The past year has caused stress, difficulty and confusion for many of us. Much of what we thought we knew or had come to take for granted has been challenged and changed. We all look forward to the end of the pandemic and a return to ‘normal’ but. Meanwhile, we have time to question ‘normal’ and re-set some of life’s less desirable parameters. Do we really just want to wait to see what happens, or be told what to do?
The age we live in has been described as the information age, and we have seen just how powerful all this knowledge can be. But information needs to be put to good use and this is where our imagination comes into play. In fact, to quote Albert Einstein, 'Imagination is more important than knowledge' for, without it, what inspiration does knowledge give us? I believe that we are building on that information age and moving on, to an imagination age, where the focus will be on putting our imaginative faculties to work in the light of all that knowledge we have acquired. Like talent without ambition, knowledge without imagination will realise only half its potential.
Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. - Gloria Steinem
Facts alone will not allow us to create better and different futures – they never have. Einstein again: 'Logic will get you from A-Z; imagination will get you everywhere'. Rationality only serves us up to a point. New directions are conjured out of people's imagination. Without it, Henry Ford would not have invented assembly lines, nor Steve Jobs the iPhone. So, when it comes to problem-solving, imagination is a crucial human skill.
So, what is imagination? Jung described it as 'the putting aside of conscious criticism while we allow our irrational to play' – and it isn’t only for artists. And there is more good news: we can all develop our imagination. One way to do this is to give ourselves permission to spend time ‘doing nothing’. Staring out of the window or daydreaming for a while is not a ‘waste of time’, it’s a healthy and productive thing to do because, as Picasso said, 'Everything you can imagine is real'. There are even studies that show that daydreaming may be more powerful for problem solving than pure concentration. Imagination requires time to reach into our past experiences and knowledge and to put these together in new ways for new conditions and to play out in our ‘imagination’ what this will look like.
If you have difficulty stimulating your imagination, remember what it was like to be a child or watch children play – they are full of imagination. We can rekindle our imagination by, for example, joining in the Lego challenge; drawing, playing with dough, making a den – whatever. So, go and have some playful fun, knowing it will enrich your future thinking. Enjoy!
Rachel Ward Lilley is a business and educational psychologist. She has worked for many years advising SMEs and her current work relates to issues of resilience, communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past 12 years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. Find out more here www.rachelwl.co.uk.
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