a waste of time. Despite what you may think about how little you currently use your imagination, trust me it is alive and well.
Consider the inner dialogue that runs in your head every waking minute. Who is that voice taking to?
And who is listening?
Who is watching those inner movies you’re creating as you imagine what you’ll do next?
If you sit down and think about it, you’ll realize that you are constantly playing out possible scenarios in your mind and imagining outcomes.
You are running late for an appointment and while waiting for traffic to move, you imagine how you will explain your delay, trying on different ways of getting out of the jam your traffic jam has created. We are constantly creating scenarios for how to handle situations looming in the future, even mundane things like how you plan to spend your evening when you return home.
Let’s see, should I take a hot bath?
No, maybe a long walk?
Better yet, flopping on the couch and some TV!
You get the idea!
We all have an inner ‘daydream designer’ who is constantly whipping up possibilities for dealing with every situation you get yourself into. Like a highly trained first responder, it’s first on the scene to play out the drama of how things could go. Unfortunately, your daydream designer may tap into what mindfulness expert Rick Hanson calls your inherent “negative bias” to generate fear and a sense of hopelessness.
Your negative bias acts up when you find yourself in situations that at first seem hopeless - financial losses, accidents, challenging relationships. In these cases, it eventually lets you imagine yourself overcoming obstacles and ultimately finding solutions to whatever challenges you’re faced with. Tapping into your imagination is the innate capability that you possess as Creative Genius You.
In a Scientific American article about creativity, Scott Barry Kaufman¹ explains how imagination utilizes various parts of the brain, which he refers to as the Imagination Network, using a term first coined by Randy Buckner and colleagues.
The Imagination Network is involved in "constructing dynamic mental simulations based on personal past experiences. It is used during remembering, thinking about the future, and generally when imagining alternative perspectives and scenarios to the present." The Imagination Network is also involved in social cognition. For instance, when we are imagining what someone else is thinking, this network is active.
The Imagination Network involves areas deep inside the brain, including the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe (medial regions), and increases communication between various outer and inner regions of the parietal cortex portions of the brain. What that means is that if you can interrupt your negative bias, you can more quickly tap the creative aspect of your imagination for a more positive, forward moving solution.
When working with groups all over the world, I have found that there are inevitably one or two people who will tell me that they don’t have any imagination. I respond by reminding them that they did great in the brainstorming session we just completed. Without fail they claim that this is because we were talking about something they already knew about. “I can’t come up with anything new or original!” they tell me.
That’s when I share a simple tip:
the simplest way to activate your imagination is ask yourself a question.
Curiosity is the magic key that unlocks new ideas and helps you sidestep negative bias.
By randomly associating ideas in new patterns, you are putting them together, some old and some new, in a way that usually generates a real breakthrough. Once this new idea pattern is created, your brain has a place to start. Your prefrontal cortex cranks up and away you go!
As powerful as questions are for starting this process, I have found that the entire process accelerates when you also create some kind of picture of the problem you are working on. Start by asking a series of random questions.
What would happen if I did this?
What if I did that?
Allow yourself to randomly generate various scenarios. Be outrageous.
What if I did the one thing that would get me fired?
When you force yourself to explore places outside of your comfort zone it is as if you put a match to kindling, creating a spark that propels you from the known into the unknown. Once that fire of the imagination is lit, you have free rein to access things you may have seen, heard, experienced, and recombine them in new ways to create a new context for the situation you are in.
Here's your mission should you choose to accept it:
Use your Creative Genius You journal, track your imagination for a whole day.
Every time you catch yourself imagining an outcome, note the time, how long you think you were daydreaming and what you “caught” as ideas. Notice when your negative bias steps in and tries to derail you.
Then, think of something in your world you want to change. It can be big or small, it doesn’t matter. On one of your pages in your journal, or even better, on a big piece of paper, write that thing in the center of the paper.
Now start to daydream and imagine solutions or small ways you could impact that thing you want to change and draw pictures to represent the solutions. I know you might be thinking, “draw it?!” yes…drawing has a way of unlocking your Creative Genius by accessing all parts of your amazing brain, so draw them.
Then just keep that picture somewhere you can see it, and every time you look at it, allow yourself to dig deeper into any of the images you drew by imagining them in color, or more fully activated or by imagining what people are saying about that thing.
One other tip… only allow positive thoughts to enter when you are imagining.
I can’t wait to see what you are learning…so be sure to send me a text or an email or better yet join my Creative Genius You FB group and add your comments there.
Big love to you,