When we take the time to reflect on our life, often we contemplate the barriers that seemingly hold us back from reaching our goals and dreams. Most of us think of these as external circumstances, instead of internal limits. The conditions of our lives, like I don’t have enough money, I’m not thin enough, I’m too old, or I’m not smart enough, are the thoughts; but never the reasons we can’t move forward. It is our beliefs; our personal “not enoughs” that take over our thinking and hold us hostage in a type of analysis paralysis.
Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” So how could, perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century, be so concerned with the abstract, something that is the polar opposite of concrete facts? It’s because having an open mind, curiosity and the willingness to explore possibilities without limits can change both our personal world and the whole world. Most of us were not encouraged to use our left-brains in this way growing up. We were told to stick to the facts. We were told to “be realistic” and base our hopes on where we were, instead of where we could go.
Many embody Einstein’s sentiments. They are iconic minds like JK Rowling, Steve Jobs, Bill and Melinda Gates, Suzanne Collins and Steven Spielberg. These accomplished people developed a wild dream, an abstract concept, a fierce passion, and a single thought into not just a business, but a phenomenon. They have each taken us to places that we’ve never gone before, and they all believe that every human being encompasses the potential to do the same.
Everybody knows an Applephile; they have a Macbook, iPhone, iPad, and maybe even an Apple Watch. That person is capable of designing new technology with others anywhere in the world. The Gates Foundation impacts the third world by hosting Innovation Contests to find new ways of getting basic necessities to places where people are hungry and in need of clean water and medicine. The fans of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games believe that magic still exists, good triumphs over evil and that boys and girls contribute equally in the “game” of life. Stephen Spielberg has evoked profound empathy and compassion from his work. He has touched the lives of tens of millions of people by telling some of humanity’s most heart-breaking stories like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.
Unfortunately, the components of imagination and creativity are not attributes that our society generally values, such as daydreaming, people-watching, solitude, surrounding ourselves in nature, losing track of time, and doodling. Unless you work for a very profitable, high-tech company, it is unlikely that you will be encouraged to engage in these types of activities. However, they may be the very activities that allow you to create a meaningful vision for your life and career. For instance, Olympic athletes use visualization techniques as a key to gold medal success. They are encouraged to allow themselves to feel the euphoria, glory and satisfaction of winning. Taste the sweat. Hear the crowd roar. View themselves standing in the winner’s circle. Not only do they set the goals, but they also embody the mental movie and emotions of attaining their goals as part of their training. Once cemented in their cellular memory, their body believes they will win and creates the capacity to do so. We can learn a lot from people who pursue passions and dreams and turn those things into mindsets and lifestyles.
To grow as well-developed, kind, and thoughtful human beings, we need to use all of our senses (mind, body, and spirit) to experience life on many levels. We need to develop compassion and respect for others thoughts and imaginations as well. If we can nurture this in ourselves and strive for this newly awakened way of living, our lives will transform and our once faraway dreams will become our reality. We will prosper from our imaginations, and we will pass along the support and guidance for others to imagine and prosper as well. Together we can break these barriers and live joyful lives, filled with meaning, purpose and our personal brand of creativity.