By Dayna Mason

During this pandemic, many of us have been given a rare gift. The gift of time. We can choose to stay as distracted as possible or we can use this time to engage our imaginations and dream like we did as children. We can ask ourselves, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What really matters to me?” Then dream up a new future.

Distractions and priorities

Many of us have been living a life of busyness. Wake up, rush from one task to the next, crash into bed unable to sleep as our minds race with the next day’s tasks. Repeat.

We stay busy to the point of distraction. We have a list of things we would do if only we had more time—workout, take up a hobby, eat healthier, etc. We are so busy and distracted that not only are we not living our dreams, we have completely forgotten them.

Let’s get honest about our priorities. A friend recently told me that he wanted to eat healthier, but his work schedule was so crazy that he just didn’t have time to plan healthy meals and was too exhausted at the end of the day to prepare anything. In other words, he didn’t have time to eat healthier. Due to the pandemic, he now works from home and has plenty of time to eat healthier. Yet, he still doesn’t. Why not?

Because the truth is our actions have always demonstrated our priorities. We didn’t do those things previously because they weren’t truly a priority. Even though some of us now have the time, we’re still not working out, eating healthier, taking up a hobby, etc. We make time for what is important to us. This realization is a good thing because now we can ask ourselves honestly “What is important to me?”

In my article on the power of choice I proposed that “Our most powerful tool for navigating our circumstances is choice. The decisions we make have the potential to positively contribute to our wellbeing, carve out our experiences and move us closer to the realization of our dreams.” We can make choices going forward that manifest a more meaningful life.

Imagination helps us explore possibilities

Psychology experts tells us that children spend as much as 67% of their time in non-reality, in their imagination and that this is a critical aspect of our development. As we mature into adulthood and beyond, we are confronted with practicality, responsibility, and survival. We shift from seeing the refrigerator box as a potential spaceship to seeing it as a cardboard box. Our imagination is not gone, we simply use it less. A lot less. But we still use it.

When we replay a conversation in our head, the one where we wish we’d said something different, we are using our imagination. When we practice in our minds, asking our boss for a raise, we are using our imaginations. When we shower and suddenly have a great idea, that’s our imagination at work.

Imagination is the ability to create visual images in our minds, the place where we can explore ideas, scenarios, conversations and our ideal lives without the constraints of the physical world.

This imagining helps us come up with alternative ways of seeing an issue and alternative ways of being in the world. In our thoughts there are no limits, failures, or consequences, so we can freely fantasize.

As children we dreamed of what we wanted to be when we grew up. As adults we can dream of a new future.

Constraints make us more creative

Constraints force us to think more creatively. When we limit our options, we push our minds to invent new ideas and solutions. For example, if we are given a blank sheet of paper and asked to write a story, we may become paralyzed by choice. Too many options and no idea where to begin. But if we’re asked to write a story using exactly six words, our choices are immediately narrowed to something manageable which frees us to explore unfamiliar solutions. A popular example of this six-word assignment (author unknown) is profound:

“For Sale: Baby shoes. Never Worn.”

Obstacles boost brain power. “Creative constraints” are used by most product development departments. They force us to think “outside the box” and according to psychologists, when we have less to work with, we begin to see the world differently.

Exercise fuels imagination

A study on creative thinking published by the American Psychological Association in 2014 discovered that walking substantially enhances creativity and increases appropriate novel idea generation. On average, researchers observed a 60% increase in creative output from participants both while walking as well as when they sat down to do creative work shortly after a walk.

Going for a walk not only unlocks rut-like thinking, it gives us access to fresh ideas.

Imagining a new future

If we’ve ever thought about buying a new car, we’ve experienced what happens when we get clear about what we want. We decide to buy a new Toyota Rav4 and now everywhere we go we see this make and model of car. But it’s not that everyone had the same idea and bought the same car, it’s that our brains are now aware of them because of our intention to own one.

By using our imaginations to dream we can get clear about what we want in our lives. Once we have clarity, we will naturally become aware of things that will help us realize those dreams that we previously weren’t aware of. Our logical and imaginative minds work in collaboration.

Here’s an imagination exercise to get you started:

  1. Select an area of your life where you’re dissatisfied (work, relationship, etc.) or an unfulfilled dream.
  2. Focus on that one area or dream, imagine yourself at a future date, in your ideal scenario, one to three years from now in as much detail as possible.
  3. Where are you? At your home? At a new home? On the beach? In a restaurant? What are you doing? Are you with someone? Are you alone?
  4. Create a scene in your mind of yourself living out your ideal life. How do you feel? Visualize all the details, feel all the sensations. Imagine you are truly there living that life.

When we allow ourselves the luxury of creating and experiencing our ideal lives in our minds, we provide not only a space of blissful entertainment, but we could be laying the foundation for a new reality.

Resources

Creative restraint video:

https://youtu.be/L2olK72_C20

Exercises to spark creativity:

Alternative uses or “paperclip test”

Come up as many different uses for a common object (such as a paperclip) as you can within two minutes.

Examples for a paperclip: An earring, a phone stand, a lock pick, a fishhook, etc.

Concentrate on quantity or the 30 circles exercise

On a piece of paper draw 30 circles. Set a timer for three minutes and fill in as many of the circles as possible. The goal is quantity, not quality. You can fill them any way you choose. Maybe they are all different, or maybe there is a theme to them.

 

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