“There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.” said Willy Wonka. Now most of you reading this will be familiar with the famous Roald Dahl story of the reclusive chocolatier who ran a competition for children to visit his famous factory upon presentation of a golden ticket found in certain Wonka bars. Some will remember Jonny Depp in the 2005 film adaptation, some of you, like me, will even remember Gene Wilder as Willy in the 1971 version.
Our imagination is a cognitive process, producing images, ideas and sensations in our minds without any input from our senses. Or in simpler terms that I can relate to, it’s like when we pretend to be superheroes as children, listen to stories, read fairy tales and find ourselves in them. In my imagination I can travel at the speed of light, fight a dragon or climb Everest, the possibilities are endless. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important then knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
What does all of this mean? Well, your imagination is always greater than your reality. Pause on this for a moment. Really think about what this means. Imagine, if you will. We have the ability to think beyond reality.
However, this very thing that allows us to create, to solve, to push the limits of human endeavour, that creates the stories we believe in, can also be our greatest limitation. Yeh, you read that right. Our imagination can limit us, paralyse us.
Because our imaginations will blow things out of all proportion.
Remember Y2K? Approaching midnight of December 31st1999, all of the worlds computers wouldn’t be able to handle the new date, January 1st2000 or 01/01/00. The world as we know it was coming to an end, stock markets will crash, financial institutions crumble, food shortages, planes will fall from the sky! Well, what happened? Nothing. Nothing happened, we all went about our lives and partied like it was 1999. Yeh, that’s a Prince reference. Who?
Not everything is like this though. At times we can blow things out of all proportion to a point where it starts to impact us and those around us negatively. So, what can we do about it? Well, here’s three easy steps.
Firstly, stop. Stop thinking. Press the pause button. Interrupt yourself. How? Simple. Ask yourself a question.
Secondly, ask yourself that question I just mentioned. A question that will help you reframe your imagination, guide it to a more useful path. Ask yourself if the worst was to happen what will you do to deal with it? How will you handle it and how can you get by right now? What’s the best thing that could happen? How can you benefit from this? What are the other ways of seeing this? What are your options?
Thirdly, choose. Choose what you are going to do. Which choice takes you in the best direction? Which choice feels the best? Would this be what someone you admire would do?
Our imagination should be our greatest tool but in the same breath, could be the thing that shuts us down.
Let’s make sure we use it to our advantage and to the advantage of others.
Henry David Thoreau said, “This world is but a canvas for our imagination.” Let’s make sure we fill it with colour and vibrance and warmth.