How to Access Your Imagination to Produce Creative Work, Solve Problems and Liberate Yourselfby Scott Jeffrey
Albert Einstein said in a 1929 interview:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
It has become a famous quote, but do you think he was correct?
Einstein was voicing the value he placed on the imagination concerning scientific research, an area traditionally (and currently) dominated by pure rationalism.
How about in business and your professional work? Do you value imagination more than (or as much as) what you know?
It’s unlikely. We favor knowledge over imagination, reason over intuition. You can call it a cultural bias.
But it’s only from imagination that we create the novel, the unforeseen, the unexpected, and often, the better.
Today, let’s dive into the realm of our imagination.
Table of Contents
- The Source of the Imagination
- Your Inner Guide to the Imagination
- The “Language” of the Unconscious
- The Return of the Dreamer
- How to Experience the Imagination
- The Barriers to the Imagination
- 4 Tips to Enhance Your Ability to Use Your Imagination
- How to Use Your Imagination to Create
- Imagining Your Future Self and Your Entrepreneurial Vision
- Read Next
The Source of the Imagination
Over a decade ago, I went on a five-year, in-depth intellectual odyssey to uncover the source of creativity. I studied the work many creativity researchers and read everything I could find from creative geniuses who describe their processes.
When we understand the source of creativity, I believed, we are better positioned to access it more freely.
When Einstein says “knowledge,” he’s referring to our conscious, rational minds. It is from the conscious mind that we predominantly operate each day. We mainly use our intellect and reasoning faculties to evaluate our surroundings, make decisions, and communicate with one another.
Cognitive sciences, however, continue to reveal that most of our behavior, attitudes, and decisions are influenced, if not ruled, by unconscious processes.
Think of the unconscious as everything of which you’re not aware. This unconscious—often mistakenly referred to as the unconscious mind—is a storehouse of every memory, image, thought, feeling, and experience we’ve ever had, but it’s even more vast than that.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung postulated, and others corroborated, that this unconscious has a collective or universal element that accesses the memories, images, thoughts, feelings, and experiences of all humanity throughout time.
These universal images, symbols, and behavioral patterns are called archetypes. These archetypes appear to be a part of our cultural and biological inheritance.
And it is deep in the recesses of this unconscious that we find a wellspring of creativity, the source of our imagination.
It’s as if, deep inside each of us, untold hidden treasures, insights, and ideas are just waiting for us to discover.
Your Inner Guide to the Imagination
Living strictly conscious lives, many humans rarely tap into these imaginative capacities. Those who drink from this internal wellspring, however, we call artists.
Ancient traditions and modern integrative therapies suggest there’s a mediating factor that enables our conscious mind (often called the ego) to access, communicate, and even befriend the forces of the unconscious.
The Egyptians called it the Ba-Soul. Ancient Greeks (including Socrates) called this guide the inner daimon. The Romans saw it as genius in everyone.
Western religions sometimes refer to it as our guardian angel or soul. In Taoism, it is the original spirit. Other Eastern philosophies and transpersonal psychologies call it the Self (capital “S”).
Many artists call it the Muse. For Mozart, it was his Divine Maker; for William Blake, Poetic Genius.
By whatever name, it is this Inner Guide that we tap into when our imagination flows.
The “Language” of the Unconscious
Just as our conscious mind is providing us with a constant stream of thought, our unconscious is perpetually trying to express itself.
Only, we haven’t learned how to give it attention, listen and relate to it, or understand it.
Using our conscious mind, humans communicate with one another through language. Language is the workings of the rational mind (or cerebral cortex).
The difficulty in approaching the unconscious is that it doesn’t communicate with words. It expresses itself as images and symbols. Only a few have learned to interpret these images and symbols that come to us in dreams, fantasies, and visions.
Accessing and paying attention to these images is the first step; learning to interpret and translate them is the second.
The Return of the Dreamer
To balance out our bias toward rationalism, we can create space for the imagination.
Disney uses a method for producing creative work that any entrepreneur or creative professional can borrow. They differentiate three roles necessary for generating creative ideas and actualizing them: the Dreamer, the Realist, and the Critic.
- The Dreamer accesses the unconscious by allowing the mind to wander without bounds. Daydreaming isn’t just allowed; it’s encouraged.
- The Realist accesses the conscious mind that organizes ideas, develops plans, and sets forth strategies for execution.
- The Critic tests the plan, plays the role of Devil’s Advocate, and looks out for what could go wrong.
See this guide for a comprehensive look at the creative process.
How to Experience the Imagination
As “adults,” it’s sometimes difficult to access the imagination—especially when we identify seriousness with adulthood.
Moreover, it’s challenging to be creative when your body is holding unnecessary tension or anxiety. The gateway to the unconscious is the body itself. Relaxing the body is an untold secret to tapping into your imagination.
Start by taking a few slow, steady, deep breaths. Breathe into the bottom of your belly and exhale, allowing an imaginary balloon in your belly to deflate. (See, we’re already using our imagination.)
Closing your eyes can help, as it encourages you to use your mind’s eye instead of your external vision. Let go trying to control what might happen next.
You might start with a blank canvas, like Harold and the Purple Crayon, and begin to draw. Or maybe you’ll ride a beam of light as Einstein did when he discovered the theory of relativity.
As your body relaxes, you can feel the energy, lightness, and spaciousness all around you. From here, you’re free to travel and explore. If you haven’t visited this realm in a while, it will still feel eerily familiar, as it was a place you often frequented in your early years before so-called adults and the education system itself severed your connection to it.
But it was always right there, waiting for your return.
The Barriers to the Imagination
Are you sensing the untapped potential within you now?
This wellspring of the imagination is available to all of us, yet few drink freely from its source. Why? We are conditioned to get in the way.
Interestingly, most of the same ways we hijack personal mastery apply to how we block our imaginative faculties. We:
- Move too fast
- Think obsessively
- Hold limiting beliefs
- Deplete our energy reserves
All of these activities produce physical and mental tension. (I offer ways to address each of these roadblocks in this guide.) And as we said above, relaxation is a precursor to returning to the imagination.
Humanistic psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers both highlight this in their studies on creativity. They found that creativity tends to flourish in individuals and cultures that are psychologically safe (the absence of which creates fear and physical tension).
4 Tips to Enhance Your Ability to Use Your Imagination
There are many things you can do enhance your connection to the imagination:
Remember: the gateway to the unconscious is through your physical body. Your body loves to sleep, and most modern humans are sleep deprived. Sleep for longer and take more naps. (For more tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep, check out this in-depth Sleep Hacking guide.)
And see this review of the best organic mattresses.
Take an Interest in Your Dreams
Jung and many others saw dreams as the bridge to the unconscious. The unconscious uses the imagery of your dreams to communicate with your conscious mind. You don’t have to decode and interrupt these images. Just allow these images to stay in your mind upon awakening. Be curious about these images.
Embrace the Wanderer
The Wanderer is an archetype—one of the four I highlight in this guide on the creative process. Slow down. Spend time alone. Allow yourself to enter a state of reverie, letting your consciousness drift. Laziness can be your friend.
Relax Your Body
Ultimately, as I’ve said already, this is an essential key. How you relax is dependent on your makeup. I offer a variety of guides with practices that get results including:
- An ancient standing meditation,
- Breathwork exercises,
- Seated mind training instruction,
- Grounding techniques, and
- Centering exercises.
I also offer a program specifically designed to help you relax your body and reset your mind called The Mastery Method.
Try different things until you discover what works for you.
How to Use Your Imagination to Create
The more attention you give your imagination, the more it will serve you. Using your imagination to create requires you to develop a kind of “muscle” or skill.
One way to experiment is to ask your imagination for aid in solving a problem before you go to sleep. Thomas Edison reportedly called this making “requests” to your subconscious.
Request for help as you’re drifting off to sleep and upon awakening, be still. Tune in and listen. Recall your dreams. Without mental editing, capture whatever ideas and images arise.
Another thing you can do to use your imagination to create is to stop at random times during the day and allow your mind to drift. Essentially, daydream on purpose.
“Trying” to use your imagination will work against you as trying creates tension. Instead, be playful, adopting the mindset of a curious explorer.
Imagining Your Future Self and Your Entrepreneurial Vision
If you’re an entrepreneur, can you see the untapped potential the imagination holds for you? Can you envision new and better ways of building your future and serving your customers? Your Inner Guide can. Trust that this is true; look and listen within.
Imagination fuels all grand visions. All visionary leaders envision a future that doesn’t yet exist. Steve Jobs, for example, never saw Apple as a business that sells computers. In his imagination, Apple made products that unleashed people’s creativity.
Never underestimate the power of your imagination. It can restore balance and fuel the creation of something that will have a positive impact on humanity.
The Ultimate Archetypes List (Over 325)